25 Years, 25 Cakes

January 2009

When I was younger and my birthday rolled around, one of my favorite treats to bring to school was self-filled cupcakes.  Back then, my mom made them for me.  I requested them so frequently throughout the years, she must have committed the recipe to memory.  For my 25th birthday, I made a version of my own to celebrate myself.  For my quarter-century digits, I wanted a little touch of the fancy, so my self-filled cake turned into twenty-five, miniature tiered cakes.


The Recipe

Brownie Layer:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 Tablespoons + 3 teaspoons carob powder
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped*
3/4 cups + 2 teaspoons pure cane sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 large, organic eggs
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

*If you don’t have chocolate, substitute 1 Tablespoon plus 1 3/4 teaspoons of cocoa, 1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated pure cane sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter for every ounce of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  Also, dissolve the cocoa in at least 1/4 cup of hot liquid to bring out the cocoa’s full flavor.

Cream Cheese Layer:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup maple syrup


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and place the rack in the center of the oven.

Have ready a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) square baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper across the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan. Set aside.

In a stainless steel (heatproof) bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. (or use cocoa replacement method).

Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, maple syrup, almond and vanilla extracts.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (with a wooden spoon) after each addition.

Stir in the flour and salt and beat until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan, about one minute.

Remove 1/2 cup of the brownie batter and set aside. Place the remainder of the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

In the bowl of a food processor (or with a hand mixer), process the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla, and egg and process until creamy and smooth.   Mix in the maple syrup.

Spread the cream cheese filling over the brownie layer.

Spoon small dollops of the reserved brownie batter evenly on top of the cream cheese filling. Then with a table knife or wooden skewer, swirl the two batters without mixing them.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges of the brownies are just beginning to brown.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate the brownies until they are firm enough to cut into squares (at least two hours).

Once chilled, remove the brownies from the pan by lifting with the ends of the foil and transfer to a cutting board to cut.

Makes about 16 – 2 inch squares.

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