Monday, April 18, 2011

{Almost Easy} Birthday Cake

We celebrated my belated birthday this weekend.  The Bionic Man and our children were off the hook for cake making, because I needed a good excuse to try out a cake recipe I found.  The original recipe and accompanying gorgeous photographs can be found here.  The original recipe, however, seemed a little tricky to me, so I modified it and came up with a somewhat simpler version of my own.
Pretty, hmmm?  And, admittedly, very tasty, too!  This is how I made it:

The cake layers and frosting were made of some basic ingredients
and a very few not-so-basic ingredients.

Lemon Blueberry Cake Ingredients:
1 (18 1/4 oz) package yellow cake mix
1 (4 oz) package instant vanilla or lemon pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cooking oil (I prefer canola)
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract
4 large eggs
12 oz. fresh blueberries (about 1-1/2 cups)

Place all of the ingredients--except blueberries--into a large mixing bowl.
Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.  Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  On medium speed, continue to blend for 2-3 more minutes, until the cake batter is smooth.
Pour 1/3 of the batter into a greased 8 or 9 inch round cake pan.

Add blueberries to the remaining batter.
Gently fold into batter, being careful not to squash the berries.
(Note:  next time I make this, I'm going to try placing the berries on top of the batter, once it is in the cake pans.  All my berries sunk to the bottom of the pan while the cake was baking, when I did it this way.  It tasted fine, but it didn't look as pretty.  Let me know if you have any great tips for keeping the berries spread out, or if you try it and my "next time" method works!)

Divide the remaining batter among two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.  Bake the three cakes at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes (time varies depending on your oven).  Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool.  Remove from pans.

Now it is time to make the frosting.  I'm normally not a fan of frosting, but--let me tell you--this is the yummiest frosting I have ever encountered.  Definitely a lick-the-bowl-clean kind of frosting.  The tangy lemon flavor really balances the sweetness of the frosting.  

Zesty Lemon Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 package (2 lbs.) powdered sugar
milk or heavy whipping cream (I used milk, but I imagine cream makes this even more heavenly, if possible)
yellow gel food coloring (optional)

Soften butter and add the zest of one lemon.
Using the whisk attachment on your electric mixer, cream the butter and lemon zest for 2-3 minutes.  Add lemon juice and lemon extract, blend well.  Add about 1/3 of the sugar and mix well.  Add remaining sugar, along with milk or cream to thin consistency of the frosting as necessary.  Beat well on med-high speed for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy.  If using color gel, add a drop or two, then beat until blended.
I added a little gel coloring to mine, which gave it this pale, sunshiny yellow color that I love.

Once the frosting was made and my cakes were cool, I placed one blueberry layer onto my cake stand.  I put a small amount of frosting into a pastry bag, and snipped the pointed end off with my scissors, so there would be a fairly wide hole at the end.
Then, I piped this frosting around the top edge of my first layer.
This made a little frosting "dam" so that the filling wouldn't leak out of the sides of the cake.  Isn't that a neat trick?
I then spread a generous amount of lemon curd onto the top of the cake--the filling.  I chose a lemon curd that didn't have a lot of extra, filler ingredients, including artificial color.  If you like, there are other brands that have more of a brighter yellow shade.  And yes, my cake did get a little dark--but it tasted fine.

I repeated that step with the next layer of cake, which was the lemon-only layer, without blueberries.  I placed the last blueberry layer on top, so that I had a stack of three {blurry} layers.
The last step was generously frosting the top and sides of the cake.  It was too messy to take pictures!  I garnished the top of the cake with more lemon zest.  Ta da!

If you'll notice, the day grew later and later as I worked on this cake.  It was too dark for pretty pictures by the time I finished.

So, naturally, I had to take it outside the next morning for a little photoshoot in the sunshine.  (Naturally?  What is natural about that?  I'm sure my neighbors think I'm C-R-A-Z-Y!  I can just hear it, "Look Herb, she's out on the deck again, taking pictures of food!  Do you think we should call someone?")
 As a bloggers.  How do they do it?  My kitchen was in total disarray by the time I'd finished.  And I made this cake from a box.  Obviously, despite the use of a cake mix, the cake was yummy.  We ate a lot of it.

While this was a delicious cake, the frosting was hands-down the best part.  If I were to do it over again, I'd use yellow sprinkles instead of lemon zest.  Or leave it plain.  The zest--while pretty--was just a little too much.
Back to the frosting.  I think I need to try some variations on this frosting, like orange (orange zest and juice) and lime (lime zest and juice).  It would be a delicious--and pretty-way to jazz up vanilla cupcakes.

I'm linking this post to the following parties:


  1. That looks delicious. I will have to try it for my birthday.

  2. It looks beautiful and delicious! I hope you had a very happy birthday. We've heard The Bandito returns again this summer. Are you going?!

  3. That looks so good, love lemon curd!

  4. Your cake looks so good. I bet was delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  5. Oh my gosh Ruth, I seriously need to hang out with you more because you are hilarious. Your cake, by the way, was every bit as lovely as the one on the blog. Different frosting style, but I liked how you did it. I like the "fondant looking kind" AND the messy natural look. I make both! :) And I have found that sometimes when you're making a great cake and spending a lot of time on decorating, a cake mix works like a charm. I don't know how food bloggers do it either. I mean, making the food, making it look awesome, cleaning up, getting that perfect shot. Well, it's not my thing, but I will go a little out of the way to take a great picture of a beautiful cake. And I'll grab Andy to take it while I'm at it. lol !! Happy Belated Birthday, by the way! I hope it was fabulous. You're such a talented and amazing person. I have always admired you. Ta ta!

  6. Yum! Wish I could have a bite & help you celebrate. Happy birthday!

    Warmly, Michelle

  7. A quick question: The recipe calls for one cake mix, and one pudding mix, but your picture shows two. Did you double it to get 3 layers?
    Thanks! I want to make this next weekend!