It's my party, I can do what I want.
It's my party, I can say what I want.
It's my party, I can love who I want, I can kiss who I want, I can sing what I want.
I've never been a big birthday person. The last official party I threw for myself was in eighth grade, in which my friends and I went to a water park AND a movie, and that strikes me as overly ambitious now (SIDE NOTE: thanks Mom! I'm sure that a bunch screaming eight graders at a water park was probably not very fun at all). I guess there was also the obligatory drunken kegger that my friends threw me for my 21st birthday, but I'm not really counting that because in college, birthday celebrations are more about the free beer than the actual person itself.
Then there were the terrible birthdays of the last few years. My 25th birthday, I tweeted about the hassle of booking hotel rooms for a friend's wedding, and that, like most things related to weddings, just got wayyy overblown and dramatic. Oh well. At least I'd made myself this near-perfect knockoff of a Momofuku Milk Bar confetti cake. In contrast, my 26th birthday was so quiet and forgettable that I don't even remember what I did... OH WAIT — that might have been the year I got food poisoning from one of my favorite restaurants in town, a place I'm sorry to say that I'm still a little wary of (despite still adamantly defending that they make the best pizza in town).
This year though, I've decided to start celebrating like I mean it. Because I'll finally admit that birthdays are a big friggin' deal! To be alive on earth for another year is kind of a miracle, especially for somebody who eats as poorly as I do and frequently partakes in apparently life-threatening activities like biking to work and Crossfit. I'm serious! Erlend spent the last year studying anatomy and physiology for the last year and been filling my head with random facts about what it takes to keep a human body healthy and in good shape. I'll spare you the details, but long story short, it's this: a LOT.
I'm also excited about this birthday because, according to Buzzfeed, 27 is apparently the final year in which it's okay for me to regress back to my early 20s antics and have one last big hurrah before I head into my comfortable, stretchy-pants-wearing late 20s. And by that I mean, the kind of late 20s lifestyle they're referring to in the web series "I Miss Drugs", where weekends are spent looking for Rumors on vinyl at flea markets and gawking over Simple Human trash cans at Target. But can I tell you a secret?
My life has been like that for some time now, and I've been loving it.
So maybe this year isn't gonna be me partaking in the crazy hurrahs that Buzzfeed is promising, but instead, a very blatant celebration of the official arrival of a lifestyle where I don't have to make excuses for not wanting to take shots and stay out late on weeknights. Because at 27, I'm legitimately in my late 20s and it's finally okay to be kind of a grownup. At this age, I'm comfortable and confident enough to be okay with how lame I can be, and that makes me incredibly:
So I'll be damned if that doesn't deserve a celebration, especially one with an amazing and epic cake like this yellow saffron butter cake with chocolate cardamom fudge frosting. I used to think I was a red velvet girl, but honestly, ever since I made this beautiful yellow butter cake with chocolate ganache frosting for Erlend's birthday last year, I've been a firm believer that chocolate-covered yellow cakes should be a standard at any birthday celebration.
But don't get me wrong — this yellow birthday cake is far from standard. The cake gets its beautiful yellow color from butter that's been infused with a generous portion of saffron, one of my favorite spices and one that I would use every day if it weren't so freaking expensive:
Besides the saffron, the cake recipe itself is an absolute delight. Despite being a butter cake, it has a light and fluffy crumb that works wonderfully with the fudge frosting.
The fudge frosting is a neat little recipe that I've been holding near and dear to my heart for some time now. It's completely effortless and involves combining melted chocolate, butter, and confectioner's sugar in a food processor and blending until this creamy frosting appears. It's delicious and so, so, so easy to work with, allowing you to frost an almost perfectly smooth cake without too much effort. Oh, and of course, for fun, I threw in a pinch of cardamom to bring out the butter cake's saffron flavor. This cake is absolutely delicious and a recipe that I'm going to be keeping for birthdays to come.
Some baker's notes:
- Okay, so this cake uses a pretty generous amount of saffron, which is crazy expensive and overpriced. The only reason I shelled out for it was because it was my birthday (and I did what I wanted!). But there is an alternative! On his last trip to the international supermarket, Erlend found a $2.99 package of Mexican saffron, made from dried safflower threads. The taste isn't quite the same, but it will give your cake the same rich yellow color similar to my cake. Dried safflower threads are available in specialty herb stores, Asian supermarkets and (sometimes) the international/hispanic section of any local supermarket. If using safflower instead of saffron, be sure to increase the recipe amount to 1 full tablespoon's worth because safflower isn't as strongly flavored or as vividly colored as saffron.
- My mom once told me that it actually takes hours for saffron to fully release its flavor when cooking or baking. If you don't want to use as much saffron as I did, you can reduce the recipe quantity to a 1/4 teaspoon's worth and simply infuse the butter with saffron flavors for longer, preferably overnight.
- Still not convinced by the merits of saffron or safflowers? No worries! You can substitute out the saffron/safflower threads with 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract to turn it into a classic vanilla buttermilk cake with chocolate cardamom fudge frosting. Still great flavor, though the cake probably won't be as yellow.
- Unfortunately, you will need a food processor for the fudge frosting recipe. If you try and using a Kitchenaid mixer or a handheld electric mixer, it simply won't work or come together properly. Sorry!
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons saffron threads
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, divided into 1/4 cup and 1 cup portions
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 ounces 100% unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup unsalted butter and 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons saffron threads. Cook over medium-low heat until the butter melts completely, and starts to brown and foam. At this point, both the butter and saffron are fragrant and emitting a faintly nutty aroma. Once the butter has browned, remove from heat, cover and transfer to a wire rack to sit for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Prepare three 8-inch cake rounds by spraying with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper round. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray as well.
- In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 4 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks, and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3 cups cake flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low speed until well combined. With the mixer on its lowest speed, add the saffron-infused butter (from the 1st step) and the remaining 1 cup buttermilk, before raising the mixer speed to medium and beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- After 2 minutes, with the mixer speed still on medium, add the egg mixture (from the 3rd step) in 3 additions, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and mixing only until the ingredients have been incorporated. DO NOT OVERMIX THE CAKE, or it will be dense and dry and I will be sad.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 3 pans and bake the cake layers for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow the layers to cool in their pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, before turning out onto the wire racks to cool completely and peeling off the parchment paper liners.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine 3 ounces melted and cooled 100% unsweetened chocolate, 2 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar, 3/4 cup unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons whole milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pulse the ingredients together to incorporate. At first it will seem like there's too many ingredients in the food processor and that they will never incorporate together, but continue processing until the frosting is smooth and a uniform brown color. It will happen! Use immediately.