Maheen’s Vanilla Birthday Cake + Giftcard Giveaway

The giveaway is now closed.

February is usually a big month in the Shaikh-Zaman household, especially this year, and especially this week. First off, the Giants won the Superbowl. Maheen had set the alarm for 4:45am India time so we could wake up to watch the game. Needless to say, after a long day of running errands and only 3 hours of sleep later, I wasn’t the one waking up on time. There are only a few things in this world that Maheen is loyal to and loves beyond reason. The Giants are definitely in the top 10. Through the ups and downs, Eli’s “aw shucks” interviews, and a number of throw away mistakes, Maheen has diligently watched nearly every game and read nearly every piece of commentary available to man. And this year, they won the Superbowl for his birthday.

This one’s for you Maheen 😉

That brings us to the second reason why February is a big deal. This year was Maheen’s big 3-0! He waved goodbye to the 20s and is now an old fogie like the rest of us. Hah, this is especially sweet because I’ve been hearing 20s vs 30s jokes since last April when I turned 30. Now Maheen’s not really into birthdays; just another day like the rest of them in his book. On the flip side, I love birthdays. Heck I love any reason to celebrate – birthdays, anniversaries, anything that can be made into a momentous occasion where I can bake a cake. And I love buying presents. Thinking about what a person likes, what they would never really buy for themselves but secretly want, and then wrapping the present – absolutely love it.

Years ago when Maheen and I first met, started courting, and got married, I would go through a whole slew of possible birthday presents. The full collection of Tin Tin graphic novels and accompanying “extras” to remind him of his childhood. An mp3 player preloaded with some albums from his favorite artists like Tom Petty, the Cranberries, and Cure. You know.. thoughtful presents. But through all of that, the thing that Maheen loves the most, are Amazon giftcards. Shaking head. A giftcard. What am I going to do with this guy? 🙂 Lucky for the rest of you, to help celebrate Maheen’s big 3-0 birthday, I’m giving away a $30 giftcard from (details below).

Now even though I’ve compromised on getting him a giftcard for his birthday instead of a “real” present hah, I refused to give up on baking a cake. What’s a birthday without cake? Even though I’ve got an unhealthy obsession with chocolate (like this recipe, or this, or even this) Maheen tends to favor either a milk chocolate or a vanilla recipe. I’ve tried making vanilla cakes before and haven’t had the greatest success. Either they are too dense, or too dry, or only keep for a day. I wanted something box cake tasting. Don’t look at me that way, you know you love box cake too. A few months ago I found a recipe from Sweetapolita that changed my mind. This woman has the BEST roundup of vanilla cakes! The only thing was, the first time I made it, my batter curdled. The second time I made it, I kept the measurments the same but used the mixing method suggested by America’s Test Kitchen / Cook’s Illustrated. Success! This is the third time I’m making this cake and I think I’ve finally got it down. It’s got structure, is moist, a fine crumb, and can definitely handle quite a bit of frosting.

And speaking of frosting, this one is fantastic! I started off making the Magnolia version, but wanted it to be creamier and fluffier, so I added extra liquid. But after adding the melted chocolate I felt that it wasn’t chocolatey enough, and was a bit too sweet, so I added some cocoa powder to balance it out. Perfect. This cake NEEDS to be served at room temp, and this is a frosting that can handle sitting out on a counter or table for a while. Obviously not in direct sunlight, it is still made up of butter and chocolate, but I left the cake on the counter for at least 6 hours and the frosting kept it’s shape. And it’s a dream to pipe with!


** UPDATE** The vanilla cake recipe has been altered and updated. The new version can now be found at –

Chocolate frosting recipe

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
6 tbs milk
9 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa

  1. Beat butter until fluffy creamy on medium speed (about 3 minutes)
  2. Continue beating on medium while adding milk one tablespoon at a time. Add vanilla.
  3. Continue beating while adding salt, cocoa powder, and sugar. Mix until fully incorporated and fully (about 3 minutes)
  4. Add melted chocolate and mix (about 2 minutes)
For more behind the scenes photos, stories and discussions:

The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to comment #89 Kim W. for winning the giftcard! Her favorite birthday moment was – “My favorite birthday memory is when my sister took me on a cruise for my birthday. We had so much fun and it was such an amazing surprise”

And now! The $30 Amazon giftcard giveaway.

RULES –  There are three possible ways to enter –


  • Leave a comment telling me a favorite birthday memory, food related or otherwise


  • Follow BakingPartTime on Twitter. Leave a comment here with your twitter handle. If you already follow me, just let me know in a comment.
  • Tweet about this post and giveaway on Twitter. Post the link of the tweet here in a comment. Tweet must include my twitter handle and a link to this post. Example – “Kiss-your-box-cake-mix-goodbye vanilla birthday cake by @BakingPartTime + Amazon gift card #giveaway” *** How to get the link for an individual tweet 


  • Each entry needs it’s own numbered comment. Please do not hit reply to an existing comment.
  • Giveaway is open until 11:59pm EST Saturday Feb 18th. Winner will be picked by using the number generator on and contacted via email listed in the comment once entries have been verified. They will have 48 hours to respond. If no response is received, winner forfeits prize and another winner will be picked. Once winner has accepted the prize, it will be announced on the blog and on twitter.
  • This giveaway is for Amazon.COM. Sorry but no substitutes will be made.
  • This giveaway is being sponsored by has nothing to do with this, though I’m pretty sure they know who Maheen is 🙂

152 thoughts on “Maheen’s Vanilla Birthday Cake + Giftcard Giveaway

  1. salaam its hena! so last year on my 25th birthday, i had the best birthday and got the best birthday present ever….my niece! that’s right, my niece safa was born on my birthday in july 2011. she was about 3 weeks early, so it really wasn’t expected at all. i mentioned to my brother “oh wouldn’t it be funny if the baby was born on my birthday”, and she was! we also didn’t know whether the baby would be a boy or girl, but my hunch was correct, and the baby is a girl. i kind of like to think of safa as hena 2.0.

    anyway just wanted to share that. i don’t really care about the giveaway. but i love love love your food.


  2. My favorite birthday memory is pretty simple, it was my 21st birthday, and it was on a Monday but a TON of my friends turned out to the bar for me to say happy birthday. I definitely didn’t expect so many people there! I think it was because it was the Monday after spring break and everyone wanted to procrastinate a little more 🙂 It just meant a lot that everyone took the time to be there!

  3. My mom lets me choose a birthday meal every year and I always choose her chicken pot pie. It’s such a yummy comfort food and it brings back happy memories of growing up in my family.

  4. My favorite birthday memory is of a cake that my mom had made for me when I was little. She made a cake out of cupcakes, that looked like an alligator (I collected alligators). This was the most amazing cake. I was so excited by it.
    Thanks so much.

  5. My favorite birthday memory was my 40th. My living room got decked out in all black objects and I got to play “bat the balloons” with my parents and MIL.

  6. OMG Aaisha, this cake looks amazing!! I am sitting in bed with my teeth all brushed and all I can think abt is eating CAKE!! N my fav birthday story… I was watching TV in the living room. My brother called right at 12:00 am the night before my bday from the room next to the living room. I got all excited thinking he is gonna wish me; instead he asked me to turn the vol of the TV down!

  7. Going to my favorite restaurant for my 21st birthday. I’d had a few drinks (you have to drink on your 21st) abd was talking to the other people sitting at our table. Come to find out they were my uncle’s bosses. The ended up paying for our entire bill. It was one awesome day. lol thank you!

  8. My favorite birthday memory was the big surprise my husband gave me for my 40th. He and my best friend worked together to pull it off. He told me we were going to Vegas. We packed our bags and headed to the airport. He pulled off the highway to get a coffee and when we stopped, my car door was pulled open and my girlfriend was there grabbing me and putting me into a cauffered car. She and I were wisked off to there airport. On the plane I found out we were really going to a beautiful spa in Mexico. It was awesome!

  9. My best birthday memory was my 21st birthday – my mom surprised me with a trip to Atlantic City, just the two of us. It was our first, but not our last, “girls trip.” Thanks for the chance.

  10. This cake is freakin gorgeous. MashaAllah mashaAllah mashaAllah 🙂 Lucky Maheen. As for birthdays, my favorite memory is of a small party my mom threw me when I was 12 and her best friend took me to this really beautiful cake shop where I got to pick out my birthday cake. It was a white chocolate cake, you know the ones with shavings all over it. It was delicious and beautiful and somehow made my birthday feel really special. Although I’m not into birthdays myself, I think everyone appreciates it when someone makes them feel special!

  11. My favorite birthday happened when I was in my 20’s, a few years after I left home. My Daddy took me out to lunch and bought me a present and it started to snow, which is pretty rare around here. Not only did I get to spend a nice time with my Daddy, but we got to enjoy the beauty of a snowfall together.

  12. my favorite birthday memory involving food wood be going to eat at really nice Thai restaurant with my parents for my 11th birthday. I have LOVED Thai food ever since, its my favorite!

  13. My favorite birthday cake was always the same – angel food stuffed with strawberries and pineapple, frosted with real whipped cream. Yum!

  14. Hi Aaisha! AOA! When I was a child, ammi would bake cupcakes for my entire class to take to school on my birthday. My teachers and friends always loved them, as it was near the end of the school year (first day of summer! ;o) The ones I remember most were vanilla with chocolate frosting and smarties on top – i used to make smiley faces with them! thanks!

  15. p.s. i LOVE the frosting design! would love to hear how you did it to *attempt* (read: “fail miserably”) to recreate it. thanks! :o)

  16. First of all, I love the way you frosted the cake! One of my favorite birthdays was spent sitting on my parents’ deck in the warm sun against the stucco, the first week of April in Minnesota, looking across the semi-frozen pond at snow. My birthday is usually quite chilly, so that was a treat.

  17. My favorite birthday memory is my son’s 1st birthday. It was so much fun to plan and prepare for it. Family and friends made it a very special occasion.

  18. First of all that cake looks awesome. Great job. My favorite b-day memory was having a home cooked meal back when we were completely broke. We had flowers from the yard (and probably a few stolen from neighbor’s gardens). It was very special because it was all planned and home-made. I’ve celebrated my 50th in Italy but I’ll place this b-day as more special. Good times!

  19. I always loved bringing stuff to school for my birthday every year. One birthday my parents ordered pizza for us! It was awesome.

  20. This is sad but true. On my tenth birthday, I woke up and my mother gave me a hug and said I love you. It was surprising to me because I didn’t remember her ever saying that to me. She was from another country and wasn’t raised to be very demonstrative. She learned and in her later years, she said it to me often.

  21. My best suprise was breakfast in bed and peanutbutter scrambled eggs on toast. Unteresting combo!! lol ! Proud to say all three of my kids have learned to cook breakfast without the peanutbutter

    1. this has me laughing out loud! i can imagine you trying to look like you are enjoying it but mildly grimacing – moms have it tough!

  22. Hey! A fellow Giants fan!!! Happy birthday to you sir!

    I wonder why the batter curdles when the butter and milk aren’t at room temperature. I have saved this recipe in foodgawker and will be making it for some shindig that gives me the excuse to make a behemoth cake.

    gosh my favorite birthday? okay, when i was in the 2nd grade we move for the 3rd time and i was heartbroken bc i had to leave 2 very close friends (three months before my bday no less) and my parents surprised me with them coming and staying for the weekend. it was pretty sweet.

  23. My favorite was my sweet 16 when my friends put together a surprise birthday party after a family tragedy. It was very sweet indeed!

  24. My mom always leaves birthday post-it notes around the house–bathroom mirror, kitchen cabinet–I found one on my KitchenAid mixer this year! The first year I moved out for school I missed those notes. 🙂

  25. My 21st birthday in Mykonos …getting my ears pierced in a little shop…I picked out a great traditional Greek dress…and the owner said it was sad that my birthday would be spent so far from home….(very, very far!) He said that he would make me a party if I came to his house later…I didn’t want to go…but my boyfriend insisted….the combination of an incredible place and a wonderful time made it the best party earrings, sandals and a new dress. I was celebrated with his big family, the neighbors, music, lots of delicious grilled meat, and fish….grilled veggies, honey cake, kisses, dances….. and lots and lots of Uzo……by the time sun came up…..these strangers were my family and I loved them very much. I was so incredibly happy and free dancing with my eyes closed…..the smell of the sea…. feeling the already warm sun on my face….I can still feel/smell/taste that happy day….

  26. My favorite memory was going to dinner with my family. We always went to a restaurant that gave you a chocolate cake for your b-day. I looked forward to the chocolate cake every year.

  27. my favorite thing to do is make y kids cakes the night before their birthday while they sleep. I usually make a giant cake and a little cake with both the same theme. This year my son got a mini fire truck and a giant fire truck. with oreo wheels!

  28. My mom makes me a white layer cake with chocolate frosting every year for my birthday. Just about all of my birthday memories involve that delicious cake!

  29. I’m 54 now and my fave birthday memory, was in high school on my birthday finding my locker filled with cards, balloons and sweets from my friends. Hostess use to make pink coconut snowball cupcakes and many of my friends had bought those for me!

  30. that looks like a great cake.

    my favorite birthday memory isn’t my own but it’s actually making a delightful dinner for my husband. i don’t really cook ever so it was huge for me to go out and make him a 4 course meal one day… all in one day, actually. we went to about 5 stores to buy all the ingredients (nobody had everything) and then i labored to make this happen… all with a 6 month old baby. life was good.

  31. My favorite birthday memories is of the cakes my mother used to make for me when I was growing up. She would decorate my cakes from her imagination, and they were wonderful. I remember one year she used white frosting and covered it with violets she picked herself! (I was amazed that they were edible). Happy memory.

  32. My birthdays were like all the holidays in my family–large, loud, and TONS of food. My mom would cook up a feast. I think birthdays and other holidays were more about the food than presents for us.

  33. My birthday is Valentines day so always hard to have a special Birthday meal when everybody else is out that night too
    vmkids3 at msn dot com

  34. My favorite memory is my very first birthday party. I’d never had one and I felt so special.


  35. My favorite birthday cake memory, is when I was 17. My mom (who has since passed away) was a few sheets to the wind, and she accidentally used a tube of Orajel instead of the tube of icing to write Happy Birthday on my cake! LOL

    itsjustme62613 at

  36. One of my favorite birthdays was when I turned thirty. I was freaking out about getting so “old” and to make me feel better, one of my girlfriends made me a pretty pink cake with little ballerinas on it and 3 little candles — I have never laughed so hard in my life! And it made me feel so much better!

  37. My favorite birthday memory is when my sister took me on a cruise for my birthday. We had so much fun and it was such an amazing surprise

  38. i remember a few years ago I went out to TGI Fridays with all my friends to celebrate my birthday! That was great getting everyone together.

  39. My boyfriend had a cake made for me of the New York was beautiful. NYC is one of my fave places in the world. BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT!

  40. My mother always baked me a lemon cake – simple, but absolutely scrumptious. I would start thinking about it the first of the month my birthday was in. I’ve baked the cake for myself a few times since she’s passed, but it just isn’t the same.

  41. My favorite birthday food memory is a rich yellow cake with fudge chocolate icing that my sister made for me last year. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water.

  42. A couple of years ago, I made my sons candyland birthday cake, and it turned out just like in th magazine! Even i was impressed with myself. sadly, i havent been able to top that! Bur i have the pictures to remember how nice it felt!
    I copied this recipe straight away! I LOVE VANILLA CAKE and CHOCO FROSTING!! and the recipe look slike something even i couldnt mess up! Thanks for sharing!!

  43. My favorite yet scariest birthday memory would have to be from my 17th birthday. My sister and her husband, and myself went to the beach and got onto one of those… water tricycles, where you could paddle yourself out in the water… Well, it was getting pretty late and of course on our part we were stupid to ask. But, back then we didnt know any better. The guys let us out anyway, even though they knew that the tide was about to come in. All of this just left us getting sucked further out into the gulf of mexico on a water tricycle and needing to be rescued with jet skii’s. It was pretty scary, but now we laugh at the memory which makes it a pretty okay one.

  44. My favorite birthday memory is when my husband and I were engaged. He was so excited to give me my birthday present that he gave it to me a week early. And then he felt bad not having anything for my birthday, so he bought another gift and couldn’t wait and gave it to me a few days early. He felt bad again for not having a gift to give me on the day, so he came up with yet another gift to give me on my birthday. It was so fun to watch his excitement and thoughtfulness with each of the gifts. I guess that was to make up for my birthdays now where he doesn’t even say happy birthday…

  45. Ok, my initial reaction upon coming here for the first time (not sure why I didn’t sooner) was WOW!!! What a stunning cake. You are truly talented. I think I’m with you when you posted on my giveaway about working on cake decorating skills, although it’s clear you’re already there 😀

    Hmmm, I’m pretty up there in age so don’t remember many prior to my 30s, but I’d say having my daughter born a week before my birthday was one of the most memorable and happiest times for me. Every year I love baking a cake for her, then doing it again a week later!

  46. My favorite birthday memory is when my husband turned 30, I found out I was pregnant with our son, and I made a cake in the shape of a baby carriage!

  47. My favorite birthday memory would be a million years ago when I turned 15. I had never seen the ocean and my parents surprised me with a trip to go see it. We went to Florida and I remember sleeping with the window of the condo they had rented open every single night just to hear the waves.
    lisalmg25 at gmail dot com

  48. My 14th birthday. My mom invited my 2 best friends over for dinner. She told me to take a bath before they came. They came early (at Mom’s request) and surprised me in the bathtub.
    Thanks for the contest.

  49. My favorite birthday memory is that my mom made me an “Easter Bonnet” cake for my 5th birthday. It fell on the day before Easter, so it was very fitting.

  50. My Mom would always make my favorite cake for my birthday. A home made angel food cake with strawberries. Always good memories.

    By the way the cake posted above looks delicious and such a pretty icing pattern.

  51. Thanks for the giveaway…my favorite birthday memory is when my parents gave me a green Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle when I was in 1st grade !

    senorpiero [at] yahoo [dot] com

  52. I was big on the muppets as a child and for my sixth birthday, my parents ordered a cake that was neapolitan inspired – strawberry, chocolate & vanilla layers. And the top of it had Miss. Piggy and Kermit in icing.

  53. I got to have a sleepover party for my 16th birthday. (My only other birthday party was when I was 6, so this was quite a big deal.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *