Cindy’s Surprise Engagement Party–and CAKE!



Even though we’re living in Italy where there are sweet treats of practically every size and shape, each delicious in its own exciting way, there is still nothing quite so celebratory as a good old American-style cake with frosting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not much of a frosting fan, so for an everyday treat (and I do mean every day) I would gladly choose a piece of apricot crostata or a scoop of gelato over a slice of cake. But when you’re celebrating something as special as an engagement? You’ve just got to have cake.

That, my friends, is a rule.





So last week my friends Alyssa and Natasha and I made a cake to celebrate our friends Cindy and Tommy, who recently got engaged in Paris (PARIS!!!). Specifically, we made a chocolate layer cake. With mascarpone frosting and strawberry jam between each layer. And alllll the berries on top. (I’ll take mascarpone frosting over the cloyingly sweet stuff any day. It’s like cheesecake INSIDE ANOTHER CAKE).




I think it’s amazing how fast it’s possible to form connections with people, to develop excitement about events that happen in their lives as if they’ve been a part of yours forever. I’ve only known Cindy for just over a month, and I’ve known Tommy for like a week, but I can already tell that they’re special, just like I can with the others I’ve met on this summer adventure! When Tommy suggested we throw Cindy a surprise engagement party, there was never a second thought. And when we couldn’t find the style cake we were looking for, making it from scratch was obvious.




Surprise parties are so. much. fun. I love them, I really do. It’s the only kind of deception that’s acceptable because you know when the deceived person finds out the truth, he or she will be really happy!

Acceptable deception. Am I allowed to put those two words together like that?

Anyway, planning the surprise party was a huge, awesome group effort. It’s hard when you live in not only an unfamiliar area, but also a foreign country, to figure out a place, how people will get there, especially how they are going to get there before Cindy, etc. Big thanks to Alyssa, Tommy, Alex, Adriana, Natasha, Francesca, and Chiara for all your help with the planning and carrying-out of the party! And thanks to everyone who came for bringing the party to life. 🙂




Ok, let’s talk CAKE. This cake was a kind of mash up of cakes from two of my favorite bloggers and also a photo I saw on pinterest. Classic.

The recipe for the chocolate layers comes from Sally at Sally’s Baking Addiction. What I most love about her blog is that Sally tests and retests her recipes until they consistently turn out exactly how she imagined them. She’s dependable, and that is something I really appreciate. Plus, last time I checked, the recipe for this chocolate cake had 590 comments from happy readers. That should be proof enough!!




Another blogger whose name happens to also be Molly inspired the mascarpone frosting and the jam between the layers. I love her blog, My Name is Yeh, not just because she has an awesome name 😉 but also because she is one of the most hilarious and creative people on the interwebs/in the world. She combines ingredients I never would think to combine, and she is so unique with her cake decorations and food styling. 




The picture from pinterest was of a layer cake with frosting and jam in the middle, but no frosting on the outside. A “naked” cake. I thought it looked so rustic and beautiful! We didn’t make enough frosting to cover our whole cake, so we chose to leave the sides bare instead of making more. I’m so glad we did.




Chocolate Layer Cake
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  1. 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour
  2. 1 and 3/4 cup (350g) granulated sugar
  3. 3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk1
  8. 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil (or canola oil, or melted coconut oil)
  9. 2 large eggs, at room temperature2
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup (240ml) freshly brewed strong hot coffee
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees. Butter & flour three 8 inch round cake pans
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer on high speed, mix the buttermilk, oil, room temperature eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low. Add the coffee. The batter will be VERY thin. This is ok.
  4. Pour the batter into prepared baking pans and bake for 18-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Mascarpone Frosting
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  1. 12 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  2. 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
  3. 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  4. 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  5. a pinch of kosher salt
  6. Strawberry preserves
  7. Mixed fresh berries
  1. Beat butter, mascarpone, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. add sugar and salt and beat until frosting is light and fluffy.
  2. Once cake has cooled, spread layer thickly with frosting, top with strawberry preserves. Repeat with remaining layers. To finish, top with mixed fresh berries.
Adapted from My Name is Yeh
Adapted from My Name is Yeh

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