Birthday Present Mini Cakes [Happy Birthday SugarHero!]

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my baby is turning two!

Well, not my real, human-type baby. He’s only one and a half. But my other baby, my blog baby, the baby that you drool over and comment on and are reading right now? That baby is two years old this month. Happy birthday, SugarHero!

Birthday Present Mini Cakes |

To celebrate, I made mini lemon-raspberry cakes with pistachio buttercream, and decorated them with colorful candy polka dots, stripes, and bows. To me, this is a very “SugarHero” dessert—a little time intensive, but playful and colorful and most importantly, fun. These sweet little cakes make me want to jump through the screen and simultaneously hug them and eat them, which is maybe the truest statement of purpose I’ve ever written.

Writing SugarHero makes me happy. Getting to know all of you makes me so happy. And I hope that sometimes, my desserts can provide a little inspiration or happiness to you, as well. Group hug? Let’s do it.

Birthday Present Mini Cakes |


Last year I sort of wrote a synopsis of how SugarHero came to be, but the short version is that I started a different blog in 2006, didn’t post on it very much, shared some truly terrible photos and okay recipes, and basically didn’t decide to take things seriously until 2011. [Some might argue that this still isn’t very serious…and you’re not wrong.]

Birthday Present Mini Cakes |

Since then it’s been an ongoing process of learning the behind-the-scenes tech stuff, struggling to keep up with social media (you Twitter mavens have to teach me your tricks!), always working to improve my photography, and dreaming up more desserts than I could ever have time to actually make or eat.

SugarHero isn’t my primary job, but it does provide a portion of our income, and I never stop feeling lucky and grateful that I get to spend so much time doing what I love. It’s amazing to think that when I was in high school, trying to figure out potential career paths, the option of becoming a full-time blogger and online food writer literally didn’t even exist. (Yes, I am old. Whippersnappers to the left.) So thank you all, for visiting and becoming my not-at-all-nerdy online friends, and for making this life possible.

Birthday Present Mini Cakes |

Now can we talk about the cakes for a second? Let’s start with the outside. All of the decorations are made out of Fruit Roll-Ups or Fruit by the Foot. The flowers on top were made using the technique in this excellent tutorial on Wedding Chicks. They’re actually really simple, I recommend knocking them out while half-watching Happy Endings reruns. (That last part is optional but it makes the time fly.)

The polka dots were made using a few sizes of fondant cutters, and the fancy-ish border you see on a few cakes is just how the Fruit by the Foot came. At first I was annoyed that they cut designs into it, then I realized that it looked awesome when wrapped around a cake. Lemons from lemonade, people.

Birthday Present Mini Cakes |

For the brave souls out there who might actually re-create this dessert, this boring paragraph about logistics is for you. It’s really tough to find a variety of solid-colored Fruit Roll-Ups. I don’t know why they have to be so fancy and make all of their candy tie-dyed or marked with “temporary tattoos” or whatever, but finding some of the plain colors was difficult and required way too many trips to different grocery stores. Amazon sells a variety pack that has 4 different colors, and I finally found some in a mixed box with Gushers and Fruit by the Foot at my local Ralph’s. If you’re less obsessive about having a rainbow of colors on your cakes, your life will be much easier. Otherwise, happy hunting.

Birthday Present Mini Cakes |

The cake itself tasted amazing, but I’m reluctant to share a picture of the inside because I thought the balance of cake to frosting was a little off. The cake is a lemon pound cake with freeze-dried raspberries—they provide great raspberry flavor, without making the cake soggy like fresh berries would. I layered it with pistachio buttercream, then covered the outside in vanilla buttercream. I loved the idea of 4 thin layers of cake, but I ended up thinking that there was a bit too much buttercream, and it overwhelmed the cake. So I’ve written the recipe to make two thick layers of cake instead of four thin ones, and I think this will help it to feel more balanced. Don’t worry, buttercream lovers, you will still get your frosting fix!

One last time—thanks for two amazing years. You guys are awesome. Love you, mean it.

Birthday Present Mini Cakes |

P.S. If you want to see what I did last year, check out these Rainbow Cake Push Pops for SugarHero’s first birthday. With a bonus picture of teensy Asher nomming on a cake pop. My baby worlds are colliding.

Rainbow Cake Push Pops |

Recipe Notes: Like my recent recipe for Pistachio Chocolate Chunk Cookies, this recipe uses pistachio paste. It gives the buttercream an awesome realistic pistachio flavor without any grittiness or graininess. I used Love n’ Bake pistachio paste for this recipe. It’s on Amazon but it’s a little pricey there. It can also be found at some grocery stores or at places like Cost Plus World Market, and I’ve also seen it at cake supply stores and gourmet food stores in my area. Other pistachio pastes, like the one King Arthur Flour sells, will also work. If you don’t want to track some down, adding a little almond extract is a good alternative, since almond also pairs nicely with lemon and raspberry.

Click Here to Print or Email this Recipe!

Lemon-Raspberry Cake with Pistachio Frosting
yield:  one 7×9-inch cake, or 4-6 miniature cakes

For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of 2 large lemons
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
8 oz butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp lemon extract
1.2 oz freeze dried raspberries (one Trader Joe’s bag, about 1 1/4 cups)

For the Frosting & Assembly:
9 egg whites, at room temperature
14 oz (2 cups) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb butter, slightly softened to the touch but still cool—not greasy or warm
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup (2 1/4 oz) pistachio paste
Green food coloring
Fruit Roll-Ups (I used about 3 boxes for my mini cakes, but that included a lot of waste due to cutting circles for the bows, and wanting to use specific colors)

To Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 13×18″ rimmed baking sheet with parchment, and spray the pan and parchment well with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

Finely zest two lemons. Place the zest and the sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer, and rub them together between your fingers until the sugar is fragrant and has the texture of wet sand. Add the butter and cream cheese to the bowl. Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until combined, then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the lemon extract. Finally, turn the mixer to low, and slowly add the dry ingredients. Stop when just a few streaks of flour remain. Finish mixing the cake by hand, using a spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl well. Coarsely crush the freeze-dried raspberries (using either a knife or your hands is fine) and add them to the batter, stirring them in until well-mixed.

Scrape the cake batter out into the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer. Bake the cake for about 20 minutes, until it is a light golden color, the top springs back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. The cake can be made several days in advance and kept, well-wrapped, at room temperature or in the freezer. If freezing, defrost before using.

To Make the Frosting:

Combine the egg whites, granulated sugar, and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer, and whisk them together. Choose a small saucepan that lets you fit the base of the stand mixer snugly into the top of the saucepan—this is your makeshift hot water bath. (Alternately, you can use a different bowl or an actual bain marie and then transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl once it’s heated.) Add an inch of water to the bottom of the saucepan, and bring the water to a simmer.

Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure that the bottom isn’t in contact with the water, and heat the egg white mixture. Whisk frequently so that the egg whites don’t cook. Continue to heat the whites until they are hot to the touch, and when you rub a bit between your fingers, you don’t feel any grittiness from the sugar. Once the whites are hot, transfer the mixing bowl to your mixer and fit it with a whisk attachment.

Beat the whites on medium-high speed until they are no longer warm to the touch—feel the outside of the bowl, and make sure that it is around room temperature. Depending on your mixer and the temperature of your environment, this may take 10-20 minutes, or more.

Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the softened but cool butter in small chunks, a tablespoon at a time, making sure to wait in between additions. It may separate or look a little gloopy at this point—fear not. Once all of the butter is added, increase the speed again and whip until it comes together and is light and fluffy. If, after 5 minutes, it hasn’t come together, refrigerate the mixing bowl for 5-7 minutes, to cool the mixture down, and whip it again.

Once the butter is fluffy, add the vanilla extract and mix until well-blended. Separate out about two-thirds of the buttercream, and to the remaining third, add the pistachio paste and a drop or two of green food coloring, and mix until well-blended. The buttercream can be made in advance and kept at room temperature if you’re going to use it the same day, or refrigerated. If it’s been chilled, let it sit at room temperature until it softens, then re-whip it to get the fluffy texture back before you use it.

To Assemble:
Cut the cake in half widthwise, so you have two rectangles that are about 7”x9”. Cut a piece of cardboard the same size, and slide it under one of the cake layers. Spread the pistachio buttercream on top of the rectangle on the cardboard, and place the second cake layer on top.  Run a spatula around the sides of the cake to smooth out any pistachio frosting that is sticking out. Spread a very thin layer of vanilla buttercream on the top and sides of the cake, and refrigerate the cake until the frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.

Spread the remaining vanilla buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Use an angled spatula or bench scraper to get the sides even and the corners neat. (Don’t worry if it’s not perfect—you can cover up any bad spots with polka dots or stripes!) Refrigerate the cake again to firm up the frosting. Cut out circles, long ribbons, or other shapes from sheets of Fruit Roll-Ups. Press them into the sides of the cake. If you need the Fruit Roll-Ups to stick to themselves, dab them with a small amount of water. The Fruit Roll-Ups will start to get sticky after sitting on the frosting for a few hours, so this decoration is best added right before the cake will be eaten. For the best taste and texture, serve this cake at room temperature.

Mini Cake Variation: Make mini cakes the same way you would make the large cake, but after the two cakes are stacked on top of each other, cut the large cake into smaller squares, rectangles, or circles. You can experiment with making some cakes taller by stacking more layers on top of each other. If you make a lot of mini cakes, you may need to make an additional batch of vanilla frosting to cover the outside of the cakes. Make sure you cut cardboard pieces to put under each cake—this makes working with them and transferring them infinitely easier.

If you don’t want to miss a SugarHero recipe, you can subscribe to get new posts by email, subscribe to the SugarHero RSS feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow on Twitter. Ooh, and let’s not forget Pinterest. (I love Pinterest.) Thank you!

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40 Responses to Birthday Present Mini Cakes [Happy Birthday SugarHero!]
  1. Arlo says:

    Two years of sugar happiness!! Now a Birthday wish of many more to come.(both candles went out – so it must come true)

  2. Danguole says:

    No, thank YOU for the constant inspiration and wealth of all-things-sweet knowledge and giggle-inducing writing! All that, plus impossibly pretty things to gawk at (your statement of purpose IS the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and I can totally handle the truth).

    Big fat CHEERS!

  3. Happy birthday to your blog baby! Your blog is always a great source of fun, inspiration, temptation, and sugar. Thank you for sharing your creativity in the kitchen with the rest of us!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Allison! <3 That is so nice of you to say. Finding blogs like yours and getting to know friends like you has been such a wonderful benefit and blessing of blogging over the last 2 years!

  4. Emily says:

    Happy blogiversary!!

  5. These are so fun and playful! I have enjoyed reading your blog over the past two years and can’t wait for many amazing recipes to come. Happy Birthday!

  6. Happy Happy Birthday!! I totally love your blog, and I’m so glad she turned 2! :)

    These cakes, gorgeous. As always!

  7. Liz says:

    Happy Birthday Sugar Hero! :) So glad I found your website because I love all your recipe…but most of all because of you Elizabeth! :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Liz! It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you–and I’m not just saying that because of your awesome name.

  8. Happy Blog Birthday, Elizabeth! These cakes are so cute! I also love that you used fruit roll-ups to decorate, since I like the idea of eating the leftovers. And I know what you mean about feeling old. I don’t think food blogs even existed when I was in college.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks Natasha! I am not going to admit how many fruit roll-up scraps I ate while making this…let’s just say my tongue was an unnatural shade of blue for awhile. And isn’t it crazy how fast things change? I feel like blogs went from being weird little Diaryland things to huge enterprises in the space of about 5 years. I’m just grateful to be part of it, and to meet awesome folks like you!

  9. Sara says:

    Aww. Happy birthday!! Pretty cakes. How do you have time for those with Asher pulling on your pant legs and teaching a co op preschool, and writing on I had no idea that was you, btw, until yesterday. I’ve had your Turkish delight recipe bookmarked for 10 months now…. Rose water candy anyone? No, thank you. I’ll just sit right over here and snip hot dogs with my kitchen scissors for a bit. :)
    I know you get it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Ha! I should have known you couldn’t resist a rose water dessert. Mwahahaha. Next you’ll be watching a Matlock marathon and going to bed at 7pm. :) My secret is simple–I basically never sleep and am a zombie all the time. I wish I was joking! My hope is that Asher will be old enough to help with baking and photography soon. That’s a thing, right?

  10. Heather says:

    Adorable! Happy, happy birthday little SugarHero. You make life sweet.

  11. Congrats on the anniversary, Elizabeth!! I truly enjoy reading your blog, it makes me so happy!
    These lovely cakes look like the perfect way to celebrate it. They are so fun and festive! :D

  12. Johlene says:

    Congrats Elizabeth!!!! It´s a pleasure to be on this journey with you, I love reading your posts and your recipes always give me tons of inspiration.. Here´s to many more years together in the ´blogesphere´ :-) :-)
    p.s. The cakes are ADORABLE.. not to mention the pestachio frosting (oh wow!!)
    Xx (group hug!)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Johlene! It’s been so fun getting to know you and following your blog this year. You are such a great blogging friend–thanks for visiting!

  13. Happy Blog Birthday! Here’s to many many more! I love how fun, festive and colorful this post is!

  14. Happy Happy Birthday! I can’t believe you’ve only been doing this “seriously” for two years. You are an incredibly talented blogger! Your recipes, just like this one, are always stunning. You always have a new twist of lots of layers and I am always drooling over your posts. Thanks for the laughs and the recipes!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Mary Frances! What you probably haven’t seen is the 5 years of truly terrible posts that preceded the SugarHero era…some scary stuff went on back then! But onward and upward. :) So glad to have met you this year!

  15. Cheers to 2 years!!

    These cakes look amazing as always and are perfect to celebrate SugarHero! Colorful and a little whimsical… Exactly how SugarHero is to me. Thanks for all the inspiration and gorgeousness!!

    Here’s to many more years ahead!!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Emily! I so appreciate your comment, because colorful and whimsical are 2 things that I always *hope* SugarHero can be…it’s nice to know it’s not always in my head. Cheers!

  16. Happy birthday, little blog! Your cakes match your blog theme so well…love it :) I have NO idea how bloggers (or anyone) keeps up with social media stuff…like without devoting your entire life to it. I don’t get it! Let me know when you learn the secret. Can’t wait to read the next year’s worth of posts to see what sugary deliciousness you come up with!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Amy! YES, can we talk about those superhuman bloggers who somehow manage to comment on every blog, post on every social media outlet, and still blog almost every day? Even typing that made me tired–I don’t know how other people do it! Yeesh. I’ll just be over here, talking to my non-social media and eating cake. :) Thanks for stopping by–so glad to have found your blog this year!

  17. Faye says:

    Congratulations! Your blog is so amazing. Thanks for sharing it with the world!

  18. Andie says:

    Congrats on two years and countless pounds of sugar. :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      So funny that you say that…I had an idea to tally up all the butter and sugar and flour I’d bought this past year, because I’m usually pretty good about sorting receipts for household/blog stuff, but I ran out of time. I am going to do it next year for sure! Prepare to be horrified by the sugar consumption. :) Thanks for stopping by Andie!

  19. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO SUGAR HERO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^.^ Congratulations Elizabeth :) I absolutely adoreeeee your blog and the photographs that you post! :) and yeah, the Twitter thing, that’s one of world’s greatest mysteries! :D

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Samina!! That means a lot to me! And I agree–what is the deal with Twitter?? I keep waiting for it to go away like Myspace so I don’t feel guilty about ignoring it. :)

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