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Cake Day!

So yesterday, 10 chowfriends got together to hold our 2nd annual Cake Day. This is a very happy day where we spend the entire day taking turns baking cakes and just hanging out and laughing. When all the cakes are done, we do a tasting all of the cakes and pack a slice of each for everyone to take home. It's a wonderful way to celebrate the joy of cakes and get a sampling of different recipes.

The recipe I wanted to share here was the brown butter pecan cornmeal cake that I got from Smitten Kitchen (which she got from a NY Times article about North Carolina and Watt's Grocery). It's very easy and has the most wonderful caramel-y, nutty flavour and fantastic texture. I could eat a LOT of this cake. Not too sweet and is delicious on its own, but can be elevated with some whipped cream or ice cream. It only has 3 Tbs. of white flour, so I imagine it could very easily be adapted for gluten-free eaters. Be warned, though, that the batter is delicious and you may run the risk of eating the entire bowl if you're not careful.


I also made a strawberry custard layer cake using Rose Levy Berenbaum's white velvet cake. This was my first time make this cake and it really has a lovely soft crumb that paired perfectly with ripe, local strawberries and the pastry cream. I frosted with the cooked flour buttercream that I got from this board.

Here's a photo of the table with all the cakes, as well as a close up of the brown butter pecan cornmeal cake and the strawberry custard cake.

I have to give a shout out to my friend's pandan butter cake with a gula melaka (coconut sugar) buttercream. I was inordinately fond of this cake with its light green cake layers and simply delicious buttercream that had the most amazing nutty rich flavour from the gula melaka. Probably my favorite cake of the day. Photo attached.

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  1. I love this idea! Do you come up w/ a list of cakes ahead of time and then do it all at once? Hwo did you divide the labor? How long is the party? Even better, how do I get on the invite list? ;-)

    The RLB strawberry cake is eye catching. What did you think of it? It sounds like a upgraded version of strawberry shortcake. Did the flour buttercream go well with it? Thanks for sharing!

    6 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Everyone chooses what cake they want to make. My kitchen has 2 ovens, and a friend brought half her kitchen over (including her KitchenAid mixer), so we had two full baking stations going. Everyone was responsible for making their own cake. So there were always two cakes in the oven and two people making their cakes in the kitchen. And usually someone washing dishes! I provided all the "basic" baking ingredients, and everyone brought any special ingredients they needed.

      Due to scheduling issues, 4 people made their cakes at home and brought them over, but 6 of us made our cakes the day of (one person made 2 cakes that day). We started at 11 and we were eating cake by around 5pm, I think.

      I thought the strawberry custard cake was delicious. It was indeed a very strawberry shortcake-like cake! The buttercream worked perfectly, as it's not too sweet and I find it "reads" very much like a sweetened whipped cream, but is a lot more stable so no worries about melting or getting too soft at room temp. I do need to work on my pastry cream, though. I used Dorie Greenspan's recipe and it set up way too thick. I lightened it with whipped cream and it was fine in the end, but I think I'll try using less cornstarch next time and see if that gets me the texture I want.

      If you do your own cake day, it's good to have bakery boxes and lots of parchment paper on hand to pack up the slices at the end of the day.

      And hey, if you're in the Toronto area next summer, let me know, and you are officially invited. :)

      1. re: TorontoJo

        This sounds like so much fun. I'm thinking it probably worked better for some people to bring their own cakes already done. I need to find a space with a double oven!

        I prefer pastry cream that's been lightened with whipped cream which is how I've been making my Boston cream pies lately. I like the flour buttercream frosting and thought it seemed very much like a whipped cream. I need to use it more but I'm too impatient with waiting for the flour to cool. I've had curdled cream on more than one occasion.

        1. re: chowser

          What is flour buttercream frosting? I saw it mentioned the other day and missed the link while I got lost in reading the various threads...

            1. re: chowser

              Thanks chowser, I'll pay more attention from now on!

        2. re: TorontoJo

          I have used Dorie Greenspan's butter cream recipe and found it perfect

      2. What a delightful and fun idea, TorontoJo! And some gorgeous-looking (and I'm sure tasting!) cakes.

        4 Replies
        1. re: roxlet

          Thanks, roxlet. It really is so much fun. :)

          chowser, here's a photo of the inside of the strawberry custard cake for you. I need to make this again while strawberries are still in season.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            TorontoJo.. sounds like a great day, and a fabulous idea!! Cakes look gorgeous..

            1. re: TorontoJo

              That looks mouthwatering. I love how thin the cake layers are. I need to do it, too, while berries are in season.

              1. re: chowser

                Yep, it's just two 9" layer cakes split into two layers each (thank goodness for my cake layer cutter -- the best single-use device I've ever bought) The more custard and berries the better in my book!

          2. This sounds like fun. I'm going to try the cornmeal pecan cake this week as a GF peach upside down cake. Thanks for the link!

            1 Reply
            1. re: maxie

              Oh I'm glad, as it's really a delicious cake! I didn't strain the solids from the brown butter, as I think that's where half the flavor is. I just kept stirring so that the solids didn't burn.

            2. Oh this is a FABULOUS idea -- I'm going to send to my regional Chowhound group. I think we have some "home cooking" members that are in in both Southeast and HomeCooking groups. I'm ALL for this idea and I'm totally going to snag your ideas!

              FYI I just made Southern Living's lemon curd pound cake last night for the first time [http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/lemon...] and it was pretty darn tasty!

              What a great idea for your CH group!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Tehama

                Darn, I was trying to cut back on my list of things to bake and now I have another one to add to it!

                1. re: Tehama

                  Go for it, Tehama! It's a great way to spend a day. Just make sure that you plan to feed the troops, as it's a long day. :) I set up a crock pot with chili and a waffle maker with cornmeal batter, and also a crock pot with braised pork belly and a pot of rice and some cucumber salad. Easy stuff to make and hold over a long day, and folks could just help themselves whenever they were feeling peckish.

                2. So a heads up for anyone looking to make the SK brown butter pecan recipe:

                  I just figured out why my cake looked so much darker than SK's photo. It's because I accidentally used double the amount of toasted pecans. Huh. I wouldn't make it any other way now, as it was SO nutty good the way I made it.

                  Oops. :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    Sounds like the best type of cooking accident..!

                  2. So awesome! Can I get invited to the next one?!

                    I would do the same but I have a tiny kitchen with no counter space :-(

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jpan99

                      I wanna come too, where's this special cake day held?
                      it'd be fun to get together and all compare notes on what we adore about each cake or what we could do differently next time.
                      I'll do the Best Ever Yellow Cake recipe from that other foodie web site, it's hard, trying but great!

                      Today, I'm doing an orange spice cake for hubby that we'll take to our sons tomorrow if there's any left over.
                      so far, I've made a simple syrup of water and sugar and infused with the peels from 2 navals and cinn/nutmeg/cloves/ginger/allspice/salt.
                      then the actual cake batter will be made. I'd better get going on that so I have time to make TJ's YUMMALICOUS flour frosting.........W@@+

                    2. How fun it would be to have a virtual Chowhound Cake Day!

                      Our next one is on June 29. Would love to see the Home Cooking crew put their best cake forward and post pics. The only sad part is that we wouldn't get to try each other's cakes. But we can imagine, right? :o)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        where are you guys TJ? are you in Toronto?

                        cake is in the oven, smells like heaven.
                        no recipe, don't often use for much of anything I make/bake but here's what went in the batter 'today':
                        semolina flour
                        baking powder
                        baking soda
                        white vinegar
                        greek plain yogurt
                        sour cream
                        orange soda
                        orange extract
                        orange food coloring
                        orange zest

                        TJ's frosting
                        is all ready > cake'll have to cool....can't wait, hubby may marry me again :)

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          I was in Toronto, but am now about an hour outside of it, in the country!

                          1. re: TorontoJo

                            auh shoooooot!
                            then it's not easy to get there, dang me.......... *>)

                      2. That butter cake looks fascinating! Can you tell me what the flavors of pandan and gula melaka are like? Thanks so much!

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: Tehama

                          The pandan added a pretty subtle flavor to the cake. Best way I can think to describe it is a lightly herbal/floral flavor. Very subtle -- the milk in the cake recipe was steeped with the pandan to give the flavor and color.

                          Gula melaka, which I mistakenly called coconut sugar in my original post, is actually palm sugar. The flavor it adds to desserts is sooooo wonderful -- almost a caramelized sugar flavor. It was amazing in the buttercream, as it has a richer sweetness than cane sugar (if that makes any sense). One of my favorite desserts of late is tapioca in coconut milk that has been sweetened with palm sugar. Addictive!

                          1. re: TorontoJo

                            holy moley this sounds awesome! I just have never cooked or baked with these ingredients. I'm guessing I need to go to my Asian market judging from a google search? Thai -- not Indian? Thank you again! I know what I am baking this weekend! :-)

                            1. re: Tehama

                              I'll see if I can get my friend to come over here and post more details about her cake recipe and how she adapted the buttercream with the gula melaka... :o)

                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                Thank you! I am so very intrigued by this cake!

                            2. re: TorontoJo

                              Helloooo Tehama! TorontoJo asked me to post about the pandan cake I made, so here I am. I'd tried a couple options and found this recipe tasted the best:

                              I pretty much followed it straight up except for:

                              - I didn't do the ombre. Maybe some day. I also baked in one sheet and then cut into even pieces to layer. Way more efficient.
                              - Whizz the pandan leaves with coconut milk instead of water so as to not further dilute the flavour. I squish it through some cheese cloth. I have done the motar & pestle route, but I'm not sure I noticed a difference in taste. I do, however notice a huge savings of time!
                              - The coconut milk varies, so you may have to shop around. I like a thicker milk that is still pretty liquidy. Some recipes I used call for very solid coconut milk, but you don't want that for this recipe.
                              - Make ahead the gula melaka syrup if you can as it needs to rest to room temp before you incorporate it into the buttecream.
                              - When I next make this, I might also consider simmering the coconut milk with some knotted pandan leaves as well for a little bit and then let it come back down to temperature. Just to amp up the flavour a little more.

                              You can also buy pandan extract in some places, but I find they're only okay. I get better results from buying the leaves from the freezer section Asian grocers.

                              food. is. love.

                              1. re: jlunar

                                J! You are totally awesome! Thank you. I still haven't made it to the Asian market yet, but was planning on going day after tomorrow, as it is close to where my salon is. You are so sweet to write that detailed response and I really appreciate it.

                                Those tips are priceless -- thank you!

                                BTW, I looked at your blog. What lovely photography and nice postings!

                                1. re: Tehama

                                  Thanks so much Tehama! Let us know how it goes if you make this!

                                  1. re: jlunar

                                    I now have all the ingredients, but still haven't made it. I was going to for my Grandmother's birthday, but then she decided she just wanted a good ol' Southern pound cake. *sigh* But I did have a lovely trip to Grand Asia Market. I asked the fellow that was helping me what flavor pandan leaves have, and he said "sort of like vanilla, but better." I thought that was so cute. I really hope I don't make this cake just for myself and eat it all.....

                                    1. re: Tehama

                                      Tehama, how is eating the entire cake yourself a bad thing? ;o)

                                      The best part about cakes is how well they freeze. I like to slice individual portions, freeze on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or non-stick foil, then wrap each portion in plastic wrap, then into a freezer bag. Then I can take out a slice of cake whenever the mood strikes me (which, unfortunately, is fairly frequently!).

                                      1. re: TorontoJo

                                        this is one smart gal :o)
                                        and one marketing genius to boot
                                        I'd buy frozen cake slices, wouldn't you?

                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                          I love that part of Cake Day. How it extend beyond the day to the delicious weeks ahead...

                                  2. re: jlunar

                                    OMG, how did I miss this post until now?!! Wow!

                              2. Jo.. are you doing it this year too..

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: rstuart

                                  Yep, end of June. It's officially an annual tradition now. :o)

                                  1. re: TorontoJo

                                    *sigh* Wish I had cake friends like you...

                                      1. re: TorontoJo

                                        where is the Cake Day 2013 end of June post?

                                        we left San Francisco on Tuesday 6/25 for an 11-day road trip to a family reunion... and I missed baking with you on 6/29... no oven, no computer, no internet, no chowhound/home cooking...

                                          1. re: Cynsa

                                            Here's my report from the Cake Day 2013, Cynsa!


                                            More pictures further down the thread from that post, too. Hope your family reunion was as fun as baking cake! :o)

                                      2. Wow, this sounds like so much fun! Wish I were in Toronto! Since I'm not, sending you my Almond Lace Cream Cake via Chowhound.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                          Holy cow, that's a really beautiful cake! Care to share the recipe?

                                          1. re: TorontoJo

                                            Sure thing!

                                            The recipe's in a file at my office. When I get in Monday, I'll post it!