Birthdays Are Better with Cake

Although it’s not a year that ends in a zero, this birthday still felt like a big deal to me. Well, okay, to be perfectly honest, I just wanted to make a big deal about it! Nothing like a fuss involving a party dress, champagne, and cake to shake off the Old Lady Blues, right? For my party, I ordered a half sheet Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Icing from the Buttercup Bakery here in Manhattan, and it was divine (I’ve frozen two pieces to defrost and eat on a bad day). But for my actual birthday, I was going to be tucked away in a mountain cabin, and wanted to bake myself the most perfect cake possible. One birthday, two cakes—I am sure this has been done before. After much appetite-stimulating browsing through the Morrow Cookbook library, I finally settled upon Banana Nutella Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, from Alice’s Tea Cup.

Let’s break this cake down to its elements. Banana bread. Nutella filling. Three separate layers of cake. Cream Cheese frosting. Five cups of sugar, 2½ cups of butter. Did I mention the Nutella?

Unless you have allergies or dessertaphobia, there is just no possible argument to be made against this cake. It is quite nearly the Platonic ideal of cake—or at the very least, the photo from the cookbook shows the Platonic ideal of a Banana Nutella Cake. Look:

It’s been a while since I’ve baked a cake from scratch, but the recipe is very straightforward, and requires only a few bowls, an electric hand mixer, and a spatula—no fancy equipment necessary! One charming lesson learned while preparing the fruit for the batter: mashing bananas is therapeutic in its repetitious destruction. Just how lovely is it that their destruction assisted in bringing about one of the most divine desserts I’ve ever had the pleasure of preparing? Quite lovely indeed.

The hardest part for me was stacking the layers and icing the cake. It is very moist, so even if it has cooled completely, it still tends to crumb as you ice it. After I’d prepared the cake, my aunt called to wish me a happy birthday, and I told her (she is the best baker in the family) about my dismay that the cake had come out lopsided, and that the cream cheese frosting was freckled with crumbs and smears of Nutella. She suggested freezing the cakes and icing it that way, since they won’t crumb and can be neatly trimmed to stack up straight and tall. As you can see, my version of Banana Nutella Cake holds very little resemblance to the perfectly presented cake that you would get at Alice’s Tea Cup, but I can vouch that it at least tasted like the Platonic ideal of what a cake should be. Not only that, but this cake is better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to settle in and get to know each other.

I can say with authority that birthdays are great with cake, they are better with two cakes, but they are perfect with friends. So I shared this cake with my running buddies who trained with me in the mountains this weekend. We ran far! Shall we have another slice?

3 Responses to “Birthdays Are Better with Cake”
  1. TK says:

    Holy Hazelnuts people, you can enter to win your own tub of Nutella here:

  2. Seale says:

    I love this, Tavia! Thanks for sharing this with us. Hope you had an awesome birthday! xo,SB

  3. What a great story! Loved reading it and love Nutella anything. Happy Birthday! :))

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