To lay the foundation for this crafty birthday confection, our kitchen staff turned first to a deliciously simple pound cake recipe supplied by subscriber Ethel Ledbetter of Canton, North Carolina. It's texture was just right for building the blocks. "The secrets in the cream cheese I added to the recipe," confides Ethel. "That's what makes my cake firm for cutting—and easy to frost, too." What'll bring even bigger grins is the fact that the cake can be baked ahead and frozen, then thawed before the party and decorated, leaving you with plenty of time for other preparations.— Ethel Ledbetter, Canton, North Carolina
- 1-1/2 cups butter, softened
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups sugar
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 9 cups confectioners' sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Additional milk
- Tinted icing and pastry bag or tubes of tinted icing
- In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add flour; beat just until blended. Stir in extracts. Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Bake at 325° for 1 hour 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 15 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
- For frosting, in a large bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in 4 cups confectioners' sugar. Slowly add milk and vanilla. Beat in remaining confectioners' sugar. Add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until frosting reaches spreading consistency; set aside.
- To make building blocks, cut each cake in half, then cut each half into four blocks for a total of 16 blocks. Gently trim crusts of each; blocks should measure 2 in. x 2 in. Frost sides and top of blocks. Smooth frosting using a warm spatula. Using tinted icing, decorate with letters and numbers (see photo). Carefully stack blocks on a serving platter. Yield: 16 servings.
Originally published as Birthday Blocks in Country Woman May/June 1996, p47
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