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Birthdays and surprises go hand-in-hand. But you don’t have to be celebrating a birthday to get excited about this gluten free surprise cake!
Think St. Patrick’s Day shamrocks, Valentine’s Day hearts, Christmas Trees, Stars of David, Jack-o-Lanterns or Easter Eggs … all of these shapes would make this gluten free surprise cake the perfect treat for a holiday or other special occasion. Of course I had to make mine more complicated by adding TWO surprise shapes in my cake, but that’s just because I have to make everything more complicated than it has to be. YOU do not! Choose your shape (or two, for a challenge!) and surprise everyone the next time you’re celebrating with cake. I promise it’ll be a cake they’ll never forget!
It received all kinds of “oohs” and “ahs” when we cut into what, from the outside, looked fairly unexciting (except that my gluten free birthday cakes are pretty darned delicious, if I do say so myself). With each successive slice, everyone gathered around to read the numbers for my step-daughter’s birthday.
I can only imagine as I get older that 29 might become my favorite combo? Or is 39 the new 29? Who cares. The cake will be fun and yummy no matter what surprises are inside!
A word of warning: I wouldn’t recommend this recipe for the faint-hearted. It’s not that the recipe is particularly difficult, but it is quite time consuming, and for anyone who tries to multitask unsuccessfully like I do, it can be easy to get the numbers turned around.
I was petrified that these particular numerical relationships would become hopelessly backwards or reversed. Can you imagine cutting into this cake and singing Happy Birthday to the 21-year old with a cake that had a “12” emblazened in pink throughout?! Or worse, read no real number at all because the “2” was backwards?! I sweated quite a lot over this little detail.
It’s also more difficult to get two cake inserts to line up and not overlap each other, whereas one large insert (think a heart, shamrock, pumpkin or Christmas Tree) would be far more forgiving when placed inside the pan.
Try this fun and delicious treat the next time you need an impressive dessert or just want to challenge yourself. As I said, it’s not hard, it just takes some time, and couldn’t we all use a little kitchen therapy?Print
To make this cake, you will be baking two cakes. One, that will bake first and cool, then will be cut into shapes or numbers hidden inside the second cake. This first cake should be a different color from the second cake (e.g. chocolate/vanilla or use food coloring) but the recipes should be of the same density. The second cake will be baked with the cut-out shapes or numbers from the first cake inside.
For this Surprise Cake, I used my Pink Lemonade Cake with strawberry purée for the cake numbers inside and my Lemon Cake for the outer cake.
The results were quite delicious and the colors of the cakes were different enough to make the numbers really pop!
Preheat oven to 350° F (static) or 325° F (convection).
In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
In another mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, beating for several minutes until light and fluffy. Slowly add eggs, one at a time, mixing to integrate, adding lemon juice with the second egg. Slowly stir in dry ingredients, alternating with strawberry purée (and food coloring, if using), mixing until combined and batter is smooth. Fold in lemon zest.
Oil one 9×5 loaf pan. Pour in cake batter and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until cake pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan, approximately 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake – if it is clean or has very few crumbs, the cake is done. Err on the side of slightly under-cooking this cake, since it will be baked inside the next cake.
Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, if necessary to release the cake, and invert onto a wire rack to completely cool. Evenly slice cake in half, horizontally, using a long serrated knife or cake leveler.
Lay both pieces of cake onto a cutting board and cut out numbers or shapes with cookie cutters or a template with a knife. Seal in a zip-top bag or Tupperware and store in the refrigerator until ready to insert into cake #2. (Use cake remnants to make Cake Pops!)
In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, add lemon juice to milk and set aside to curdle.
In another mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, beating for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing to integrate. Slowly stir in dry ingredients, alternating with milk, mixing until combined and batter is smooth. Fold in lemon zest.
Oil one 12 x 4½ pan* lightly. Pour enough cake batter into the pan to cover the bottom ½-inch deep. Arrange the refrigerated cake shapes in a straight line, one behind the other, along the length of the pan. If the shapes are flimsy or you are using more than one shape, run a wooden skewer through the stack of shapes to help them stay in line.
Pour the remaining cake batter on top of and completely around the inserted cake shapes so that they are covered with cake batter. Smooth with a rubber spatula.
Bake until cake pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan, approximately 60-70 minutes; adjust depending on the size of your pan. With the cake inserts inside, cake #2 can take much longer to bake, so if the top is getting too done, cover with aluminum foil. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake (not into the pre-baked cake shapes inside) – if it is clean or has very few crumbs, the cake is done.
Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Using the top of the cake pan as a jig, lay a bread knife on top and cut evenly across the entire top of the cake so that what will be the bottom of the cake will be level.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan, if necessary, to release the cake and invert onto a wire rack. If using wooden skewers to secure the cake shapes inside the pan, remove the skewers by pulling out one end of the pan before frosting.
Allow to fully cool before frosting. (Basic Frosting Recipe – link)
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!
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