Late Night Birthday Cake

I love birthdays! I also love my roommates! I’ve doubled up on my reasons to celebrate this year, because my roommate Jabu’s birthday is the day before mine. That means we’re celebrating all week!

Sadly, I had to work all weekend and finish a small mountain of reading for school so my kitchen time has been cut a little short. I wanted to give Jabu the option of eating birthday cake for breakfast if she felt like it, so I found a nice simple genoise sponge cake recipe and whipped up a cake in the dead of night (hopefully the lack of natural lighting is enough to explain my less-than-great pictures for this post).

I got the recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, bake! by Nick Malgieri. I love this book because it focuses on pretty basic techniques and recipes and then shows you a few variations. This gives me everything I need to start improvising and making these recipes my own.

Jabu is gluten intolerant so I made this cake gluten free. I also had some beautifully fragrant orange blossom water in my pantry, so I decided to make a citrus genoise cake.


Orange Blossom Birthday Genoise

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp orange blossom water

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

Set a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Butter the sides and bottom of a 9″ round cake pan or springform pan.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla, and orange blossom water together by hand. I did this in the bowl for my electric mixer so I wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of using so many bowls.

Set the bowl over a sauce pan of gently boiling water and whisk until the egg mixture is warm, about 30 seconds. Make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Also, be very careful not to overcook the egg mixture, it really should feel warm to the touch, not hot when you stick your finger in it. If you’re fancy and have a thermometer, you want your egg mixture to clock in right around 120 degrees. I’m a broke college student so I have to use the tools at my disposal, namely my fingers.


Place the bowl on a mixer that’s been fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the egg foam is light in color, has increased in volume, and the bowl is no longer warm. This takes about 3 minutes. The eggs will hold their shape when they’re ready. You’ll also be able to draw a clear line through them.


While the eggs are whipping, stir the flour and cornstarch together using an open mesh strainer. Sift the mixture into a small bowl or a piece of paper. If you don’t sift the dry ingredients, you run the risk of clumps weighing down your cake. This is a sponge cake so you want everything to be light and fluffy.


Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift about a third of the flour mixture over the egg foam. Fold the flour in using a  large rubber spatula. Make sure you scrape up the bits from the bottom of the bowl to prevent clumps from forming.


Scrape the batter into the pan, filling it in a circular motion until the batter reaches 3/4″ from the top of the pan. Bake until the cake has risen and firm in the center and the point of a paring knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. That’ll take about 30 minutes.


Immediately use that paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and invert it onto a cooling rack. Using a plate or a piece of paper, flip the cake over again and set it back on the rack so the top is facing up. Let the cake cool completely on the rack.

If you plan on making a layer cake, stick the cooled cake in the refrigerator for at least a few hours if not overnight. After chilling, cut the cake in half and add filling or frosting as desired.

I cheated big time with my frosting and used a can of Pillsbury Funfetti frosting. It came with sprinkles, how could I resist?


For a late-night/early-morning fly-by-the-seat-of-my-procrastinating-ass cake, it turned out alright. I finished it in time for Jabu to eat a piece for breakfast. Next year, I’ll raise my birthday cake game but I’m pretty satisfied with how this cake turned out. I think Jabu was pretty pleased, too.

Happy birthdays, and happy baking!


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