miami beach birthday cake

Miami Beach Birthday Cake  (adapted from
I’ve made this cake once before two years ago. When Andy requested a chocolate cake with caramel sauce for his birthday, I thought at once of this cake. It’s not richly  gooey chocolate-y, which Andy dislikes. In addition, it has a crunchy topping that he would appreciate; chunks of chocolate mixed with slivered almonds and graham cracker crumbs. And through it all, the quiet tang of crème fraîche.


1 cup (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided (I used bittersweet chocolate)
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2-4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons for pans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons for pans
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon vinegar in 1 cup measure topped up with milk)
1 jar butterscotch caramel

Crème Fraîche Frosting
11/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 375˚F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and mix it with 2 tablespoons flour. Grease bottom and sides of one 9- inch spring form pan with this butter-flour mixture. Line bottom with parchment or waxed paper and grease again.

Cake Baker’s Note: I used two 8 inch spring form pans.

Melt 1/3 cup morsels in a bowl over hot boiling water and set aside for the cake. To make the topping, combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Add enough melted butter to make the graham crackers come together. Add nuts and 2/3 cup morsels; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add half the buttermilk or sour milk. Scrape down the sides. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the remaining buttermilk/sour milk and vanilla. Add 1/3 flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Scrape down the sides. Add half the egg mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add half the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the egg mixture and all the melted chocolate. Beat until just combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just moistened. There should be light streaks of flour in the batter. Scrape down the sides.

 Cake Baker’s Note: To make a chocolate swirl cake, add the melted morsels after the batter has been poured into the pans. Use a thin metal blade or a skewer to make swirls. Be careful not to tear the parchment/waxed paper liners.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with crumb mixture.  Bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan then unmold and cool completely on wire racks.

To make crème fraîche, put heavy cream, sour cream, and sugar in a medium bowl. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes. Whip until soft peaks form.

The cake must be completely cooled to frost. Slice the cake horizontally in half. Spread butterscotch caramel on the top of the cut side of the bottom layer. Place the layer with the chocolate-nut mixture on top of the butterscotch topside up. Frost sides with creme fraiche. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice with a serrated knife.


  • For the bottom layer, spread crème fraîche instead of butterscotch. Then frost the sides with crème fraîche.

Mama’s butter cake

Jennifer from G.I Crockpot and I began a short exchange recently, and  she commented on my blog’s header photograph. So I suggested a recipe swap. I said I would share the recipe for the cakes in the header. She offered to share her mom’s pie recipe. I’m looking forward to trying your mom’s recipe, Jennifer!

This is a very special recipe. My mother-in-law had years of cooking and baking for her family so that when I finally got her recipe, it was very terse–more like a set of reminders to herself. So I’ve filled in the gaps.  For instance, there was no mention of cake pan sizes or how to prepare the pans. I have also added a few tips, especially for folding the batter–that always means to fold by hand–which is a key step to the success of the butter cake. The resulting cakes domed and cracked on top which is typical of butter cakes. If you are going to frost them, trim the domes with a large serrated knife–but don’t throw away the scraps! Eating the leftovers is a true guilty pleasure.

Ingredients :
8   oz.  shortening or butter
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
2  1/4  cups  all purpose flour
5 large eggs [original recipe 6 small eggs]
1  1/2  cup castor or superfine sugar
2   teaspoons baking powder

Preparation :

  1. Preheat oven 325˚F. Grease and flour one 9×3 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment or wax paper circle. In the photograph above, I used three 6×3 inch cake pans.
  2. Beat butter or shortening and  vanilla in a large mixing bowl, gradually adding sugar and eggs one by one. Cake Baker’s Tip: The texture should be smooth; rub a bit of batter  between your fingers. If you feel grit from the sugar, mix it again until smooth.
  3. In another large bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Gently mix flour mixture into butter mixture by folding carefully. Cake Baker’s Tip: To fold batter, use a flat rubber spatula and cut down the center of the batter. Scrape along the bottom of the bowl, bringing the batter towards the side then flip the spatula over. Turn the bowl one quarter turn. Repeat until the flour is blended into the butter mixture. Don’t over mix.
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Tap the pan a few times on the counter top to eliminate air bubbles. Bake for 35 minutes. For the smaller pans, I baked them for 25-30 minutes. Cake Baker’s Tip: Test for doneness after the shortest length of time by examining the crack in the top. If it looks wet, it’s not ready, so give it 5 more minutes. If it looks dry, poke it with a toothpick. The toothpick should come out dry.
  5. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack then unmold. To unmold, turn the pan upside down and shake gently. Remove the parchment or waxed paper circle. Turn the cake upright to cool completely before frosting. Frost if desired or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.

more fondant and royal icing

More about fondants today with a new teacher, Chef Tai. What I learned is that every cook has a different way of doing fondants. Instead of two whole boxes of sugar, Chef Thai said start with one and a half boxes. Then when the fondant is mixing up, add more as needed until it becomes solid in appearance. What Chef Tai does next is smear Crisco all vegetable shortening on her hands and on the work surface which she blots with cornstarch or sprinkles sparingly. Then I kneaded the fondant on the prepared work surface, adding more sugar as needed, until it was “soft and malleable.” I wrapped the fondant in plastic and let it rest.  Chef Tai recommended at least 10 minutes. We continued the lesson with store-bought fondant which we colored with gel food coloring, about 1-2 drops per pound. It’s best to be conservative.

I rolled out the fondant and turned it to keep it fairly circular until it was about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Instead of rolling it up on a rolling pin to transport to the cake (actually a cake dummy) Chef Tai recommended dusting the backs of our forearms with cornstarch and transporting it that way to the cake. I trimmed off the overhanging fondant. Then gently pulling and smoothing and separating, I covered the edges. I cut away the excess fondant with a pastry wheel, leaving a 1/4 inch edge that could be smoothed and trimmed. Then we moved on to using fondant and royal icing to decorate.

I’ve still got some things to work out. The band is too thick because the fondant was too dry. Some of the things you add to fondant to make it “malleable” like glycerin and CMC (Sodium Carboxy Methyl Cellulose)  sound so terrible, not to mention, unappetizing. I think that elaborately decorating a cake can make one forget that it’s the Ultimate Food, that it’s meant to be tasted and savored, not just have visual appeal.