I wish I could offer you a tale of the perfect birthday.
I was hoping to delight you by recounting an amazing celebration complete with pony rides, pointy hats, and presents. Oh man, the presents. Lots and lots and lots of presents.
Of course, the party peak would be the presentation of a cake of biblical proportions: a super confection that would be just as melt-in-your-mouth sweet as it would be absolutely gorgeous.
The ponies were a no show, there isn’t a single present to be found and my hat is not pointy at all.
Oh, and I dropped my cake on the floor.
That’s right, this baker managed to pull off the biggest foodie fail and the hugest cake wreck in the history of history.
So this post and this cake are dedicated to all of those birthdays that bomb and cakes that turn out to be confectionery disasters. You know who you are. Here’s looking at you.
It all began, simply enough, with a three layer cinnamon cake and a sweet citrus syrup.
I really like to keep it simple when it comes to cakes and kind of let the sugar and spice speak for itself. I have never been a huge icing person and, frankly, fondant scares me.
The key, though, is that a cake must be moist. Dry cakes, like potholes, hang nails and dirty socks, are really no fun. And it has been my experience that 9.5 out of 10 cake eaters agree with this sentiment.
So while I designed this cake to be moist enough on its own, the syrup is the thing: it keeps the cake from drying out.
I grated my cinnamon, I mixed up my batter, and I popped my three layers in to the oven. I should have been forewarned by the ease of this process. Instead, I played air guitar to my Lady Gaga CD and went about my baking business, blissfully unaware of the impending doom.
The cakes themselves came out fabulous. They sink a little in the middle as they cool. No biggie.
And the key with the syrup is to be sure that you boil it long enough that it reduces and thickens, maybe five to ten minutes.
Layers baked: check
Syrup thickened: check
Plate, stack, pour — this cake is a real winner!
Now all you have to do is take your gem over to the table to photograph it and…
Mister Floor, allow me to introduce you to Mister Cake. You two are going to have a lasting relationship, I can tell.
Why? Because I’m too busy crying my face off in the corner of my kitchen to separate you.
I mean, really. Does it get any worse, cake-wise? Please tell me that I’m not the only fool in the world who has done this.
And then there’s the self-doubt: “Are the baking gods punishing me for cheating and using self-rising flour?” Just terrible.
But this story can’t end here. I won’t allow it.
I’m going to crawl out of this corner, turn my rally cap backwards and make this a story about perseverance. The triumph of the human spirit. And apparently made for the Lifetime channel. Whatever.
So there you have it: Cinnamon Syrup Cake.
It’s not the prettiest cake you’ve ever seen, but it’s dang delicious. And it’s not on the floor. Happy Birthday to me.
Postscript: Special thanks go out to my husband, A., who sampled a piece of the floored cake (5 second rule) and encouraged me to bake another, and to my friends R. and S., who gave me an opportunity to do just that. You guys rock.
Cinnamon Syrup Cake
For the cake:
- 4 1/2 c. self-rising flour
- 3 c. white sugar, granulated
- 2 1/4 c. whole milk
- 1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
- 3 tsp. cinnamon, ground
- 2 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp. salt
For the syrup:
- 2 c. water
- 2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
- zest of two oranges
Preheat oven to 350 °.
Grease and flour 3- 9â€³ circular cake pans. Set the pans aside.
In a large bowl, sift flour, cinnamon and salt together and set aside.
In a very large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, alternating with the milk. Mix carefully but thoroughly until a uniform batter has formed. Blend in the vanilla extract.
Pour batter into the prepared pans, filling each approximately half full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. Finished cakes will be golden on their tops with the edges pulling away from the sides of the pan. Remove baked cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before un-molding.
Meanwhile, to prepare the syrup, bring the water and brown sugar to a boil in a large saucepan. Keep at a soft boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, or until the syrup begins to thicken. Once the mixture has thickened noticeably, remove to a heat-proof vessel to cool. Stir in the zest.
Once the cakes have cooled, un-mold them onto a wire rack or a piece of parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, slice off any bumps or ridges that are left in the tops of each cake layer so that they will lay as flat as possible. Place your foundation layer top down and pour the syrup it’s new top. Carefully stack your next two layers top down, pouring more syrup over second layer and then the top of the finished cake. This cake is best when served immediately, but I’ve never known anyone to turn away a cooled cake.
YIELD: approximately 12-14 servings
All photos were styled and taken by Meagan.
If you don’t have the time to make a homemade birthday cake for a friend this year, send them a gift box of local, pure and comforting handmade food. Eat Boutique sells a handmade gift box filled with handmade sweet and savory treats. Send food that hugs you back today. And today is the last day to get free shipping by entering “DAD” at check out!
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