One of the many reasons why I enjoy blogging is being able to meet people from all different regions of the world. One of the very first blogger friends I made was Mary Moh from Keep Learning Keep Smiling. I was instantly drawn to her warm nature and kind heart. Her recipes always give me a sense of home, cooking many dishes that my mother had prepared for me when I was a child. This has not only helped me appreciate my own mother more but has taught me how powerful something as simple as food can be.
Aside from triggering memories of my childhood (and making my stomach growl in the mornings), Mary also provides exceptional wisdom and insight that applies to everyday life. I think the name of her blog says it all — “Keep Learning Keep Smiling” a good mantra that we should all take in life. We will always have obstacles throughout our lifetime but the important part is to not only keep going but maintaining a positive attitude through it all.
So when Mary e-mailed me a couple weeks ago asking if I could do a guest post for her birthday of all things, you wouldn’t believe how honored I felt. Of course I agreed, and I thought long and hard as to what I would make her for her birthday. First I was going to do a banana tart but then I felt it was too simple for a birthday, then it was cheesecake but it felt too boring so finally I settled on this: Chocolate Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Black Sesame and Walnut Crust topped with Miniature Vanilla Cupcakes. I just had to go all out for this one, not only because it’s Mary’s birthday but it is also my way of saying “Thank You” Mary for your blog has provided me with great memories, grumbling tummies and a kind and open heart.
So I hope you enjoy this cake Mary Moh! Granted you are far away in Scotland, I lighted some candles and sent you a happy wish from Texas 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful birthday today, and may it be filled with lots of FOOD, presents and of course Love!
Mary also requested some funny pictures and I jumped at the opportunity. As you can see my Lily cat really enjoys it when I dress her up, I would almost say she lives for it. 🙂 Layla was a very good model, she pulled out her best tricks to make these shots work.
As you can see she is a very good little balancer 🙂 She can also dance and when we do yoga, she does her downward dog with us. Lily on the other hand just sits there and eats (alot) and takes unusually large dumps…I am not sure how. But all in all, both my pets are very good models as you can see!
For the chocolate cake, I used the same recipe from a previous post which you can find here. When making layer cakes like this, it is easiest when you either freeze or refrigerate your cake layers. This way, during assembly time, the cake will not crumble easily and it will be easier to move the layers without breaking them.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting, it is actually the same as the frosting I used for the Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes which you can find here. To make the cake you will probably have to make at least 5-6 batches of the icing. If you have leftover icing you can always keep it in the fridge for up to a week to a week and a half. Cream Cheese icing goes great with everything!
Also when assembling the cake, be sure you lay down a cake bottom first, that way you can move the cake around. If you do not put a sturdy base at the bottom, once you are done icing the cake you will have a hell of a time transferring it to a plate or cake stand. I actually like assembling my cakes on a cake stand because it makes icing the cake a lot easier, because you are able to rotate the stand.
To assemble the cake, put 1 cake layer, rounded side up, on a cake stand or platter and, using offset spatula, spread top with about 1 cup frosting. Top with the remaining cake layer, rounded side down, and frost side and top of cake with 2 cups of frosting.
You will need a mini-muffin pan along with 24 mini muffin cups.
Ingredients for Vanilla Mini Cupcakes:
(Makes 2 dozen)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 3/4 cups cream cheese frosting
Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin cups with liners.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Mix milk and vanilla in another bowl. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and beat until just combined. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and milk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until just combined.
Divide batter among muffin cups, filling them two-thirds full, and bake until tops are pale golden and a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Invert cupcakes onto a rack and cool completely.
You can also make different colored icings by taking 1/4 cup frosting in a small bowl and ting with food cloring, then frost tops of cupcakes.
To finish decorating, simply place the miniature cupcakes ontop of the cake in the following quantities – 1st layer: 6 cupcakes (5 in a circle 1 in the center) 2nd layer: 4 cupcakes (centered) and 3rd layer: 1 cupcakes on top. Coat the edges of the cake with ground toasted walnuts and black sesame and sprinkle ontop of cupcakes as well. You may garnish with fresh fruit or flowers, or both!
Happy Birthday Mary, I hope you’ve enjoyed my post. As you can see both my animals had fun making this post with me as well 🙂 May all your wishes come true today my dear friend!