Recipe of the Week: Birthday Sheet Cake from Rick Bayless

It’s birthday time at our house!  Jasper is turning five and Magnolia is turning three (more on the emotional highs and lows of the passage of time later).

Every year, we vow to NOT host TOO MANY KIDS at the party.  What’s too many?  Well, probably more than 8.  And then, the birthdays sneak up on us, and we panic and end up combining the two birthday parties (the kids birthdays are a week apart), and that, plus family and parents, adds up to more like forty guests.  Oh, martha.

We aspire to the drop-off party, where we tell parents to just leave their kids with us and go out for a nice adult lunch.  Alas, we chicken out every time.  Maybe next year.

So this year’s cake is inspired by the terrifying thought of giving forty guests a sugar high.  It serves 20-24, if you can cut 3 inch slices.  Math has never been my thing, so I’m counting on Melisa to pull this off.  We’re using a Texas Sheet Cake from Rick Bayless‘s Salsas That Cook.  We considered adapting the Bareass’ Flag Cake or her Birthday Sheet Cake shown here (both in the Barefoot Contessa Family Style ), but decided for some Texas memories.

The pros: there is no cooling time before frosting, and it is easy to transport or present (and easier than frosting 20 cupcakes).

The cons: there is alot of sifting

Special equipment: a 18 x 13 x 1 in pan

For the cake:

10 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 1/3 cup water

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 egg yolk

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 lbs powdered sugar (about 5 2/3 cups sifted)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

For frosting & topping:

8 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices

6 TBSP milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pound (about 4 1/2 cups sifted) powdered sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

optional: 2 cups chopped pecans

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter & flour the sheet pan

2) For the cake, combine the butter, water, and oil in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter melts, then remove from heat

3) In a small bowl, beat together eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk & vanilla

4) In a large bowl, sift flour, powdered sugar, cocoa, baking soda & salt.  Add the butter mixture and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add the egg mixture and beat for a couple of minutes (you can use a power mixer if you like)

5) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center springs back when lightly touched.

6) While cake is baking, prepare frosting (don’t start before the cake goes into the oven because the frosting needs to be warm when it goes onto the warm cake).  In a small saucepan, combine the butter & milk.  Stir over medium heat until the butter melts, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Into a large bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa. Pour in the warm milk mixture and stir to combine.

7)  When the cake comes out of the oven, let it stand 3-4 minutes, then dollop the frosting over it.  Use a spatula to spread it gently over the cake.  Sprinkle pecans if you choose.

8) Cut the cake into 3 inch squares, and serve

This is what it looks like:

The finished, and decorated, product

Some party-goers didn’t want to wait for the birthday song:

In the end, everyone was happy:

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1 Response to “Recipe of the Week: Birthday Sheet Cake from Rick Bayless”



  1. 1 Where Did the Time Go and Other Ruminations on Magnolia « Shiny Brite Trackback on July 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

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