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Dazzling Homemade Birthday Cakes

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Dazzling Homemade Birthday Cakes

Confessions of an Aspiring Cake Connoisseur

It was my birthday last week, and I had my heart set on making the most delectable, not-so-bad-for-you carrot cake ever. I envisioned it being chock-full of all sorts of goodness – dried pineapple chunks, walnuts, coconut, raisins – the works! And topping it off with a vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, quinoa-based frosting that would put any classic cream cheese frosting to shame.

I had the ingredients lined up, a seemingly solid recipe plan, a couple of days to pull it off, and impossibly high expectations. But from the moment I sliced into that cake to frost it, I knew I was in trouble. Even though my toothpick had slid in and out without a trace of moisture just hours before, my knife was now almost stuck in a dense, gloppy mess.

As I opened the cake up to inspect the disaster, I found not just two halves of undercooked cake, but a bizarrely-textured sponge resembling pudding. The outside was a picture of carrot cake perfection, but the inside was a confusing, sad, unsalvageable mess.

Oh, my gourd. I was in denial for a while, thinking I could just “toast” it, but that only resulted in a crusty exterior and a still-gooey, carrot-bog interior. And the icing, which had been so delicious, creamy, and dare I say it, revolutionary the night before, had turned into an acrid, unpalatable ointment.

A Moment of Clarity

I thought I could perhaps just take photos of the cake, since it could have fooled anyone from its outward appearance, then re-jig the recipe, head back to the store, and start over. But what kind of person makes a birthday cake for themselves from a place of panic and desperation?

When I spoke to my friend, a very talented chef, about my carrot cake-tastrophe, she looked at me sympathetically and asked why I was being so hard on myself, inventing a brand-new cake recipe and thinking I could get it right on the first go. I broke down and realized that I was not, in fact, a classically-trained culinary robot, but a human – a stubborn, determined, and very pregnant human at that, who feels an immense responsibility to her loyal readers to produce a dazzling recipe every week, but one who could also admit defeat. For the time being, anyway.

A Simpler Celebration

Which leads me to the recipe I did end up making – a grilled banana and nut butter sandwich. When I realized with great dismay that the cake could not be saved, all I wanted was this simple, celebratory treat. And so I made it. And it was perfect.

I’ve shared a few nut butter recipes on my blog before, but I haven’t given you one for a mixed “party” nut butter or a chocolate version yet. If you’re especially into Nutella, or any variation of it, you’re in for a real treat.

One thing I’ve learned is that the fat in nuts is hydrophobic, meaning it’s quite literally afraid of water. When adding honey or maple syrup to sweeten nut butter, the whole concoction seizes up and becomes an un-spreadable (however delicious) unyielding mass. This is perfect for rolling up into little truffles or something, but not for spreading on toast, or fresh fruit, or yogurt, or your finger. A dry sweetener like coconut sugar, on the other hand, blends perfectly into the nut butter without causing it to seize up, resulting in a delightfully oozy texture.

Homemade “Party” Nut Butters

Here’s how I make my party nut butter and chocolate nut butter:

Ingredient Quantity
Hazelnuts 1 3/4 cups / 200g
Almonds 1 1/2 cups / 200g
Pecans 3/4 cup / 70g
Sea salt to taste
Cinnamon (optional) to taste
Raw cacao powder to taste
Coconut sugar to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes until fragrant and slightly darker in color. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  2. Transfer all the cooled nuts to a food processor and blend on the highest setting for 1-2 minutes to finely grind them to a powder. Scrape down the sides of the container, then continue processing for an additional 1-2 minutes until the oils start to be released and a smooth, creamy, runny paste forms.
  3. To make the chocolate version, simply add raw cacao powder and coconut sugar by the teaspoon until you reach the desired level of chocolatey-ness and sweetness.

This recipe makes a lot of nut butter – I actually took half the regular nut butter out of the food processor and turned the rest into chocolate nut butter, so I ended up with two varieties. And that made me happy.

Lessons Learned

I learned a very important lesson last week, which is to be gentler with myself and to forgive my humanness. Sometimes it stings a little to face the truth – that the earth-moving carrot cake didn’t turn out just so – and all I can do is soothe it with the knowledge that I really, really tried. A grilled banana nut butter sandwich doesn’t hurt either.

So while I didn’t end up with the dazzling birthday cake of my dreams, I did create something equally celebratory and delicious. And I’m reminded that at the end of the day, it’s not about perfection, but about nourishing ourselves, body and soul, on our special days.

Here’s to another year around the sun, filled with more kitchen adventures, triumphs, and yes, even the occasional flop. After all, what’s a birthday without a little sweet surprise?

Home Cooking Rocks is a website dedicated to sharing wholesome, homemade recipes and stories from the kitchen. Be sure to check out our full collection of dazzling birthday cake ideas and more.

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