It seems that when it comes to birthdays and cakes, most of us grown ups are like little kids too. So this year, I planned my husbands' cake with a little help from my three young boys.
The night before, as I tucked them in bed, we talked about making an irresistible I-want-to-jump-into-that-cake kind of cake. It had to be something that could WOW him away and could also feel yummy and soft when they dipped his face in it (yep! that was their plan).
This talk led me, once again, to tell the boys stories about cakes from my childhood. Most of those cakes came from Sanborns', a chain of stores that sells almost anything you can imagine: books, DVD's, make-up, electronics, luggage, candies, the best ever chocolate covered raisins, marshmallows and toys. It also has great coffee-shop style restaurants with some of my favorite molletes and enchiladas. Not to forget its perfumeries and pharmacies. It is a serious knock out one-stop-shop. But most importantly, it was, and may still be, one of the most popular places to get a birthday cake.
One of the cakes that left me with a permanent impression went something like this: A couple layers of fluffy and moist vanilla cake, a foamy and soft meringue filling paired with old fashioned strawberry jam and pecans, the same soft meringue layered all over the top, some more pecans and whatever decorations you fancied.
That cake, by itself, made a party happen. It was a creation worthy of its own celebration.
The next morning, we rolled up our sleeves, and jumped in the kitchen ready to make it. The great thing, is that it turned out to be easy and fun for the boys.
First, you make a quick batter in the mixer with butter, sugar, egg yolks, flour, baking powder and a bit of milk.
Pour this cake batter, and spread it, over 2 buttered ring form pans layered with a parchment paper base.
Layer that soft meringue on top of the 2 pans that already have the uncooked cake batter. It is hard, really hard, not to eat that meringue as you are pouring it onto the pan.
Spread the meringue in whichever shape you want.
Chop some pecans and sprinkle them on top of the meringue layer.
Now, both pans, into the oven they go!
Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
At this point, the cake is cooked yet moist and the meringue has developed a chewy top, and thick and soft interior.
Add strawberry jam, either homemade or store bought, on top of one of the cakes. You can also add diced strawberries or any kind of berries.
Beware: All of these layers make a perfect combination once in your mouth and most people will ask for more than one helping. Though we celebrated my husband's birthday last week, the cake was so good, that it is worthy of its own celebration.
So we are making it again today.
NOTE: We based our take on a recipe from Carmen Titita, one of the leading ladies of the Mexican culinary scene, who herself adapted a recipe from Rosita Murillo from Veracruz, where this cake is just as popular as in Sanborns'. It seems absolutely fascinating to consider how recipes travel from families, to friends, to different countries and receive twists and spins along the way as they move through generations. This is our adapted version.
BIRTHDAY CAKE WITH MERINGUE AND STRAWBERRY JAM
Adapted from Carmen Titita, adapted from Rosita Murillo
2 1/2 sticks or 1 1/4 cup unsalted butterat room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
10 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/3 cup milk
10 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup strawberry jam
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter 2 round spring form pans (size from 9 1/2 to 11"). Place parchment paper on the bottom of each pan.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed, until soft and creamy. Incorporate sugar and beat until well mixed. Add egg yolks, one by one, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour combined with the baking powder in batches, alternating with the milk. Pour half of this batter onto each pan.
Rinse the mixer. Beat the egg whites until the peaks can hold their own shape, but aren't stiff. Incorporate sugar, and beat until it is well mixed, for a minute or so. Pour this meringue on top of the cake batter on each pan, and gently smooth it out with a spatula. Sprinkle half of the chopped pecans on top of the meringue. Place the pans in the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cake is cooked but moist and the meringue has developed a nice tanned crust. Remove from the oven and let them cool.
Remove one of the cakes from the pan, discarding the parchment paper, and place on a platter. Spoon the strawberry jam on top. Remove the other cake from the pan, discarding that parchment paper as well, and place on top of the first cake. Enjoy!