Birthdays + Zucchini Cake

September is so great, right? I mean, we’ve already discussed how awesome fall flavors are, and of course most human people in the United States like football, then there are fall colors, Halloween, and cuddly sweaters. September is particularly great in my world because there are so many birthdays to celebrate! My husband, my mom, my other VBFIETW (I have two BFFs! How’d I get so lucky?), and a soon-to-be niece!! Yes, I’m going to be an auntie again, and I am bubbling over with excitement!

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You know, when I was a kid and a younger adult, I did not really appreciate how much I was loved. I don’t mean that in a braggy way, but in a matter of fact way… You just can’t appreciate some things until you get more perspective.  I was recently thinking of the love and joy that my new baby niece is entering into. I know she probably won’t understand how much she is loved (even before she was born) for many years because I think you have to experience loving a child yourself to truly understand that kind of love. Then, when you do, you just get it. You understand how precious a child is. How beautiful the world can be. How special all of the little moments are. You want to keep them close and protect them, but you also want to encourage them to learn and be their own person. You want your children to have beautiful memories and special experiences, because you want them to be happy and well-adjusted. I guess my point is, Baby Girl, you are loved beyond measure. I know some day when you are old enough to read this, you may think your parents are super lame and strict and trying to make your life miserable. But they aren’t. They love you more than they can tell you, and so do I. Baby, I hope you know all of the beauty this world holds, and when you find yourself having a hard day (or week, or year..), remember the love that surrounds you and the wonder that life holds, and embrace it. And maybe make yourself this cake, which I made for you and my September Birthday People.

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Which leads me to my next point. This cake. It’s just all sorts of right. I adapted it from this recipe from Simply Recipes. It is a lot like a quick bread, but then I added cinnamon chips. And smothered it in two types of frostings. You’re welcome.

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Let’s talk about the technical aspects of the cake, and then I will give you the recipe.

I made a three layer cake by dividing the batter into three 8” round pans. I turned the oven heat down to 300°, and baked them for about 40 minutes. Turning the heat down keeps the cakes flat so they don’t dome. This is brilliant, and I will tell you why. When you make a layered cake, you have to make the layers level so the cake isn’t wonky. To make them level, you have to shave the domes off which is a total waste of cake. Fear not friends, I recently learned that turning the heat down and cooking the cake longer = no domes!  Science is neat.

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Now, let’s talk about the frosting. Spice cakes like this one are traditionally frosted with cream cheese frosting. I frosted between the layers and the crumb coat with cream cheese frosting. If you plan to frost the entire cake, and not pipe rosettes on it, you can use cream cheese frosting for the entire cake.

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However, I wanted to pipe pretty rosettes on this cake, so I made a buttercream for the rosettes because I couldn’t find a good cream cheese frosting that pipes well. It took two batches of buttercream because the rosettes take a lot of frosting. To pipe rosettes you will need a large star tip. I used the Wilton 2D tip. I would recommend reading up about how to create rossettes and/or watching a tutorial on piping the frosting AND practicing on a plate before you start piping. It is easy once you get the hang of it, but practice definitely helps.

rosette from iphone

You will want to make the cake a day in advance, then wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them over night. Take them out of their pans, but leave the parchment paper on them, then wrap them in plastic wrap. You will then have cakes that are significantly less crumbly and fragile, and the assembly is much easier.

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After your cakes are cold and happy, you will want to make your cream cheese frosting. Assemble the cakes stacked on top of each other with cream cheese frosting between each layer. (Don’t forget to take off your parchment paper!) Finally, if you are going to pipe roses on the cake, you will want to put a thin layer of frosting on the outer edges of the cake. See more on crumb coats here. Put your cake back in the refrigerator while you prepare your buttercream. Then, finally, pipe your rosettes and wait for your friends and family to ooooh and ahhhh over the prettiness that are piped rosettes.

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Enjoy!

Ingredients

Cake

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini (place grated zucchini in a sieve and press out excess moisture before measuring)

1 ½ cups cinnamon chips

Cream cheese frosting (original recipe here. Make a double batch if you plan to frost the entire cake in cream cheese frosting and not use buttercream.)

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

8 oz Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature

2-3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Buttercream (double batch of my favorite piping recipe)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

6 cups powdered sugar

6 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

For cake:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter and flour 3, 8” round pans. Line with parchment paper, and butter and flour parchment paper. (Alternatively, you can use a product called Baker’s Joy, which works just as well and spray the heck out of the pans and parchment paper. Found in most grocery stores or here.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the eggs on high until frothy. Lower speed and beat in sugar, canola oil, and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture. Stir in zucchini and cinnamon chips.

Pour one third of the cake batter into each pan and bake until edges are brown and center is set. A toothpick should come out with very few crumbs. Mine baked for approximately 40 minutes.

Let cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then turn them out onto racks, leaving the parchment paper on. (You should place the parchment paper side down on the baking rack). When they have cooled completely, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight.

For cream cheese frosting: Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese until very smooth, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add powdered sugar until you reach your desired sweetness and thickness. (I used two cups for this recipe and it was a good consistency for spreading the frosting on the delicate cake)

For buttercream: Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, cream the butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla, powdered sugar, and heavy cream. Put the mixer on medium high speed and let it mix for several minutes until fluffy. Your butter cream will be too thick to spread, which is what you want if you are piping rosettes. For more information on buttercream, see this post.

Assembly

Prepare cream cheese frosting. If you are only using cream cheese frosting, make a double batch of frosting recipe listed above.

For the first cake: remove parchment paper. Place cake on a plate or a cake stand. Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting evenly on the top of the cake.

For the second cake: remove parchment paper and stack on top of the first cake. Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting evenly on the top of the cake.

For the third cake: remove parchment paper and stack on top of the second cake. Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting evenly on the top of the cake.

If you are making buttercream rosettes: use remaining cream cheese frosting to make a crumb coat and carefully frost the sides of the cake using the remaining cream cheese frosting. Put the cake in the refrigerator to let the crumb coat harden while you make your butter cream frosting. Once frosting is prepared and ready to pipe, pipe the sides of the cake first, then frost the top of the cake, overlapping rosettes if needed, until covered. Show off your masterpiece to your family and friends, and then enjoy!

If you are using only cream cheese frosting:  you don’t need to worry about a crumb coat. Just frost away, then enjoy!

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7 thoughts on “Birthdays + Zucchini Cake

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