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.
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 Amazon.com (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!
Vanilla Cake Recipe (adapted from Sweetapolita and Cook’s Illustrated)
Can not stress this enough – eggs and milk MUST been at room temp! If they aren’t your batter WILL curdle.
5 large egg whites (room temp!)
1 cup whole milk (room temp!)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (sift first then measure) OR 1 3/4 cups All Purpose flour + 1/4 cup corn starch sifted together 6 times (I never have cake flour)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temp, cut into cubes)
- Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. If you don’t have the spray, butter the pans, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.
- Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended. If the mixture still feels cooler than room temp, fill a bowl with warm water, and set the measuring cup in the bowl. Be sure that the water level is below the measuring cup.
- Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, sort of like cornmeal.
- Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 30 seconds longer.
- Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 – 30 minutes.
- Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.
- Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Best eaten the same day as baked. Must be served at room temp.
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
- Beat butter until fluffy creamy on medium speed (about 3 minutes)
- Continue beating on medium while adding milk one tablespoon at a time. Add vanilla.
- Continue beating while adding salt, cocoa powder, and sugar. Mix until fully incorporated and fully (about 3 minutes)
- Add melted chocolate and mix (about 2 minutes)
The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to comment #89 Kim W. for winning the Amazon.com 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
EXTRA ENTRIES -
- 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 http://bakingparttime.com/2012/02/08/vanilla-birthday-cake/” *** How to get the link for an individual tweet
DISCLOSURE and NOTES -
- 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 Random.org 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 BakingPartTime.com. Amazon.com has nothing to do with this, though I’m pretty sure they know who Maheen is