I had dreamt of this cake for days, weeks, months, YEARS... and it turned out exactly as I hoped! 
From the outside, it looks like a cute, simple, boring cake with plain white frosting. I surprised my birthday picnic guests when I cut into it and rainbow-swirls of cake came out! 
I used my favourite vanilla cake recipe, and followed these instructions to make the rainbow colors. In concentric circles, I poured the red batter first, then orange, yellow, green, blue and lastly purple. I was a bit nervous when the cake came out of the oven and all you could see was red, but the batter seems to have churned itself into its own colorful pattern. 

Big thanks to Tracy for helping me bake this cake!! My boyfriend Tomas made a rum cake for my birthday picnic too, which was PHENOMENAL!! Rum cake is my favourite :) 
 
 
Joel is my birthday buddy. We have the same birthday, 4 years apart. When Joel requested a banana cake, I was skeptical. What's so appealing about a banana cake? Wouldn't it be similar to a banana bread? That's not worthy of a birthday celebration! Well, I certainly had to eat my words. Banana cake is AWESOME! It's sweet and flavorful, and this cake was incredibly soft and moist! It's the kind of cake that's so good it doesn't even need frosting! But, I like frosting :). I put chocolate frosting between the layers, and mailed it to him with banana frosting to put on top. 

I used a recipe from Bon Appetit, (substituting greek yogurt for sour cream), which produced a ton of batter, especially because I used 6" cake pans. This made three thick layers of cake, as well as 6 banana cupcakes. I call this cake the Leaning Tower of Banana! Joel was thrilled with this cake, but he kept commenting on the awkward shape. I'll have to remember to make 1/2 a recipe if using those small 6" pans. 
 
 
Kate is a friend of a friend’s, and though we’ve only met a few times, she’s the kind of person that exudes energy and fun. She chose this blackberry mascarpone cake.

This is a vanilla cake with homemade berry coulis and mascarpone whipped cream in between each layer, covered in vanilla frosting. The vanilla cake recipe from the tiramisu cake has become my favourite and my standard. I ended up using the recipe for mascarpone whipped cream that came with the tiramisu cake also (minus the coffee of course), because the recipe for this cake called for gelatin, and I’m not a fan of that. I like to use whole, "normal" ingredients as much as possible, and gelatin just doesn’t interest me. (I also shy away from pudding mixes, cake mixes, sour cream, and cool whip.)
I tried my hand at some fun frosting techniques for the first time. I used food coloring to make light pink, dark pink and purple frosting, and I followed a tutorial video in an attempt to make an obmre look. It was kind of successful, but I wished I had stuck with a monochromatic color scheme of light pink, dark pink and white. For some reason I’m just not a fan of how the purple looked. Anyway, it was fun! I’ll certainly try ombre frosting again soon! 
 
 
This cake was made in the middle of a “cake blitz,” in which I baked five cakes in nine days. This cake has several unusual ingredients, so I would have preferred to make this cake the night before the baby shower in case I ran into problems. But in the craziness of the cake blitz I had no choice but to make it the morning of the baby shower. Luckily, my worries were unfounded. This cake turned out great!

This Food & Wine magazine recipe is not for the casual baker. This is the first cake that I used “tools” to make: a food processor to turn roasted almonds into almond meal; and an electric beater to whip the eggs. Besides the almond meal, this cake also had instant polenta and crème fraîche in the batter. It turns out that crème fraîche is not that hard to make: a cup of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of buttermilk sitting in a warm location for 36 hours = homemade, fresh crème fraîche.  No big deal! There is a small amount of fresh rosemary in the batter, but unfortunately it was a little too mild. The texture of the cake was moist, soft and crumbly. The almond offered depth of flavor, that was rich and only slightly sweet. The light lemon glaze was a perfect complement to the cake. This is the kind of cake that you have with coffee on a lazy afternoon on your porch.

 
 
This cake is for my best friend from high school. It went in the mail!! 

I was very lucky that the recipient of my first mailed cake lives around the corner from my dad. I was able to mail it to him so that he can check and make sure it arrived safely, assemble it and bring it to her... all with this being a SURPRISE for my dear friend Shemaiah! 

How do you mail a cake?

(according to massive amounts of Google searches...) you freeze it! Cakes and frosting (supposedly) keep very well if frozen. To keep the cake moist, I wrapped it in parchment paper, then plastic wrap, and then shoved it in a freezer zip lock bag. It barely looked like a cake when it was wrapped and ready. Fast shipping is pretty pricey, and as I'm planning to send 10 cakes in the mail this year, it is important to find a way to keep cakes frozen for 4 days of standard slow old-school mail.

I got kinda lucky... I received a frozen item in the mail a few days before I had to send this cake out. I was able to re-use the styrofoam box and freezer bags! The gel packs were still partially frozen 4 days and 14 hours after the package had been shipped. This greatly increases my confidence in being able to send cakes in the mail. I've lived in three different US cities, and I have family across the globe, so mailing cakes allows me to involve as many loved ones in this project as possible. 
I baked it in a loaf pan so that it would be small enough to fit in the styrofoam shipping box. Baking something this shape takes FOR-FREAKIN-EVER! I started this cake late at night, and because it took over an hour to bake, it was past 2am by the time I got to bed. And I get up at 6. (But don't blame that on the cake. Baking is fun for me. I turn music on, dance around, and make a mess. I could have finished it much quicker. But I was having fun!) I was seriously freaking out, this cake took so long to bake. The edges browned while the center was still soft batter, so I wrapped the edges of the cake in foil and turned the oven temperature down to 305 degrees. I think it worked! Future mailed cakes will be baked in 6" round pans (and three layers!). I can't not freak out while a cake takes an hour to bake. Plus, a round cake is a classic homemade cake, and that's what this adventure is all about - classic homemade birthday cakes! 
This homemade chocolate buttercream frosting has redefined chocolate frosting for me!
Cake is the same recipe as the tiramisu cake. It's so moist and light! 
And a treat for my dad!! 
 
 
I met Dash through my lover Tomas; they used to be co-workers. Dash is one of the most positive, optimistic people I've met. He believes in the power of kindness, and inspires the best in people. I was so happy to make a cake for him.
Tiramisu is one of my favourite desserts. As soon as I saw this recipe for tiramisu cake, I knew I had to try it. The lady fingers in the traditional dessert are replaced with two layers of cake. This cake had the best texture of the cakes I've made so far. It was moist and soft, and it rose beautifully. I'm crediting this to the buttermilk in the recipe. The cakes were basted in espresso syrup, which I should have used much more of. Meh, at least I know for next time.
The best part of this cake was the mascarpone cream. To make it, I mixed mascarpone, sugar, espresso and vanilla, and folded the mixture into whipped cream. It was my first time whipping cream by hand, without a mixer! It didn't take as long as I expected, but I did need Tomas's muscle to supplement my efforts. The mascarpone cream brought a challenge that I didn't anticipate when planning this cake: whipped cream needs to be kept cold, or it will melt. I freaked out over this for a minute, but it was easily solved by sitting the cake in the freezer for about two hours before we left. It had two hours to thaw between when we removed it from the freezer and when it was served, which worked perfectly. 

Today was a big win for me. Not so much because of the cakes, but because of my preparation and organization. I've always known that projects come out much better when you gather your supplies in advance, and manage your schedule closely. However, I'm a procrastinator, and it's so easy to forget a crucial item. This week I had my recipes selected, reviewed, and my grocery list prepared days in advance. I made Taylor's cake and icing Wednesday evening and only had to assemble it on Saturday morning. And Dash's cake was ready plenty early in the day that I had time to freeze it to keep the mascarpone cream intact. This felt much better than last weekend, when I arrived at Tracy's birthday bash late! 
That's Dash in the striped white shirt, me standing in the green, and Tomas in the orange.
 
 
Taylor is my friend, Elena's roommate. They live in an apartment with two other college ladies, and are always having crazy silly fun together. I was excited to make her the girliest cake possible.
This is a raspberry cake with raspberry balsamic frosting. It is my first three-tiered cake, and as such it was so tall that it barely fit in the cake box! I baked these cakes at a lower temperature, 310 instead of 350. I didn't over-bake it this time, and the lower temperature did seem to create less of a mounded surface, which made it easier to trim them into flat layers. I used a fig vinegar reduction (gift from my mom) in the frosting, which brought a richness that complemented the sweetness of the raspberries. Incredibly delicious!
 
 
Tracy is the best hostess I know (besides my mom, but that's not a fair competition). She's the lady that plans dinner parties weeks in advance, researching and testing recipes, creating a flavor palette for the evening, decorating, and attending to every detail. She's the lady that welcomes guests with a warm smile and a cocktail, all while preparing a glorious meal. I tell everyone: when you get invited to Tracy's house, you say YES and clear your schedule. This year she celebrated her birthday with a stuff-your-own-pancake brunch for about 40 friends. There was an entire table of pancake fillings and toppings, and each person was treated to a customized pancake. In many ways, I hope to one day be a hostess like her. 

This cake is very special. Tracy made me the most delicious birthday cake, and I wanted to return the favor. My excitement for making her birthday cake was the catalyst for this project. For this special lady, I baked a lavender cake with lemon buttercream frosting. I chose this recipe for the cake, but taking advice from the folks at Pinch Spice Market, I used about half the lavender the recipe recommended. I suggest you add the lavender to the batter gradually, and taste along the way. I was very pleased with how the lavender flavor turned out, but I left the cakes in the oven for just a minute too long, which left me wishing it was more moist. It drives me crazy how just ONE extra minute can affect the texture of a cake! My oven cooks a little fast, and I'm still learning to adjust for this. Next time, I'll take Deb's advice and set the oven to a lower temperature. 

This was my first time making frosting! It wasn't hard at all, but it certainly gave my forearm a good workout. The lemon buttercream was tart, which I loved, but perhaps a little too intense for the delicate lavender cake. Altogether, I was still very pleased with how the cake turned out. 

...Do you see this fancy cake stand I have? Did you really think I wasn't going to mention it? I grabbed a candlestick holder and a chips&dip platter from the thrift store and my lover, Tomas, used epoxy to glue them together. It cost $7 and took 5 minutes. I wrapped it in a blanket and stuck it in my large tote bag and off to Tracy's I went! 
 
 
 
 
 

    100 Birthday Cakes

    As an homage to the homemade birthday cakes my family made for me as a child, I am endeavoring to make as many birthday cakes as possible for anyone that wants one this year.
    -Merissa Grant 

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