Happy Cake: Tiramisu Birthday Cake


I love birthdays.  I love them so much that I don’t celebrate just one day — I prefer to recognize birthday week and sometimes (ok, most of the time) birthday month. The day after my birthday, I’m usually already planning next year’s celebration. If you ask me what my favorite holiday is, I’ll answer with “my birthday.”  But it’s not just my birthday that I love; I just love birthdays in general. Having a day (or in my case, a week, a month) dedicated to celebrating one person’s life is an idea that I can get behind. Add in presents and cake, and… well, it’s just so good.

Tomorrow, my big brother will be turning 33. On Monday, I drove the two hours home to Columbus and spent the day preparing a birthday feast. Andrew is by far one of favorite people to cook/bake for. For one thing, he’s not picky. He’s also appreciative and never short on compliments. When I asked him what dessert he’d like for his birthday, he answered, “Whatever you want. You’ve never made anything I didn’t like.” He got a lot of awesome brother points for that comment.  Still, I wanted to make him something he’d love.  One of his favorite desserts is Tiramisu — I’ve made for him before, and didn’t really want to repeat myself, so I decided to try mix it up a bit. Enter this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Bingo.


Birthdays and delicious food have always gone hand in hand for me. My mom likes to tell the story about how I used to say “Happy Cake” instead of “Happy Birthday.” Sounds about right. Another birthday treat was always sugared cereal.  We never got to have the good cereal at my house – it was all Grape Nuts and Raisin Bran, but on our birthdays, we got to pick out one box of whatever kind of rot-your-teeth-dessert-for-breakfast-cereal we wanted. It was glorious. My mom (an excellent cook) would always make us whatever we requested for dinner, and she always made a cake.  Mom is a great cook, but she’s never really enjoyed baking nearly as much, so homemade cookies and cakes were not something we got regularly. I guess that is one of the reasons that birthday cake was always so special. One year, I think it was Andrew’s 11th (ish) birthday, my mom made a chocolate cake. She had the two layers out on the counter, cooling, and had left the room. My little sister, who was probably about 2, saw the cake and made the reasonable decision to eat a giant handful out of each cake. The cake was still fine, of course, my mom fixed it right up, and by the way she positioned the layers, it looked like someone had taken a giant bite out of it which everyone seemed to get a kick out of. My dad started referring to it as a “mega-byte” and thought he was sooo clever). Andrew couldn’t care less what his cake looked like as long as it tasted fine, and everyone got a good laugh out of it.  Everyone except for me. I was outraged. Who does that?! How could she ruin the cake for everyone?! And how come just because she’s only 2, she gets away with it?! The injustice of it all! Ridiculous. I’m still trying to get over it.

Luckily,  this year my sister was able to wait until the proper time to dig in, and I think she even used a fork.

The cake turned out great, but the best part of the day wasn’t actually the food – it was getting to spend another birthday with the best big brother ever and my wonderful family. True to form, I’m already planning next year’s cake.

Tiramisu Birthday Cake
recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen, made by me



2 c. cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
10 Tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. buttermilk

Espresso Extract:
2 Tbsp. espresso powder
2 Tbsp. boiling water

Espresso Syrup:
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. Kahlua (you can also use amaretto or brandy)

Filling and Frosting:8 oz. container mascarpone
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (or mini chocolate chips)

cocoa powder
chocolate covered espresso beans (the store was out of these, so I actually used chocolate covered cacao nibs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9×2 inch round cake pans.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk one by one. Beat for about one minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Beat on low, and start and end with the dry ingredients. Pour batter evenly into the two prepared cake pans.

Bake 28-30 minutes.

Cool on a rack for about 5 minutes and then invert on to wire rack and cool until room temperature.

Espresso Extract:
Bring water to a boil. Mix water and powder together in a small cup and set aside. (You will use this for the syrup and the frosting)

Stir water and sugar together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour in a small bowl and stir in 1 Tbsp of the espresso extract and 1 Tbsp of the liqueur. Set aside.

Filling and Frosting:
Whisk together in a large bowl the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and liqueur.

With a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Stir a little bit of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, and then fold in the rest.

(note: I’m so in love with this frosting that I plan on putting it on pretty much everything I make from now on.)

If the tops of the cakes are too high, you can use a serrated knife to even them. Place one layer right-side up on cake round or plate. Using a small spoon, soak the layer with about 1/3 of the espresso syrup. Spread enough mascarpone cream over the cake to cover it and top with the chocolate pieces.  Put the second layer on a counter, of over a shallow pan to catch the drips and pour half of the remaining syrup over it. Turn the layer over and put it soaked side down on top of the first cake layer. Soak the top with the rest of the syrup.

Whisk 1 – 1 1/2  Tbsp of the left over espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling according to your taste. Ice the sides and top of cake. Sprinkle cocoa powder of the top and decorate with chocolate covered espresso beans.







Filed under Feelings, Recipes

2 responses to “Happy Cake: Tiramisu Birthday Cake

  1. the cake looks lovely! happy birthday to your brother!

  2. I can totally picture you being so upset about your sister taking huge chunks out of each cake. Made me laugh out loud. Oh, and that cake looks amazing. Happy belated “cake” to your brother!

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