The Lexingtonienne




Every year on Mike and Tim’s birthday (Did you know that Hubba Bubba is a twin?), I take it totally upon myself — with no request from the boys, who are probably baffled at my endeavors and who actually prefer fruit pie — to make them a birthday cake.





And for some reason, y’all, I am terrible at it. I can make some pretty mean cookies, pies, cobblers, crumbles, brownies, quick breads, and even Bundt cakes… but when it comes to cake-cake — standard, birthday-style cake with layers and frosting — wah wahhhhh.




The first year I tried to make them a cake, I attempted a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. Several late-night attempts, about seven phone calls to Mimi, one very slumpy cake and several days later, I realized the baking soda I had just purchased was already expired. [Lesson 1: Check the expiration date on everything before you buy it.] To add insult to injury, I stupidly bought the cheapest icing decoration set I could find, and as a result, “Happy Birthday Mike & Tim” looked like I had piped it while having a seizure on a roller coaster. FAIL.



The next year, feeling utterly incapable, I used a white cake mix that I doctored a little with some almond extract. I layered the white cake with store-bought lemon curd, then frosted it with store-bought white frosting and threw some coconut shreds at it. It was actually pretty good, but it didn’t count because it was so… store-bought. The shame.



Another year I gave up altogether (much to the boys’ pleasure, I’m sure, as they still have no idea why I’m on this hellbent cake-making mission) and made a mixed berry pie. Pie WIN. Cake FAIL.



And finally last year, at Tim’s request, I made an angel food cake with chocolate frosting. The angel food cake was from a mix and it still didn’t turn out great. What is WRONG with me?! And the frosting recipe said to use cocoa powder for the chocolate. Bad idea. I should have known that the only way to go is to melt chocolate squares. I was so embarrassed to serve that sorry excuse for a birthday cake. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.



Well this year, I am going to make that dang birthday cake and I’m going to get it right. So I decided to start practicing now — in August — for the December 6 birthday. Reason #1 for cake.



Also, a few weeks ago, my friend Erin emailed me asking for a post about red velvet cake. And since my Best Friend Jenny used to make red velvet cake at the bakery where she worked in college, I knew just where to find a great recipe. Reason #2 for cake.



There’s also the fact that I run 2-3 times a week, go to Bar Method 3-4 times a week, and in spite of these Herculean efforts, there’s no way around it: I’m just getting fatter. Yes yes, I know that’s part of being pregnant. But seriously, if I weren’t pregnant and I were doing this work out regimen, I’d look like a freaking gazelle by now. So some days you just feel like giving up. Screw it – let’s get fat! Reason #3 for cake.


Today is Friday. Reason #4 for cake.




My in-laws are in town. This means there are people around to help eat said cake. Reason #5 for cake.




And, having tasted it (strictly for research purposes, obvi), I can tell you that I FINALLY did it. I made a cake. And it is good, even though it is not shaped like an armadillo. OK second bite… Yep. Yep, it is definitely REALLY GOOD. THANK YOU, Erin, for the red velvet cake request, and THANK YOU, Best Friend Jenny, for this kick-ass recipe!!! Finally, the Cake Chump becomes a Cake Champ!



You should make it too. 🙂



Adapted from Squilley’s Bakery recipe

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 C sugar
3 eggs
1 C buttermilk
1 T red food coloring
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted {measure it out and then sift it to make it lump-free}
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 T white vinegar

Preheat oven to 325. Grease (I use Crisco — get over it) and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment rounds.

Combine buttermilk and food coloring and set aside.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Alternate adding the buttermilk and the dry ingredients, doing about 1/3 at a time and mixing well after each addition. (But do not overmix with flour ever. Make sure it’s well combined and then stop. Otherwise you will overstimulate the gluten and your cake will be tough.) Beat in vanilla and vinegar until well combined.

Pour the batter into the two pans and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs on it.

Cool the cakes for about 10 minutes on a rack in the pans. Then gently slide a knife about the perimeter of the pans, invert, and your cakes should slide right out. Remove the parchment paper rounds from the tops of the cakes. Cool completely on a rack before frosting.


Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

8 oz cream cheese, cold
5 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 t vanilla
2 C powdered sugar, sifted {measure and then sift to get any lumps out}

Combine in a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix, as overbeating breaks down the cream cheese. If you don’t have a a food processor, you can do this with a hand mixer. Beat the first three ingredients just until blended, then add the sugar about 1/3 at a time, beating until smooth.

I tripled this recipe for my red velvet cake and had a little left over, which I kept for dipping strawberries in — duh.

I bought an 8-inch cardboard cake round at a kitchen supply store to set my cake on. Smear a small dollop of frosting onto the cardboard to keep your cake from moving around. Set one cake layer on top of the cardboard round, frost the top for your center layer of frosting, then place your second cake layer upside-down on top of it (this will give you a nice flat top for your cake). Apply a very thin coat of frosting to the top and sides of the entire cake. This is called a crumb layer and it doesn’t need to look pretty. Once you have applied the crumb layer, pop the cake into the fridge for 20-30 minutes for the crumb layer to set. Then remove from the fridge and generously frost the cake.

I’m not sure what the experts recommend — online opinions are mixed — but I’m storing my cake in the fridge since the frosting is mainly cream cheese.


Hooray! I made a cake!




  • Comment by Shae — August 6, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

    I’m hungry for cake…!

  • Comment by Laina — August 7, 2010 @ 5:03 am

    Oh, yuuum, that looks good. I just made a carrot cake last night for a birthday.

    Don’t we all have that one thing we can’t make?? I can’t make pumpkin pie (tried to make 2 once… ended up with 6) and I have issues with microwaving because our microwave hates me. Seriously.

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  • Comment by Liz — August 28, 2011 @ 10:48 am

    Hi Hannah,

    I was just taking an Italian Cream Cake out of the oven, thinking about the days of Squilley’s Bakery, and for some reason thought I’d google it, just for fun. It was a great surprise to not only see some results, but to see someone using one of our recipes and best of all to see Jenny’s name. Please tell her I say hi & hope she’s having a great life! And I’m glad to see our recipes living on!

    Liz Lynch
    (formerly the owner of Squilley’s Bakery)

  • Comment by Hannilou — August 30, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

    Hi Liz!

    I love that you found this! I would have loved to have contacted you for your permission before using it, but I didn’t know where you were or how to find you. That red velvet cake was so amazing… Squilley’s was the best. I remember when Jenny used to wake up in the middle of the night to go to work there… she loved it so much! I will definitely pass your message along to her.


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