Well, this past week, it's been record-breakingly hot here in Los Angeles. So hot, that I finally agreed to let Matt set up the air mattress in the living room. It was just going to be for Monday night when the temperature hit 120 in parts of LA, but the heat lingered, and one night turned into two, which turned into three, which, until yesterday, turned the air mattress into a permanent fixture in our apartment. Yep, we camped out all week, and I must say, I loved it. Since we don't have a television in the bedroom, it felt super indulgent and cozy to watch movies each night on the big screen, under covers, in the cool, air conditioned room. And since, this past week, I went ahead and reluctantly turned 29, and part of my birthday present was an offer from Matt to make me any cake I wanted; while in our makeshift movie-watching den of comfort, I spent the week going through every food magazine, cookbook and online cake gallery I could get my hands on. I dog-eared page after page of recipes like Martha Stewart's Spring Garden Cake, Christina Tosi's Chocolate-Malt Cake via Bon Appetit, this Smith Island Cake via Saveur, and the list went on.
So, to review: Any cake I wanted, air-conditioning, watching movies in bed with stacks of cookbooks and magazines nearby, birthday presents and well-wishes from friends and loved ones. I don't know what I was thinking. Turning 29 and sleeping in the living room are two really really wonderful things.
And from all those recipes I scoured, what cake did I finally decide on? Ina Garten's Birthday Sheet Cake. My thinking being 1.) Ina is the best and 2.) a sheet cake would be easy to transport to a karaoke jam at Rosen Music Studio—more on this later.
—tons of butter, sour cream, and heavy cream as always. Though, if pressed I might say that I'm not sure the lemon zest in the cake batter worked for me. It's such a rich and decadent recipe, the zest feels a bit out of place, kind of like when I chose to sing Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" when "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" is the clear karaoke winner.
Thank you, Matt and everyone else for making my birthday sooooo awesome!
"Rah rah ah ah ah. Rom mah rom mum mah. GaGa oo la la. Want your bad romance!"
Recipe via Barefoot Contessa Family Style
For the cake:
18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the frosting:
24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Chocolate candies for decorating (recommended: M&M's)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir just until smooth. Finish mixing by hand to be sure the batter is well mixed. Pour evenly into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan to room temperature.
For the frosting, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chips are completely melted. Off the heat, add the corn syrup and vanilla and allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the chocolate mixture and softened butter on medium speed for a few minutes, until it's thickened.
Spread the frosting evenly on the cake. Have the children decorate the cake with M&M's.