Birthday Sheet Cake

September 10, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers must have it in for me this month, because they chose not just one, but two cakes as September projects. This makes my baking-challenged soul quiver, let me tell you. I am Baroness of the Box Cake.

However, this time I couldn’t cheat, so I raided the baking aisle at the store and bought foreign items like chocolate chips, baking soda and vanilla. You know, stuff that most normal people just always have on hand? I even had to buy a disposable cake pan, and this one was a whopper.

The recipe I made was for Ina’s Birthday Sheet Cake, and that sucker is a cake. Ever seen a 12×18-inch cake pan? When I saw it in the baking aisle, I almost mistook it for a luge.

A couple of notes before I get into the details:

*Ina insists that the key to a light and fluffy cake is that the eggs, butter and sour cream are at room temperature when you start. Ina says she usually just sets them out over night… Okay, does this give anyone else the heebie-jeebies?

I mean, don’t eggs and butter and sour cream spoil if not refrigerated? Isn’t that why we *keep* them there in the first place? Still, Ina sure bakes more that I do, so I let them sit out on the counter for three hours before I started.

*Ina’s Birthday Sheet Cake is basically a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. Except. She adds the zest of an entire lemon to the cake batter. This also seemed a little weird to me. Lemon cake with chocolate icing? I wondered if Ina’d been sniffing glue when she came up with that combination, but, like a good girl, I followed orders.

*This cake is ginormous, and Ina instructs us to use a mixer with a paddle attachment to make the batter. Translation: Ina assumes that everyone can afford an industrial, 12-cup Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, which is a few hundred little dollars.

This is no problem for Ina, in her little crib in the Hamptons, but it’s a pretty big assumption that an average Joe has a Kitchen Aid kickin’ it on his counter.

However, when I married my husband almost 9 years ago, my Aunt Pat, who happens to be both generous and an amazing cook, sent me one of those suckers as a wedding gift. Shamefully, I rarely bake, so the thing had gathered some dust…I know, I am lame.

Anyways, enough yakkin.’ Here’s the Birthday Sheet cake, from The Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

For the Cake:

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces (about a cup) sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the Frosting:

24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

M&M’s chocolate candy, for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12x18x1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, two at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just smooth. Finish mixing by hand to be sure the batter is well mixed. Pour evenly into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan to room temperature

For the frosting, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chips are completely melted. Off the heat, add the corn syrup and vanilla and allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the chocolate mixture and the softened butter on medium speed for a few minutes until it’s thickened.

Spread the frosting evenly on the cake. Have the children decorate the cake with the M&M’s.

Serves just about the whole dang neighborhood. Which is basically what I tried to do. I stood at the corner bus-stop yesterday, shamelessly pimping it out to eager schoolchildren. We still didn’t finish it, but we gave strong effort.

And guess what? Those little taste testers didn’t notice the lemon zest–or at least they had the good sense not to complain…because they know in a couple of weeks, the Cake Pimp will be back on that corner, saying, “Psssst….guess what I got?”

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