Many of these cakes with recipes are described in individual blog posts. Where applicable, they are linked in the photo's caption.

Pear cake for airplane baby shower.

I made this chocolate stout cake as a donation to a fundraiser for the
organization whose logo decorates the top of the cake. It raised $2,400!!
(photo credit: Andrew Matson)

Devil's Food cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and
Brown Sugar Spice cupcakes with blackberry buttercream.

Lime Genoise with Thai-Basil and Rum Syrup, Mango Curd, and Coconut Buttercream

Will's 37th birthday cake:
Browned Butter Cake with Milk Chocolate Whiskey Mousse and Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Mocha-Almond Daquoise
(almond meringue with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache)

Buche de Noel: Cocoa Souffle Sponge Cake with Chestnut Mousse Cream

White-Chocolate Cake with Peppermint Buttercream Filling,
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, and White Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Stout Cake with Laura Temple's buttercream and mocha filling.

Dorie Greenspan's "perfect party cake" with Laura Temple's buttercream and blackberry curd filling.

Peach cake


Birthday cakes for a 3 and 4 year old boy.

Unquestionably: my masterpiece wedding cake.

Strawberry-Vanilla Marble Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Stout Cake with Whisky Cream Cheese Frosting.

Gold-dusted chocolate stout cake with coffee mousse filling
and chocolate ganache; Will's 36th birthday.

Apple-pear sauce cake with apple-pecan custard filling and
cinnamon buttercream for a 92nd birthday party.

2nd birthday party dump-truck

Avocado cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Hazelnut Chocolate cake

Apple spice cake with garam masala custard and brown sugar buttercream.

Snickerdoodle cupcakes.

Dad's 65th birthday lemon-bluberry cake with whipped cream
frosting and limoncello-ricotta filling.

Margarita Chiffon Cake for Cinco de Mayo.

Will got two birthday cakes; one for "friend party" and one for "family party" - this
was a totally obscene masterpiece of nine-layers of chocolate, vanilla, and
hazelnut cake layers with milk chocolate frangelico whipped ganache
 filling and bittersweet chocolate ganache.

Will's 35th birthday: Lime genoise with rum-basil syrup,
mango curd filling, and coconut cream frosting.

Golden Genoise with Apricot Silk Meringue Buttercream
and Burnt Sugar Crown from The Cake Bible.

Safari cake for baby shower.

Limoncello Layer Cake

These white cake layers are my absolute favorite: the White Chocolate Whisper cake from The Cake Bible. I spread them with a thin coating of lemon curd, then filled with raspberry mousse and frosted with a white chocolate ganache. This is in my top-5 most professional looking and best tasting cakes ever, made even more memorable for the fact that I baked it in a foreign kitchen (a vacation condo in California) for the wedding of a very close friend.

Stunning, especially for the holiday table. Great combination of flavors. You can see I didn't peel my pears, but I wish I had. This is a light textured cake with a great balance of sweet, fruit, and nut to finish any celebratory meal.  Note: I replaced the bread crumbs called for in the recipe with a couple extra tablespoons of flour; bread just sounded unappetizing to me.

This cake was wonderful, especially for a fall celebration to really be in the mood for these seasonal flavors. The cake is very dense, but super-moist and very flavorful and the icing complements it perfectly. The icing was fun to make because I'd never done anything that way before, but it didn't set-up as well as I was expecting though it sets to a perfectly smooth consistency. As you can see in the photo, I should have carefully trimmed the edges of the cake layers before icing so that the cake would be perfectly smooth under the glaze. The fruit/nut decoration on top allows a lot of room for creativity and a professional presentation.

Coconut Pecan Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Coconut Filling
This recipe was from Martha Stewart, but it doesn't seem to be available online anymore.  It was cake layers with coconut and ground pecans, then a coconut-cake type filling, frosted with chocolate ganache.

Divine! Illustrious! Gorgeous, simple, delicious. Also, when I took this out of the oven, and then transferred to serving plate, and then iced, then sliced, I was certain it would be a brick! Only when I tasted did I realize I needn't fear. It serves in perfect wedges, and is just an incredible dessert. Very rich, indeed, but you don't need much. I'd say it could serve 18. It was delicious for 3 whole days.
Notes: Not pictured here, but as printed the recipe calls for a sauce that is, for the most part, unnecessary. While a swirl on the plate before serving would be attractive, a simple replacement would be simply melted, canned cranberry sauce. As it was, it was messy and time-consuming to puree and strain the berries, for little added value. 

Coconut Cake with Peach Filling
For my coconut-loving father-in-law's birthday cake, I took inspiration from a number of different recipes due to the influence of Steve Almond’s Candy Freak, which I highly recommend.  It was one of those books where I would laugh out loud as I was reading it, get a quizzical look from my husband, so go back to read him the passage that was amusing enough to warrant an out-loud chuckle, and end up all the way back at the beginning of the chapter because it was all so entertaining.  In the end, we just alternated reading each chapter aloud to each other, which thankfully, the book is short enough to do. In any case, he has a passage about how much he hates Mounds candy bars because the coconut reminds him of eating a cuticle. So, as I was perusing recipes, anything with fingernail skin in the batter got nixed.

I started with the coconut cake batter from Paci restaurant, but to make it flavorful, I replaced the whole milk with 6 oz light coconut milk and 2 oz skim milk. I baked the recipe in two 8-in rounds for 40 minutes, then filled the layers with homemade peach compote, and frosted with 7-minute icing in which I replaced the vanilla extract with coconut extract. Finally, I coated the sides of the frosted cake with toasted coconut and decorated with fresh blueberries, then served with homemade peach ice cream. Delicious! The cake is dense, but very moist, and not at all dry or crumbly.

I can't remember what is the cake above.  I think it was
pecan layer cake with chocolate filling and coconut frosting.

I have a friend who is a professional food writer, who offered to bake me a cake. She let slip the name, so I looked up the recipe and made it myself, trusting her judgement on "good recipes" implicitly. This is a fabulous holiday cake, but by all accounts, it is the glaze which makes it so special. I made it for dessert, but it would also be excellent for brunch.
Notes: I used 3 very ripe bartlett pears, and grated them instead of sliced. Because they were so sweet and juicy, I cut the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and oil to 1 cup.

Daffodil Cake
April in Seattle can be a pretty grisley month; while many areas of the country are Spring in full progression, Seattle is typically drenched in rain with damp grey days still the norm. So for my mother-in-law's early April birthday, I wanted something that would speak to a Spring-time celebration via the cake. This Daffodil cake (from Joy of Cooking) was the perfect choice.  The white batter is basically and angel cake, and the yellow batter incorporates back in the egg yolks removed from the angel batter.

The recipe calls for orange zest, but I replaced it with lemon, as I then excavated a tunnel from the center of the cake and filled it with "Lemon Filling" (also from Joy). To finish, it only needed a simple whipped cream sweetened with just a touch of the leftover lemon filling, and garnished with fresh berries.

Raspberry Almond Cake
This was the first time I ever used marzipan. My aunt loves the stuff, and while I'm not crazy about it, I wanted to try to incorporate it into a birthday cake for her. I researched a few recipes for making marizpan, and it would be pretty hard to do. So I went to my trusted Larsen's Danish Bakery - known locally for their marzipan cakes - where they sell marzipan by the pound. It ended up being easier to work with than I was expecting, and it is an impressive finish for any cake. I think the reason I don't like it is that it doesn't really go with cake. It's hard to get a mouthful of it with cake and frosting where the flavors and textures will really complement each other - even if they go together the marzipan still sort of sits in your mouth and on your palate separately, without augmenting any tones in the other components. It's a fine treat on it's own, and it's pretty, but it's more of a confection, so if you're in the mood for cake, it's a bit of a distraction. It's like using an oreo to decorate a cupcake; is it a cookie, or is it a cake?

I can't remember what cake layer I used in this, but it was frosted with raspberry buttercream and decorated with slivered almonds and fresh berries.


Mocha Cake
While I used recipes for each compenent of this cake, the combination and design was my own. I was on a quest for a good chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is almost always delicious because it almost always comes with delicious things, like chocolate frosting or ganache.  But oftentimes, I'm disappointed by the actual cake itself. It can be dry, or bitter, or have an odd texture. Finally, an experience baker I frequently consult with recommended I try the Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake from The Cake Bible. This was it!  What I had been looking for. I frosted these layers with the Classic Coffee Buttercream, also from The Cake Bible. Then I coated it in chocolate ganache and finished with a chocolate band for the perfectly smooth exterior.  The top was decorated with piped buttercream topped with a chocolate-covered espresso bean to complete the theme.

This is an incredibly beautiful, tasty, and original recipe. Other than by color, I wouldn’t ordinarily have grouped apricots and pumpkin together. I made this a day in advance and it was still gorgeous when we went to serve it. The icing didn't run or melt and the cake layers were firm, but so moist. I pressed a dried apricot and then cut it into decorative shapes to adorn the top of the cake along with whole toasted pecans around the circumference. I had a good amount of the apricot puree left as well, which froze well for other desserts later.

Grand Marnier Cake
This recipe is from The Cake Bible, and while it was much enjoyed by my guests, it wasn't a favorite of mine though I was pleased with the presentation. I found the ground almonds in the batter to give the cake a cornmealy texture akin to dryness in my mouth. After baking, the cake is coated in a Grand Marnier syrup before glazing with chocolate ganache. Perhaps additional soaking in syrup would make it more palatable to me, or LOTS of extra chocolate. The sprinkles on top are grated orange zest which against the smooth chocolate make for an almost glittery appearance.

This cake obviously uses peaches, but disappointingly, I have no idea what recipe I used.

Because of my years in the South as a college student, I sometimes like to shock my Northwestern friends and relatives with "Southern" recipes. Pork fried in bacon? Sugar with some tea mixed in? Greens coated in corn and fat until they're unrecognizable? (Though nothing beats the recipe for Scotch Eggs which apparently are not Sourthern at all... coat a hard boiled egg in ground sausage, then roll it in bread crumbs mixed with - yes, egg - then deep fry it, then serve it with: mayonnaise.)

Once in my searching I came across a recipe though while unfried and lacking pork products of all forms, was still equally unbelievable to me - a cake made with Coca-Cola. It is basically a chocolate cake, but the soda gives it lighter, sweeter, moister texture than some other chocolate cakes (see previous and future commentaries about the difficulties of finding a good chocolate cake.)

I believe the Coca-Cola cake is actually a bit of a Southern tradition, and it's quite good. But at the risk of causing offense, it still seems a bit trashy. I was nevertheless impressed by what the soda did for the batter, so I went searching for other opportunities to incorporate such a mysterious ingredient in a less overt way. That search led me to this truly delightful lemon-lime pound cake made with 7UP.

Neither dense nor dry, the citrus flavors really come through and make the cake although I did add an additional 1 tablespoon each of fresh lemon and lime juice. For the glaze, I used both juices and 7UP. A bonus is that this travels well.

And did you know that in Seattle (and Chicago) we call it "pop" not soda?

This is another charming citrus cake which I selected for Mother's Day one year. Fresh, light flavor and texture are enhanced by the unexpected crust formed by pistachios patted around the perimeter of the pan before adding the batter. The tangy sweet glaze tops it all off.

My grandmother was turning 90, and wanted to make a big bash of it going to the oldest, finest restaurant in Seattle - in case it was her final birthday. I wanted to honor her with something really special, and this cake did not disappoint. The recipe is from the Godiva website, and from what I can tell, many of the recipes look like they are well worth trying, especially for glamourous and elegant occasions.

Yet something else made for a real story behind this cake besides that it was for such an important celebration. I was quite pleased with my creation, and honored to bring it for service in such a sophisticated and refined restaurant. When it was time for dessert, our highly-skilled and professional server had it efficiently plated in the kitchen and brought to the table without ever presenting my masterpiece to my grandmother and her guests. They did that neat trick where they have five waiters come to the table all together so that everyone is served at exactly the same time. As the plates hit the table, our server saw the absolute horror on my face and realized instantly that naturally I had intended my cake as a whole to be my gift to my grandmother. She was so apologetic, and my grandmother is practically blind anyway, and of course the slices individually were also beautiful and just a morsel in the mouth surpassed even the most stunning gift to the eyes, so it all ended well, but I'll never forget that sunken feeling I experienced when my cake was cut that so heavenly-y melted away as that chocolate hit my lips.

White Chocolate and Orange Cake
This is the same White Chocolate Whisper cake layer that I describe in the first post on this page, but this time made with an orange curd filling. White chocolate and orange together is nice, though not my preferred combination, as they are both fairly sweet. I'm a huge sweetness lover, but I think a combination that adds another dimension besides sweetness is slightly more polished.

I made this cake for my 30th birthday party. What you can't tell from the photo is that it was quite large - 2 12" layers (instead of the standard 8 or 9) filled with the same frosting. My friends still talk about this cake months later that it was the best they ever tasted. It is similar to a spice cake, but unlike carrot cake, the pears give it this carmelized texture and rich flavor, while also keeping it naturally moist. To decorate, I used festive sugared cranberries, and topped with a crown of spun sugar. 
Note: If you try this, triple the printed recipe to use the 12" pans, and watch carefully while baking, because it will take longer. You need to wait to place the crown until the last minute, because the moisture in the frosting will melt it within about 20 minutes.

I have two grandmothers, both are the same age but they have very different personalities.  The one, "grandmother" is mentioned above in the Mocha Pecan Layer Cake. The other, "grandma" is discussed in the post titled "Decorated Cakes." Grandma's favorite cakes is Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I have made this for her multiple times, and I like it, but to me it is for breakfast. She always requests it for her birthday, but I don't understand how a birthday cake can not have frosting. Every few years I would rebel, and make her some other cake with pineapple that is right side up, and I'd be so much happier. But while she would enjoy it, she would always wish instead for the same old upside down cake, so around her 87th birthday, I finally gave up and now just make her what she wants for her birthday.

But should you be an upside-down-cake-lover looking for a change in form but not necessarily in palate, I recommend the above. It's a cake lightly flavored with pineapple juice like the upside down cake. But this one is layered with a pineapple filling and frosted with coconut cream for a much more celebratory, much less breakfasty experience. Try it with rum and with candles!

This is a caramel cream-cheese glaze with a chocolate buttercream and pecans but I the cake inside is a mystery to my memory.  I'm sure your imagination can make it taste even better than it was.

Chocolate Spike Cake
This decorating idea is from The Cake Bible and is a really effective technique. The frosting needs to be firm enough to hold the peaks you make by lightly touching the tip of a knife to the surface, and then pulling away to form a spike. But it is a bit of a timesaver, because you don't have to worry about trying to create a perfectly smooth finish with the frosting. The Milk Chocolate Buttercream that Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends for this recipe is the perfect consistency, and is very delicious. I highly recommend the frosting.
The cake she recommends for this is Chocolate Fudge Cake, which I found extraordinarily dry and will not make again. For fun presentation, I used the Golden Butter Cream Cake for the middle layer. It is very dense, with a nice crust (that is lost in a frosted layer cake) so it held up well with the chocolate, though my husband called it "tasteless, and too eggy" (are those mutually exclusive??)

After trying many chocolate cakes over the years and never being satisfied with the consistency or the flavor, I finally went desperately to another baking friend who pointed me to The Cake Bible's Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake.  The book explains that what distinguishes this cake over many other chocolate cakes is the use of Dutch-processed cocoa (and the subsequent elimination of the need for baking soda). You don't have to understand all the chemistry to trust that it's a good recipe.


Tres Leches Cake
I'm sure there are plenty of Tres Leches cake recipes out there; this one came from a cooking school in Mexico. I first learned of this traditional cake from their newsletter. It is pretty messy becase the cake becomes (deliberately) drenched in syrup and absorbs even more liquid from the softly-whipped cream. But it is absolutely delectable and light as a cloud. Just don't try to travel too far on a hot day with it.

This was from my very early days. I had mastered taste, but presentation was still very much in development. I discovered this recipe on Epicurious, but it is from one of my Seattle favorites, the Dahlia Lounge. The cake is super fudgey without being dense or heavy. I had ample amounts leftover of both the filling and the glaze. The filling came out the sides when the cake layers were stacked, which may have been avoidable with vigorous refrigeration, and multiple layers of glaze applied with chilling in between applications. It must also be kept chilled after assembly to prevent the glaze and filling from beginning to melt, like in my photo.

Banana Cake with Mango Filling and Coconut Frosting 
This is banana cake layers with a mango curd filling and 7-minute frosting flavored with coconut, topped with flaked coconut.

One of the most exceptional cakes I’ve ever made. It is stunning to regard and divine to devour, though I would hope for nothing less given the investment of time and ingredients. Nevertheless, it was pretty easy to work with. And although this is so over-the-top in the ingredients, the cake is actually a perfect balance, and really not at all “too rich” although a small slice is very satisfying. I was able to serve 18 with it at a dinner party. The slices cut and served beautifully.

Notes: In the recipe as printed, my only substitution was Kahlua in place of the crème de cacao. I found the mousse was too thin to spread, so I chilled before layering it on the cake. The recipe makes about twice as much buttercream as it uses, and I barely used any glaze, because I created a polished look around the exterior with a chocolate band instead. I barely used any glaze. The sides of my cake would have needed significant trimming in order to be flat enough to be covered by glaze, so instead, I made a chocolate bands. It was gorgeous! Without the bands, the cake layers will need to be carefully trimmed, and much more of the glaze would be needed.

I didn't make this cake, it is from Larsen's Bakery. But it was our wedding cake, so I think it deserves recognition on this site. It was white cake with lemon filling. The flowers were by Buckets at Harbor Steps. The cake was delicious, even the parts we smooshed onto each others faces. We even stored the top layer for our one-year anniversary, and for those who think one-year-old cake sounds disgusting, it's not - if it's been properly stored. To store your own cakes, wedding or otherwise, unfrosted layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil. Frosted cakes should be placed in the freezer unwrapped for 30-60 minutes to allow the frosting to set, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and the foil.

I think about this question a lot. Everyone is likely to have a different answer to this based on their own personal preferences. Can there be any universal truth in answer to this question? As one who majored in philosophy in college, I have some experience pondering universal truths, and my response is "no." Nevertheless, I think it's an important question to discuss in this forum.

My purpose in creating this blog is to have a journal of my experiences in the kitchen so I can keep track of what I've made, when I made it, what I liked and disliked about it, and what I would repeat. If any of this is useful or interesting to someone else, I'm pleased to be able to share it. My recommendations are only valuable to another if they can determine how closely my tastes align with their own. In other words, if you're a Democrat, don't ask your Republican grandmother for whom you should vote.

I encourage you to try some of the recipes I recommend and see if you agree with my assessments. Or, if you're a friend of mine and get to try my cakes with a fork of your own, please give me your honest feedback. I don't want or expect everyone to love all the same things I love, but knowing and understanding the nuances within a range of tastes at least will allow me to bake to my audience.

As I shared in my post "More Famous Bloggers than I," I recently learned about the and saw some cakes and frosting recipes I was anxious to try. She has a stunningly-decorated cello cake made from her "go-to white cake and favorite swiss buttercream." I don't have a favorite go-to cake and (as I've previously promised will be chronicled here soon) my frosting exploits run far and wide with hugely varying results. What a treat if I could find a standby all-purpose cake to whip-up in a pinch during a cake emergency!

Baby Carriage Cake
Since I was two years old, and all the way until I was 17, I celebrated my birthday with a party and a "cut-up cake."

In the early years, I would choose a cake from the book I wanted to make, and that would determine the theme of the party.  As I got older, I would determine the theme, and then the challenge was to create a cake to fit the theme.  My grandma and I would bake and decorate the cake together, no doubt creating a tradition that led me first to feel such warmth toward baking, and now to write about it and share it with you.

After my endearing nickname, and this blog's namesake, this cake was made for my 25th birthday by my grandmother, under engineering and artistic direction of my mother.

I made this tennis racquet cake for a friend who loves to play tennis.  The cake was the Oatmeal Cake from Joy of Cooking and the frosting (except for the decoration) was the caramel frosting - also from Joy.  The cake is fantastic, and the frosting flavor is a perfect complement, though I found it a bit stickier to work with than I prefer. The oatmeal feigns and allusion toward hearty, rustic yet it is so moist that while it would surely sustain you through the winter months in your mountain cabin, it really must rather be shared with foodie friends. The caramel frosting - while the perfect woody color for an old-school tennis racquet - also played exquisitly with the warm tones of the oatmeal. Ace!

Chocolate cake with chocolate filling and chocolate frosting. These components were all from The Cake Bible: Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake filled with  Light Whipped Ganache Filling and glazed with Chocolate Cream Glaze. I didn't actually get to taste this one assembled, though there may have been some licking going on of bowls and spoons in the construction phase.

These were the "cupcake assignment" from my decorating class. The instructor made the frosting, so I didn't have any control over the colors. I don't feel like creativity is my strong suit, and I think these illustrate my self-image perfectly.

This was the "final project" for my decorating class. The basket-weave sides take forever!

This is actually pretty easy to do, I actually don't even use the pastry bag, just a toothpick, and it comes out just like at the bakery! The cake inside is, of course, carrot.

Because of my husband's business he is able to cut me stencils in whatever patterns I like.  While his intricacy has no limit, the designs that will hold their shape in powdered sugar must be the right balance between detail and clear form.  Here are a couple that worked really well. Be sure to choose cakes that stand well on their own, without the need for icing. The Easter egg was a light, Spring-y lemon, walnut, and olive oil cake. The snowflake is a simple but similarly seasonal rich chocolate torte.


This is one of the logos for my University, which I recreated onto cupcakes for an alumni party I hosted. Be careful before you copy any logos that you're not violating copyright laws and that you have permission to use someone else's work.

A coworker of mine got married on the sly, and didn't tell anyone until almost a year later.  On close to her one-year anniversary, we had a party for her at the office, and I made this tiered cake for her since she didn't have any cake at her actual wedding. The cake was Biscuit Roulade from The Cake Bible with meyer lemon syrup. I made curd also from meyer lemons, which was spread thinly on the layers then topped with Super Stabilized Whipped Cream (The Cake Bible) and frosted with Mousseline Buttercream flavored with some of the curd. I am very particular about frostings, but even if I wasn't, the Mousseline is terrible. I've made it twice, thinking that a recipe in such a highly-lauded cookbook couldn't possibly be as bad as it turned out for me, so I must have made a mistake, but I didn't.  It's really awful. Fortunately, the bride here didn't think so - the merits of the cake overcame the failings of the frosting, but consider yourself warned if you are a Beranbaum fan.

Biscuit Roulade from The Cake Bible with meyer lemon syrup, meyer lemon curd, topped with Super Stabilized Whipped Cream (The Cake Bible) and frosted with Mousseline Buttercream flavored with some of the curd. I am very particular about frostings, but even if I wasn't, the Mousseline is terrible. I've made it twice, thinking that a recipe in such a highly-lauded cookbook couldn't possibly be as bad as it turned out for me, so I must have made a mistake, but I didn't. It's really awful.

I made this for another friend's bridal shower and was the very first tiered cake I ever made. The cake was chocolate with an orange buttercream. The cake itself was very good. But it wasn't perfect, and a wedding cake should be, as should anything that I spend 10 hours on over 4 days. The layers may just not have been to my preference - I prefer a larger crumb and sweeter, but they were excellent to work with. I also felt it a bit dry, but countered with a rich buttercream, that wasn't as noticeable. The ganache filling tasted bitter to me, and while the stiffness of it made cake slices come out perfectly, it didn't have the smooth, mousse texture I would have expected. The buttercream firmed up fabulously when chilled so from that standpoint was excellent to work with, but I absolutely could not get a smooth finish with it, which was very disappointing. It was impossible to pipe with because it separated when forced through the bag.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Lamb,
    I want to make an EASY chocolate cake for Toby's birthday. Any favorite recipe sources?