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Precious Memories, Delicious Cakes: Birthday Refle...

Precious Memories, Delicious Cakes: Birthday Reflections from Spoonful’s Publisher Kristina Erfe Pines

Birthday Reflections Cake

All this week, Spoonful is celebrating our 1st Birthday with stories about birthday memories and, of course, birthday cakes! To keep the party going, download our newly launched digital app now available for Apple and Android devices. As a gift to our readers, Spoonful is offering free, limited-time access to the “Best of Spoonful” issue in the app! Free shipping is also available now through the entire month of April for those who purchase a yearly subscription with the promo code: FREESHIPPING.

I don’t remember all the birthday cakes that have marked my life. But the ones that I do are usually homemade. One cake in particular stands out in my memory: a dolly cake that my mom baked for my 7th birthday. To mimic the texture of fancy fabric, she piped pink and purple frosting in intricate patterns up and down the length of the dress surrounding an actual small toy doll. That dolly cake sat on top of another flat sheet of cake with her neat cursive stretching across it, “Happy Birthday, Krissa!”

I remember this year clearly because it was also the year that my mom started letting me decorate other cakes she’d make, either for our own consumption or for a friend’s birthday. I felt very grown up to be given such a big task. Decorating a cake is serious business, after all! Whatever mistakes I made with piping frosting could always be covered up by sprinkles. As a result, the process of baking and decorating a cake has always brought me a sense of warmth and belonging.

The thing is, I am not the best baker. As I’ve grown up, I find I had very little patience for letting ingredients come to room temperature, double boilers, or any other fancy gadgetry that comes with intricate pastry making. But as a mother, I knew I wanted to create the same sense of love and affection my mom gave me with her homemade creation like the dolly cake. I remember watching her build and shape her confections at the edge of the table, where I was constantly begging to lick the beater. And now, as a baking novice myself, I wanted to create precious moments for my own family. And I realized, that doesn’t mean that the cake itself needs to be precious. It just needs to be delicious.

Birthday Reflections

As a result, I have perfected my own one-bowl chocolate cake recipe. It’s appropriately decadent, moist, and most importantly, easy to clean up! (One-bowl, y’all! Can’t get better than that.) This has been my go-to cake recipe whenever I make birthday cakes, and it has never failed me. The best part of having this recipe in my back pocket is knowing that whenever my kids insist on a baking weekend, this recipe is so easy that they can make it between the two of them with very little assistance from me.

My younger daughter Miya’s birthdays, in particular, have been food-themed up until her 4th birthday. Her first birthday was a “fried chicken and waffles (and beer)” party, where I made her this same chocolate cake with a strawberry whipped cream frosting. Her second birthday, which is shown in this video, was a “soda shoppe” party with a burger bar, homemade chips, homemade ice cream, and this simple chocolate cake covered in chocolate ganache.

Her third birthday was a “lobster roll and hot dog” party. But as she displayed her autonomy heading to her fourth birthday, I knew I couldn’t keep up with making a food-themed birthday each year, so she celebrated her fourth with a “purple and blue dance” party. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. She did mention that she may want Dragons Love Tacos theme for her fifth. So I’m still hopeful.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake

Recipe by Kristina Erfe Pines

Total Cooking Time: 1 hour
Active Cooking Time: 10 minutes

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1¼ whole milk
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or any vegetable oil)
  • 1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups warm water

  • Two 8” x 2” round cake pans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cake pan with butter, and line the bottoms with parchment paper, greasing the parchment paper as well.

Into the bowl of an electric mixer, or a large bowl, add flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix together on low speed, or hand whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and add eggs and yolk, whole milk, oil, vanilla extract and water. Beat on low speed until well-combined. Scrape sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour the batter on the greased cake pans, dividing as evenly as possible. Bake cakes for 45 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack by inverting cakes on rack and peeling off parchment paper. Once parchment paper is removed, re-invert the cakes and let them cool for 30 minutes.

Top with frosting of choice. Our family favorite is topped with simple, fresh vanilla whipped cream.

Photos by Jackie Bayne – Video by Al Green


Kristina Pines is the Founder and Publisher of Spoonful Magazine. She believes sharing a meal is the oldest and most valuable act of community, providing powerful links to our culture and to those for whom we care most.

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