As my previous post noted, my husband is the kind of guy who never complains that his birthday garners little notice because of its proximity to the many December holidays. Having learned he hasn’t had a birthday party on his birthday since he was twelve, I decided to secretly invite several of his friends to honor the day he entered the world and made this third rock from the sun a better place. Thanks, Jeanne and Jim for raising such a great son!
The mission: to plan a surprise birthday party get-together without him figuring it out until the moment we hollered “SURPRISE!” toward his confused face. Five weeks of stealth emails and covert party supply collecting, and he seemed none the wiser. Fortunately, his best friend Brian agreed to help throw him off the scent in the hours leading up to the party. While he busied Cameron with movie viewing (few things make Cameron happier than hobbits in 3-D) and arcades, I finalized the guest list and set to whipping up a birthday cake featuring Cameron’s favorite holiday drink: eggnog.
If you’re like me, eggnog has always been a little too rich for my palate, but after reading several recipe reviews for eggnog cake, I decided that richness would translate well in cake form. My largest concern with creating this cake is that I’ve never made a layer cake from scratch that yielded a nice crumb while retaining airiness. In other words, my fluffy cakes have always been too dense.
After gathering some sage cake-making advice from Elizabeth over at SavorySaltySweet (she’s on a mission to make 50 cakes for 50 folks right now), I set to work. First up: the recipe. After lots of internet research, I settled on a straightforward one from Life in the Garden. After compiling all the ingredients and tools for this baking adventure, I queued up some classic Jackson Browne to infuse the cake with the spirit of Cameron’s favorite classic rock performer. (He probably has a list of classic rock artists that I’m overlooking, but once we spent many hours riding along Northern California roads blasting Mr. Browne from his car speakers.)
Word to the wise: if you have an electric mixer (either a handheld or a stand mixer), use it for all your cake recipes. Our KitchenAid mixer was a saving grace in creating a fluffy cake. Thanks for the wedding gift, Aunt Donna!
A couple of hours later, the cake was baked and covered with a frosting drunk on brandy. Our friend Kate served as my cake spotter as we walked the cake over to the Punch Bowl Social a few blocks from our apartment. Less than a half hour later, Cameron arrived with Brian and his wife Dorsey in tow for an evening of spiked punch, ping pong, and ample laughter. Happy Birthday, Cameron. I’m so glad you’re a part of my life.
Eggnog Cake with Brandied Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C extra-fine granulated sugar
4 egg whites
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 little splash of brandy (I forgot to include this in the cake recipe. I’m sure it’s great, too.)
2 C cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 C Egg Nog, plus a bit more to reach consistency*
Vintage Brandied Cream Cheese Frosting (below)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until creamy.
2. Beat in egg whites one at a time.
3. Beat in vanilla and spices.
4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with egg nog, beating just until combined. Don’t overmix.
5. Spread evenly into two greased and floured 9-in round baking pans.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
7. To cool, put your cakes directly into the freezer from the oven for 45 minutes, then remove to the counter for decorating.* PLEASE only do this with metal pans; the extreme temperature change could cause any sort of ceramic or glass pan to shatter.
8. Ice with Vintage Bourbon Cream Frosting.
9. Chill for one hour.
10. Cut into 16 slices and serve.
Vintage Brandied Cream Cheese Frosting
2 blocks cream cheese (16 oz, total)
1/2 C softened butter
2- 2/2 cups powdered sugar (add a bit at a time to taste)
8 tsp vanilla
2+ tsp Brandy (or more according to taste)
1. Cream the cream cheese and butter.
2. Cream in the powdered sugar.
3. Cream in the vanilla and bourbon.
4. Chill 30 minutes or until cakes are out of the freezer.