Twenty-seven years ago today, I was born in Portland, Oregon to a warm-hearted midwesterner and a kind and reserved Greek island-dweller. It’s funny how when you’re a kid you can’t even imagine spending a birthday apart from your parents, but then you get older, you move, sometimes far away, and you learn to live life without seeing them. I talk to my mom on the phone pretty much every day, barring any unexpected craziness, and we’ll be talking today of course (and maybe even skype!), but I am definitely looking forward to the birthday that I’ll be able to spend back home with them again. Nothing can replace the way my mom makes such a big deal about my “special day”, or how my dad always looks so proud of me after I blow out the candles, even as a grown-up.
But because I am far from them, and because I love baking, I made my own birthday cake again this year. Some may think that it’s kind of lame to make your own birthday cake, but to them I say a hearty “pish-posh!” and wave my hand dismissively. There is nothing better than making your own birthday cake. Why? Because you get to put EVERYTHING YOU LIKE in it. And for me, that happens to be pumpkin, brown butter, cinnamon, coconut milk, honey, and whipped cream cheese. And as it turns out, all of those things put together makes pretty much the best cake ever.
And I was extra-excited because I had been saving my sneak peak of Melina’s pine & thyme honey from Crete, Greece for precisely this occasion. Available at the end of April, it brought a wonderfully sweet and herbal hint to the whipped cream cheese…and I may have also scooped a large amount directly from the jar and drizzled it all over my slice before eating it. A decision I still stand by.
I used these striking plates from Q-Squared NYC‘s heritage collection for the weekend festivities, which brought an extra *pop* to the whole setup. I just love the way blue and orange contrast with each other, there’s something wonderfully Mediterranean about that color scheme. The pattern reminded me of a lot of the ceramics you see for sale in Greece, except these plates were much lighter and less breakable than those, which is a blessing for someone with a slightly wobbly dish rack that *sometimes* falls into the sink. You’ll be seeing more lovely wares from them again in a few weeks.
Aaaaand lastly, I finally got around to updating the entirety of my favorite things tab. There’s some new additions, and some updated photos for the staple items (i.e. more photos of the kitty playing with his cat scratch wheel. Hurray for cat photos!!! I will eventually add a dog toy of some sort to the list…Probably the one squeaky toy she has yet to completely destroy.) And to top off the festivities, my brother is in town this week so we’re all going out to a comedy show tonight for a little birthday outing, and afterwards I plan on stuffing myself with the cupcakes he brought me from his pit-stop in San Francisco. It’s going to be a delightful birthday, indeed; and I wish you all wonderful birthdays, as well, whenever they may be. And remember, making your own birthday cake does not a sad-sap make, instead it just assures that your birthday dessert will be as awesome as you are.
Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake With Whipped Cream Cheese + Honey
First, brown the butter. When making browned butter, it is best to use a stainless steel pan so that you can see the color of the butter change. Heat the butter in a large shallow frying pan over medium heat until melted. Swirl the pan around a bit every couple minutes to help it cook evenly. Over a period of several minutes, you’ll notice the foam at the top of the butter start to change from light yellow to a dark tan. Once it reaches the dark tan stage and the butter looks light brown and golden, smell it. It should smell nutty and similar to toffee. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger until well blended. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar, honey, warm brown butter, and oil at medium speed until the sugar appears to have dissolved slightly. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then add the pumpkin and mix until smooth.
Whisk together the vanilla extract and coconut milk in a small bowl until combined, then add half of the coconut to the bowl, mixing at medium-low speed, and then add half of the flour mixture, and repeat. Once the ingredients have been incorporated, evenly distribute the cake batter between 3 well-greased and lightly floured 8-inch cake pans. Place the pans in the oven and bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until the cakes are golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allot the cakes to cool for 15 minutes before flipping them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, you can prepare the whipped cream cheese. Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the cream cheese at medium high speed until fluffy, add a tablespoon of the milk and a tablespoon of the honey, then allow it to whisk for another minute before repeating this process two more times. The cream cheese should look light and fluffy, kind of like a meringue. Once it reaches the desired texture (usually about 3 minutes), you can turn off the mixer.
Layer the whipped cream cheese between the first two layers of the cake, then garnish the top layer with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and serve immediately.