Frank Lloyd Wright’s Birthday Cake Recipe
By: Odessa Piper
Note: We understand during this global pandemic, access to these specific ingredients might not be available. Make substitutions as needed or based on what is available at your local store or farmer’s market.
This cake recipe stays true to Mrs. Wright’s original ingredients, but we changed some methods to make it as light as a zephyr and complementary to Wright’s beloved filling of homemade strawberry jam. We also switched out the traditional loaf pan to a sheet-cake pan so the cake can be easily cut in half and stacked. Finally, these ingredient proportions were scaled to fit most home cook’s sheet pans. If you are baking at a professional establishment, see endnote*
Yield: One sheet cake. Makes 12 large-16 medium servings
Tips: Read through the entire recipe before starting. Have a helper to add the flour.
7 very large eggs (400g)
1 Cup granulated white sugar (200g)
1 Cup cake flour (150g)
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Electric mixer with a whisk attachment
Two mixing bowls
Large rubber spatula
Large whisk (if you don’t have one use the whisk attachment of your mixer)
To Prepare the eggs- Place eggs, still in the shell, in the bowl of the electric mixer. Fill with hot water from the tap. The hot water will warm the eggs and bowl so they will gain extra volume when whipped. After about 5 minutes pour off the cooled water and refill with freshly hot tap water.
To Prepare the sugar- use only white sugar. For an extra fluffy cake, look for sugar in the grocery store labeled ‘superfine’ or ‘castor’. You can also make your own by grinding regular white sugar in a food processor for 2-3 minutes until a fine texture is achieved.
To Prepare the Cake Flour- Cake flour is also called pastry flour. You can make your own cake flour from white All-Purpose Flour by removing a Tablespoon of the total flour called for and replacing it with corn starch. Mrs. Wright’s recipe calls for sifting four times. This will minimize the formation of flour lumps and is well worth the effort. Sift flour onto a square of parchment paper, then at the time of assembly fold up the paper to distribute the flour onto the batter.
To Prepare the cake pan- Any sheet-cake or casserole pan approximately 10 “x 15” will work, give or take an inch, with sides a minimum 1” tall. Prepare the pan by dabbing a bit of butter on the bottom and sides to hold the parchment. Then cut a piece of baking parchment paper large enough to fit the bottom of the pan and come completely up the two sides. Lightly butter the entire parchment, bottom and sides. Make sure parchment is sticking to the pan.
To make the cake-
Turn oven to 350º F and set the rack in the middle
Have all ingredients measured and prepared in advance.
Crack two whole eggs and 5 yolks into the (pre-warmed) electric mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment.
Put the 5 separated whites into a holding container and set them aside.
Divide the sugar into ½ cup for yolks and ½ cup for whites
Mix the whole egg and yolk mixture on high speed for 2 minutes. It will become thick. Reduce the speed and take 20 seconds to add the ½ cup sugar in slowly, along with the pinch of salt. Return to high speed for another 2 minutes or until yolks are very thick and creamy yellow. Transfer yolk mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Clean the electric mixer bowl and whisk attachment very thoroughly with hot soapy water and dry. Transfer egg whites into the mixer bowl. Whip the egg whites on high speed with the cream of tartar until they start to thicken. Reduce the mixer speed and take 20 seconds to sprinkle in the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Return to high speed and whip till whites become glossy and form soft peaks. Do not over whip to stiff peaks. If in doubt err on the side of soft.
Using the whisk or rubber spatula, fold approximately a third of the whites into the yellow yolk mixture in the large mixing bowl.
Then ask a helper to shake the sifted flour delicately all over the yolk mixture while you fold.
As the flour is being sprinkled on, fold in another third of the egg whites.
After all the flour is added, continue to stir gently to work in all the flour.
Gently fold in the final third of the egg whites and combine until there are no streaks or lumps.
Scoop the batter into the parchment-lined sheet-cake pan and use an offset spatula to even it.
Bake in the middle rack of the oven at 350º for 25-30 minutes, and until the center of the cake rebounds gently when tapped with a finger. The cake will fall back down slightly when it cools.
Follow Mrs. Wright’s existing instructions for jam, nuts, filling, and assembly. Tips and more can be found on the accompanying cake video on this site.
*For the professional establishment: To fill one standard restaurant ½ sheet pan revert to Mrs. Wright’s original proportions of 9 eggs, 1⅓ cups flour, sugar, etc. This will yield 20+ servings
20 oz. Strawberry jam
8 oz. Walnuts
1 qt. Whipping Cream
1/4 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
Beat whipping cream until thick, add sugar and continue to beat until stiff.
1 T butter
2 oz. Baker’s Chocolate
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Water
Mix ingredients and cook until well blended and slightly thickened.
© Mark Hertzberg