Everyone always tells me it's crazy to make my own birthday cake, no one does that, but I've been doing it since I started baking! I don't see anything crazy about it - I can choose any flavor combination I want and I know it will always be delicious.
This year I chose to go all-out girly, pink, fluffy and light with a brown sugar angel food cake frosted with a swirly Italian meringue - not a tablespoon of butter in sight! Since I tend to go either all light or all decadent, perhaps I'll save the chocolate ganache torte for Valentine's :)
The cake recipe comes from a book my sister gave me for Christmas called Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose and I didn't change anything except omit the almond extract, only because I didn't have any in the house. If you're an angel food cake fan, try it! The brown sugar tempers the intense sweetness normal angel food cakes can sometimes have and lends a deeper, more caramel taste.
I knew I wanted a light and fluffy icing I could tint pink for the outside of the cake but all the seven minute frostings I've made end up with a hard crust on the outside after a few hours and since I wanted to make the cake a day ahead of time, I knew I'd need something different. I also didn't want to make a heavy, greasy pound-of-butter buttercream. I flipped through many cake books and searched the internet until I realized the cover of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home To Yours has a cake with the exact frosting I was looking for on the cover.
This frosting recipe was a dream! It wasn't overly sweet, stayed soft and didn't develop a crust. I tinted it pink but my brain immediately imagines dozens of little cupcakes with this icing swirled high on top in a rainbow of colors for any occasion, sprinkled with adorable confetti and shapes to make them even more festive.
Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake
Adapted from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
14 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have a tube or angel food cake pan ready.
Sift the flour, brown sugar and salt together onto a piece of waxed paper, removing any large lumps of brown sugar. In an electric mixer, whip the egg whites on low speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed, and whip until the whites hold soft peaks, fold in the vanilla extract.
Transfer the whites to a very large mixing bowl and sift the flour and brown sugar mixture over the egg whites in 3 additions, folding gently after each addition with a large spatula. Scrape the batter into the tube or angel food cake pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly golden on the outside and it springs back when pressed lightly. Let the cake cool inverted in the pan completely, then run a thin knife around the outside of the pan and the bottom and carefully remove the cake.
Italian Meringue Frosting
Adapted From Baking: From My Home To Yours
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)
Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and have a candy thermometer ready.
Place the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the cover and let the syrup boil until it reaches 242 degrees F. When the syrup is at 235 degrees, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed until they form firm, shiny peaks. When the syrup is ready and the mixer still running at medium speed, drizzle in the hot syrup between the beaters and the side of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract (and food coloring, if you like) and keep beating on medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 more minutes. The frosting should be smooth, shiny and marshmallowy.
Perhaps I loved this cake so much because you can eat 2 or 3 slices of it without feeling guilty, and I did! :)