We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday. Of the five birthdays we’ve spent together as a couple, the majority of them have come and gone with a memorable story.
A few months into our relationship, I gave Dane tickets to the Red Sox for his birthday. When the week of the game rolled around, unbeknownst to me, Dane was in the middle of a frantic search for the tickets (that he should have given to me for safe keeping, frankly). To save face, Dane bought two more tickets to the same game. We planned to use these tickets to gain entry and then sit the original seats I purchased–if the tickets were accidentally thrown away or lost, the seats would presumably be empty, right? Instead, we were greeted by the young man and his uncomfortable-looking date who stole the tickets right out of the envelope that said “Happy Birthday Dane!”
A few years later, we were on the trip of a lifetime traveling through China and Thailand. Dane’s birthday fell on one of the first few days of the trip, when we were still acclimating to our new, very foreign surroundings in Beijing. Even though I had planned a fantastic dinner to celebrate, the one part missing was a cake. I had no clue how I could secure a cake in China, when we had a hard enough time figuring out meals in general. So, you can imagine our shock when the hotel staff arrived unannounced at our door bearing a cake of whipped cream, peaches, and gorgeous, exotic dragon fruit.
To this day we still don’t know how this cake made it to our door–either a hotel courtesy, secret friend or family member, or creepy stalker–but it was a great surprise.
Dane’s most recent birthday doesn’t have an exciting or unusual story. As you can see from the opening photo, Bean spent the day watching me bake, frost, candy, and photograph Dane’s cake while the birthday boy was hard at work. I only slightly tweaked Martha Stewart’s Lemon Cake to make this a lime cake (fine, it’s not key lime, but it sounds better), and used richer, yolk-based buttercream frosting and candied lime recipes to complete my creation (thank you culinary school!). Even though there were no surprises, thefts, big parties, or trips, a birthday night at home with homemade cake and my boys was still pretty exciting.
Slightly tweaked from Martha Stewart’s Lemon Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 1/2 cups AP flour, plus more for pans
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
zest and juice of one lime
2 c. sugar
2 eggs plus 3 egg yolks (large)
1 c. buttermilk (I make my own by adding 1 tbsp. white vinegar to 1 c. milk)
Pre-heat oven to 350. Butter and flour two 8-by-2 inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lime zest.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 c. sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in lime juice. Alternatively beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix only until combined.
Equally divide batter between pans. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
1 1/2 c. unsalted butter–not melted, but very, very soft
8 large egg yolks
1 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of one lime, or to taste
Whip softened butter with wooden spoon and set aside. In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat yolks, sugar, and salt until a very thick ribbon forms. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lime juice and zest to taste.
Candied Citrus Rind
2 limes, zested into long, thin strips (can use any citrus)
1 c. water
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. Grand Marnier
drop of acid
Blanch zested strips in boiling water for a few minutes. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile, make sugar syrup by combining water, sugar, and orange liquor in a small pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Add rinds and cook until soft, several minutes. Remove rinds from syrup and spread on a greased cookie sheet until ready to use.
Place one cake on a cake stand over strips of parchment paper (to prevent buttercream from smearing all over the cake stand). Using offset spatula, spread top with buttercream. Top with remaining cake and continue frosting top and sides. Decorate with candied rind and don’t forget to remove parchment strips!