A Birthday and a Cake (Vol. 2)

Last year, I blogged about Max's birthday and the yummy chocolate chocolate chip cake he requested (recipe here). This July, I'm back with another birthday - and another cake!

Max's birthday just so happened to be opening night for the traveling Cirque du Soleil show, Ovo. Ovo is at the Von Braun Center down the road (just a mile and a half from our house!) through the weekend. We were quite impressed with the entire production and it made for such a fun birthday evening.

Fun fact: exactly eight years before, I had surprised my then-boyfriend Max with flights to Vegas and tickets to Cirque du Soliel's O on his birthday night. It was crazy that eight years later, I was surprising my husband with Cirque tickets (in Alabama no less!), and that we were now a family of three.

We had tickets on the floor, which was perfect for front-loading our little guy because pre-show lots of the artists wander around the floor seats in costume. Parker got to see them up close and even interact with them (almost every single one who walked by stopped and got down on Parker's level, giving high fives and letting him touch them - so sweet). By the time the show started, he was already pretty comfortable with the artists (we had also talked quite a bit beforehand about what was going to happen, like the lights dimming and the costume wearing). Little Man was a phenomenal audience member (like always) and we totally recommend Ovo if it's coming near you!

I also promised a cake - did I not? This year, Max requested another favorite from his childhood - Coffee Angel Food Cake with Coffee Butter Icing. It's twelve kinds of incredible.

This recipe is adapted from Helen Corbitt's Cookbook. Helen Corbitt was the director of Neiman Marcus restaurants in the 1960's (and also lived in Texas). Funny story - when I was dating Max, and even after we married, I'd see handwritten recipes from his mom and sister that would be titled Helen Corbitt's Cornbread or Helen Corbitt's Brownies. I just assumed she was a family friend, or maybe a neighbor. It wasn't until just a couple years ago that I spotted Helen Corbitt's Cookbook in Max's mom's kitchen - and realized that the recipes were from the book, and that Helen Corbitt was this famously talented lady. Anyway, as you can imagine, anything that was served at Neiman Marcus has to be incredible. This cake is just that! It's also very involved - almost all the ingredients are sifted, there are a ton of egg whites that need to be separated, a million bowls... so it's definitely a "special occasion cake" making it perfect for a birthday!

Coffee Angel Food Cake

1 1/2 cups sifted sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups egg whites (10-12)
1 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (specifically, use this one)

Add half a cup of the sugar to the flour and stir four times. Add salt to egg whites and beat until foamy. Sprinkle cream of tartar over eggs and beat until soft peaks form. Add the remaining cup of sugar 1/4 cup at a time, blending twenty strokes after each addition. Fold in flavorings. Stir flour/sugar mixture over egg whites, 1/4 at a time, string ten times lightly after each addition. Pour into an ungreased tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the pan. Remove from oven and invert pan on cooling rack.

Coffee Butter Icing

3/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

Cream butter, add salt and sugar, a small amount at a time while beating. Add milk as needed, and flavoring.

*Make sure you use the espresso powder featured below. I ran out of it once and used regular ol' instant coffee powder in a pinch, and it pretty much ruined the cake and frosting, making it very bitter. I'm not sure what the magic of this stuff is, but it's real.

Happy Baking!


  1. We love Cirque shows! Hubs and I used to go to Vegas every single year before we had kids and every year we would take in a different Cirque show. We've seen all of them except for Ka. We're hoping to make it back there next year for our ten year wedding anniversary to remedy that. :o)

    1. That sounds like us pre-baby! Any excuse to go we were there! What was your favorite show?

  2. That sounds like it was a blast! I've always wanted to go to one of their shows. And that cake looks delicious!!! I will most definitely be trying that!

    1. It's a bit involved and requires getting ingredients you might not have already (cake flour, the espresso powder) but it's so worth it :)

  3. Happy birthday to Max! That cake looks and sounds amazing! I've only ever seen "O" but wow was that show incredible. I need to see more!

    1. O is hands-down our favorite Cirque show! We've seen it three times and have even done the "behind the scenes" backstage tour :)

  4. Oh my goodness. That cake sounds and looks amazing. What a cool story on the O show. Happy Birthday Max!

  5. Chuck took me to see Alegria for my birthday one year...floor seats...amazing show! I looove any kind of angel food cake and this one sounds heavenly, Mande.

  6. Chuck took me to see Alegria for my birthday one year...floor seats...amazing show! I looove any kind of angel food cake and this one sounds heavenly, Mande.


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