About a week ago, a friend of mine asked me to bake a cake for his son for his birthday. It was going to be a small gathering with just family and close friends. The bigger birthday blowout was going to be the following week.
I made the cake, a simple yellow cake with chocolate fudge frosting, and Jax (the birthday boy) seemed to like it. I found out later, that he liked looking at it, but not really eating it. He really likes cupcakes, but as most moms know, you pick your battles when it comes to logic and 7 year olds.
The next day he finally decided to try the cake, but didn’t eat a full slice. The following day he ate the entire slice asked for more and then decided that he wanted that to be his birthday party cake. That was Tuesday. The party was Saturday at 1pm. His mom (my childhood friend) called me up and asked if I would bake the same cake only bigger for the party. I was already planning to make the red velvet for Miles Friday night, but I had the time. I was more nervous about piping and having to write “happy birthday” on the cake. My handwriting is terrible.
We went back and forth over the size of the cake and what last minute things I would need, but we still hadn’t decided how to decorate it. I suddenly came up with the idea of m&m’s. I know I’m not the first person to have this idea, I was just trying to think of something that would cover the entire cake ensuring that I wouldn’t have to write anything. I suggested that I decorate the candies in concentric circles. I thought that would be cool since the cake was a square.
By Wednesday, I thought it was a lame idea and wanted to do something more interesting. I started poking around Pinterest and saw a lot of cakes in the shape of numbers covered with m&m’s. I thought they looked cool, but I was working with a square. Later that night I had an epiphany and thought about working with the number itself, with outlines surrounding it until I reached the end of the cake.
Thursday night I stopped by the store to buy two 42oz bags of m&m’s (wasn’t sure how much I would need) and sorted one bag by color. I also baked the cakes and chilled them until it was time to frost on Friday.
When I got home from work Friday night I immediately started working on the frosting and adding the m&m’s. As I reached the outer layers I ran out of green m&m’s!!! I had a ton of other colors, but no green. I had to open the second bag just for 12 green chocolate candies. I was able to work through that speed bump once I saw the finished cake. I thought it looked pretty cool. One of my friends said it reminded him of the number song from Sesame Street.
I dropped the cake off at my friend’s house on the way to Miles’ swim lesson and stopped by the party when we were done. I wasn’t able to stay for the cake cutting, but one of my friends did capture this photo. I think it was a true success. Jax is smiling and it looks like he even ate the cake!
I can also say that I am now the proud owner of 42+oz of m&m’s, so let the series of m&m baked good begin!!
Note: I used 13×13 inch pans for this cake, so I had to make one cake recipe per pan and double the frosting recipe.
M&M Birthday Cake
for the classic yellow cake
- makes one 3-layer 9-inch cake
- 4 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1 ⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs , at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk
for chocolate fudge frosting
- 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- ½ cup cocoa powder (I used cocoa rouge)
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut in half, and softened
- 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup half and half
- 4 ounces dark chocolate , chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
make the cake
Put oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, and beat well. Add the buttermilk in a slow stream and beat well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared cake pans.
Bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
If you’re not using right away, double-wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 7 days. When ready to frost, remove from the freezer, unwrap, and frost frozen!
make the frosting
Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa. Heat 4 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, salt, and ½ cup half and half in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan, 4 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly and turns deep golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Slice remaining butter into 4 pieces and stir in with the remaining half and half. Add the chopped chocolate and the vanilla and stir until smooth. Slowly whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa until incorporated. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate for 30 to 40 minutes until the frosting reaches the desired spreading consistency.
Adapted from Joy the Baker & Sifting Focus