The best thing about a birthday is the cake. I’ve been searching for 20 years for the perfect cake. Why 20 years? Well, 23 years ago I hired Ruth Angorn to bake my wedding cake…then she made our daughters’ Christening cakes and then their birthday cakes until she retired and limited her cakes to only weddings. We could barely afford to go out for a fancy dinner back in those days when Todd was a new auditor at KPMG and I was home with two daughters, but we certainly splurged on good cakes. It was a sad day when I made the call to order a birthday cake and she said she was cutting back on baking. Tears were shed. Some minor hysterics ensued, but I vowed to find a replacement. I haven’t found it yet. Her cakes were magnificent. TRULY. They were as delicious as they were creative and beautiful. I haven’t had cake like that since. And I’ve tried. and tried.
Cake needs to be the perfect combination of moist crumb and delicate flavor. The icing needs to be an all-butter buttercream, but most bakeries don’t use butter because of the cost; they use shortening or a combination of butter and shortening. It’s easy to tell if your eating buttercream (100% butter) or a shortening “buttercream” frosting. yuck. The frosting is slimy and leaves a nasty coat in your mouth. Buttercream simply melts and releases flavors with each bite – real buttercream tastes sooooo much better.
Here’s a few or Ruth’s cakes she baked for us before she retired.
After some time off (years) from baking my family’s birthday cakes, I’ve decided that I’m getting back into it. Forget about finding the elusive perfect bakery cake. I’m going to make my own.
As my dad used to tell me: “If you want something done right do it yourself.”
My 45th birthday cake is Julia’ Child’s Gâteau à L’Orange à la Crème d’Orange ( Orange spongecake with orange-butter filling) from Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. The cream cheese icing is my old recipe. I doubled Julia Child’s gâteau recipe and baked two 9″ round cakes so that I could make a double layer cake. You can also split the cake using a serrated knife to get your layers, but the layers will be very thin. The Crème d’Orange is so delicious. It’s like lemon curd only better. You will have plenty for another cake or to plop on some scones.
Make one 9″ round cake
~ Gâteau à L’Orange Ingredients:
9″ round cake pan
⅔C + 1T sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
The grated rind of 1 orange
⅓C strained, freshly squeezed orange juice
pinches of salt
¾C cake flour (scooped and leveled, turned into a sifter)
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour the cake pan. Measure out ingredients.
Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating until the mixture thickens to form the ribbon. Add the grated orange peel, orange juice, and pinch of salt. Beat for a moment or two until mixture is light and foamy. Then beat in the flour.
Beat the egg whites and salt together in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the batter, delicately fold in the rest. Immediately turn into a prepared cake pan and run the batter up to the rim all around. Bake in middle position of preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed and browned, and shows a faint line of shrinkage from the edge of the mold.
Let cool for 6 to 8 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and reverse cake on a rack. If not to be iced, immediately reverse again, puffed side up. Allow to cool for an hour or two. When cake is cold, sprinkle it with powdered sugar or fill and ice the cake.
~ Crème d’Orange Ingredients:
2 egg yolks
The grated rind of 1 orange
¼C strained, freshly squeezed orange juice
1T orange liqueur
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and beat with wire whip over low heat or no-quite-simmering water until mixture thickens like honey. When it is cooking properly, the bubbles that first appeared on its surface as it is heated will begin to subside, and if you look closely you will see a little whiff of steam rise; it will be too hot for your finger. You must heat it enough to thicken, but overheating will (of course) scramble the yolks.
When ready, set saucepan in cold water and beat for 3-4 minutes until filling is cool. (8) May be refrigerated for 10 days, or may be frozen.
My note: When assembling the cake, spread the crème between the two layers but leave at least ½” from the edge of the cake or it will leak over the sides.
~ Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:
8oz. cream cheese
4C confectioners’ sugar
6T unsalted butter
1t orange extract
In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy and the smooth. Add the orange extract , then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar, beating in between additions until smooth and creamy. Ice the cake.
Store extra in the refrigerator for a week.