Let Them Eat Cake: Three Cake Recipes

Three Cake Recipes for Three Birthday Cakes

My husband is feeling mighty loved right about now.  Mighty loved and maybe a weensy bit sick.  As he eats his sixteenth piece of birthday cake. That’s because I made him not just one but THREE BIRTHDAY CAKES this year.

The spread for Taido’s birthday, greatly enhanced by the arrival of fresh fish from Hawaii, was super fun to make.

I may find myself in the kitchen more this week too, because company’s comin’!

In the meantime, if you find yourself wishing for a little cake…

well, here are the three cake recipes.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from my favorite food blogger, Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of cake pans.  The recipe says to use three round cake pans for a triple layer cake, but I used one giant rectangle pan and cut it into two smaller rectangles to make a double layer cake.  You could probably use any combination you want.  Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Coconut Cake from The Barefoot Contessa Family Style


3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don’t be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until just smooth (don’t whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Carrot Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking


2 cups all-purpose flour (240 grams)

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda (called Bicarbonate of Soda in the UK)

2 tsp. freshly grated cinnamon

3/4 tsp. salt

3 cups grated carrots (150 grams*)

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (120 grams)

1 cup shredded coconut (100 grams)

1/2 cup raisins (50 grams)

2 cups sugar (200 grams)

1 cup vegetable oil (237 ml)

4 eggs

For the frosting:

8 ounces of cream cheese, at room temp. (226 grams)

1 stick unsalted butter at room temp. (113 grams)

1 pound of confectioners sugar, sifted (454 grams)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup toasted coconut (50 grams)

1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (60 grams)


Preheat oven to 325 or Gas Mark 4 or 160 degrees C

Butter 3 round cake pans. Flour the insides and tap out the excess.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

Using a stand mixer, mix together the oil and sugar together, until they are smooth.

Add the eggs one by one, and beat until the batter is smooth.

Reduce the speed and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear.

Gently fold in the carrots, nuts, raisins and coconut by hand.

Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake for 40-50 min, or until a small knife comes out clean, and the cake has just started to move away from the sides of the pans.

Allow to cool for 5 min on a cooling rack, and then unmold the cakes. I also find it helpful to freeze the layers for a while before frosting them as they are very delicate.


Combine the cream cheese and butter in the stand mixer bowl, and using a paddle attachment mix until smooth and creamy.

Gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth.

Add the lemon juice and mix until combined.

Spread 1/3 icing on bottom layer.  Repeat with second and third layers, leaving sides of cake layers.**

Sprinkle the top of the cake with the toasted coconut and roasted walnut bits.

Place in the fridge for 30 min so that the icing can set.

*I’ve read all different measurements on how many grams is one cup of carrots. Most consistently, I would say 150 grams, but I always err on the side of too many carrots over too little. I want my carrot cake to be full of carrots! 🙂

**This is how I usually frost this cake, but it can also be completely covered with this amount of icing. Also, I think it is pretty to use whole walnut halves on top if you have them. But chopped is fine as well! 🙂


  1. This morning for breakfast I polished off what was my fourth piece of Taido’s birthday cake… it was the chocolate peanut butter one… Alison, yum. Thanks to you both for sharing so much delicious birthday cheer!

  2. great cake, great recipes, and great pics, whitney! y’all are going to be giving Deb a run for her money soon…

  3. Whitney is an amazing photographer – of course she has excellent material to work with – but seriously I just got this book on Brownies to Die For from the library and the pictures are just so-so and it has totally taken the wind out of my sails of making any of the recipes. Whitney is the best!

  4. Thank you so much for the reipes. I’ll definitely try some of these out. If they don’t work out well I’m coming back for you!

  5. […] homework for me to be gone or I didn’t eat enough breakfast or I want to stay home and bake birthday cakes or […]

  6. paul may move in with y’all if he finds out about the carrot cake…

  7. […] made these a few weeks ago, and I think they just look like autumn.  Plus they remind me of carrot cake, which I like a lot.  They are from Dorie Greenspan’s monstrous cookbook on baking, which […]

  8. […] to tell you that I love to bake.  Surely you know, if not by the frequent mention of cookies and cakes, then by the spreading thighs.  I still cannot believe I wasted a baking opportunity on such a […]

  9. […] and peanut butter have long been happy companions at our house, so when I saw a recipe in All You magazine for homemade chocolate peanut butter cups, […]

  10. […] I am also a big fan of her carrot cake. […]

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