It was my son's 11th birthday this past weekend and to mark the occasion he didn't want a cake, he wanted Grasshopper Pie. When I bought my copy of Kitchen by Nigella Lawson years ago, he flipped through the pages and found a recipe for this pie. For years he has asked me to make it and for years I have avoided it. I can't really say why, it is after all mint and chocolate come together in my favorite desert form. But you know how there are some recipes that intimidate you? Well this was one of them.
However, 11 is a big number and really, it was kind of a sweet request. I mean how many 11 year old boys do you know would ask for Grasshopper pie for their birthday? So I set out to make it, bought all of the ingredients (more on that later) and had it all organized with the crust chilling in the fridge. I went to make the filling later that day, following the directions exactly and then the cream started separating into a curdled, disgusting, green mess. My husband lovingly said, "just whip it a bit more" but that only made it worse. I painfully had to dump it down the sink. The thing with this pie is that it has to chill in the fridge overnight and the party was the next day. It was 4:30 in the afternoon, the dream of this pie was over and I was up s*&it creek without a whisk. I sat on the stairs in my kitchen, head in hands cursing birthday parties all together wondering what on earth I was going to do now. I didn't have enough whipping cream to try the filling again and I was in no mood to go to the store...again. I was just about to go to Dairy Queen and get an ice cream cake but honestly I was too exhausted from the day and too defeated to even do that.
Then I remembered this cake recipe. I have made it many times before, it is easy to put together and has that nostalgic smell of boxed cake batter without all the garbage that goes into those mixes. It is that cake of your childhood when you think "Birthday Cake" It is also the kind of cake that uses basic pantry ingredients so no special shopping required. I pulled out the milk, eggs, butter and flour and got to work. This cake comes together so quickly that even my son was amazed. So from now on I don't call it Yellow Cake, it has been reborn as Rescue Cake.
So the next time you have a birthday party to bake a cake for, I highly recommend this one. It is fool proof, so much better than the boxed batter and very gratifying to make. I did end up making the Grasshopper Pie the day after, I'll post about that later. But in the meantime, the cake was a delicious hit.
Adapted from Wilton Basic Yellow Cake
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk, at least 2% don't use skim here
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. You can also use a rectangular cake pan if you want to make a sheet cake or 12 cupcake liners if you prefer cupcakes. If you do use this recipe for cupcakes you will need to adjust the cooking time as they will bake faster.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl and set aside. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. If you don't have a stand mixer use your hand beaters or you can also do this with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease. Add the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla until combined. Now add your flour and milk alternating between the two until everything has come together into a lovely yellow, creamy batter. Pour into your cake pans and bake for 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure it is done and let cool before removing from the pans. You can make this the night before, just cover with a tea towel and frost the next day if you want to take the pressure off yourself.
The Best Chocolate Frosting Ever.
Adapted from Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting from Add a Pinch
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter softened
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/12-4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup milk, at least 2%
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
I like to buy butter in sticks to make this easier but you can certainly buy it by the pound. Cut your butter into large cubes and put in a large bowl. This will make it easier to cream. Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl (DO NOT skip this step, it will ensure that you don't have lumpy frosting). Cream the butter and the cocoa together with a wooden spoon. You can do this with your stand mixer or hand beaters, but I seem to get better results with just a spoon and a bit of effort. Once combined, add the sifted (again to eliminate lumps) icing sugar one cup at a time, alternating with one tablespoon of milk to the mixture until it comes together into creamy, chocolaty goodness. I prefer my frosting a little less sweet which is why I have suggested 3 1/2 - 4 cups of sugar. Taste as you go and see what you like. Add the vanilla one teaspoon at a time, again to taste. I guarantee you, this is worlds better than the junk you buy in a can at the store.
To frost the cake
Take the cakes out of the pans. Turn one cake upside down, spread a modest layer of frosting on top. Now place the second cake right side up on top of the first one. This way you should have two flat layers against each other with the rounded side up. Now frost with a palate knife if you have one or a small spatula or even a butter knife. This frosting recipe makes loads so you will have plenty to generously frost this cake. Decorate with sprinkles, fruit, whatever you like. This will make anyone's birthday a happy one.