Saturday, July 7, 2012

...That Wasn't So Bad (or, The God of Cakes)

Update: I've totally decided to include this in the Pinterest Challenge over at Young House Love and a few other blogs. Check out their projects here (YHL), here (Bower Power), here (Centsational Girl), and here (Ten June).

It's always a good day when I (take the time to plan out what I'm doing and) actually implement one of my Pinterest ideas. As I've been mentioning without subtlety for a while now, the ward (read: Mormon congregation) Munch-and-Mingle is tomorrow, and Yours Truly was the genius who signed up to bring a cake. Considering that every cake I've made in my entire life has been of this variety... genius idea wasn't so much MENSA-worthy as, well...this:
via: KnowYourMeme
Yeah. I might have over-reached myself here. Of course, in my moment of apparent hubris, Pinterest was there - like any irresponsible but well-intentioned friend - emptying a bottle of lighter fluid on the flames.

via: Unusual 2 Tasty
Oh yeah: this baby was the cake of choice. I was going to make this sucker. Never mind that my "practise run" red ombre cake turned out to be as shamefully mediocre as it did; I was still determined to make this cake. I went to the blog where the recipe was featured, undaunted by the mention of mixing flour, and buttermilk, and shortening, and sugar, and baking soda, and baking powder, and salt, and almond extract, and vanilla extract, and egg whites (oh no, not whole eggs: just the whites). Who cares that all my cakes (like all of my brownies before this proud moment) were the result of five minutes with Betty Crocker, a few eggs, a little water and oil? I was still going to bake this cake - and make the frosting - all with no mixes whatsoever. Let's get this party started.

Excuse me, while I climb the clothes horse...
 I followed the blog's instructions...mostly. I confess, I didn't feel like running back out to get almond extract, so I just dumped in a few heaped tablespoons of the ground almonds I had lying around from my love affair with Nigella's flourless brownies. Now, there were some moments before the buttermilk and egg whites were added that this was looking more like stiff cookie dough than cake batter, but it got there in the end with some persistent application of the hand mixer. (Or as we childishly call it, the vzz vzz.) Once my cake batter was all mixed together, it was on to the dyeing.

The stages of my cake-dyeing experiment. A pretty successful outcome.
1) Add some food dye.
2) Realise that what should be a patriotic red and blue are actually colours better suited to a baby shower.
3) Add some more food dye. Stir. Wait...add some more.
4) Decide that the amount of food dye you're adding is getting creepily inappropriate somehow and just bung it into greased tins and into the oven.
5) Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven, and realise you did a decent job after all.
6) despair at the number of dishes you now have to clean.

We have a long way to go, yet.
Oh yeah: because not only were there 3 bowls of cake batter, but two measuring cups, a Pyrex measuring jug, a knife, that thingie for cutting in butter when you make pastry whose name I don't remember, the beaters from the vzz vzz, a whisk, a ladle, and a spatula. Oh, and one of the cake tins, because I only have two and this recipe required three. And just to continue proving that I'm most definitely not one of those picture-perfect bloggers, I'd left the rest of my kitchen in a hot mess, too...

Here's where I admit that this is the cleaned-up version of my mess.
So, with all three cake layers baked, I threw them into the fridge to chill (for easier frosting) while I put together my cream cheese frosting. This, I figured, would be the easy part.
The basic recipe which I used is also on my Pinterest board, I Should Cook This..., I just substituted some of the cream cheese for some butter to make it more like a cake frosting and less like a cinnamon bun icing. Oh, and I think I forgot half a cup of icing sugar, too. Oops. Anyway, as you can see in my third slide, the frosting whipped up nicely and worked a treat.

just in case it was a bit small before.
So now, frosting ready, cake chilled, it was time to put my masterpiece together. Well...not before licking some of the frosting off the beaters. That's the best part.

Mmm, tasty. He'll eat the frosting, but he doesn't like the cake. Strange boy...
I levelled off each layer as I stacked them up. The middle white layer had stuck a bit to its tin in a less horrific version of my earlier faux-pas with the ombre cake. That was easily remedied by putting the broken side face-down and then proceeding as normal. This cake was coming along well: very few hiccups, and they'd all been minor. I'd even gotten 80% of the work done during Ethan's nap: this was a cake-baking Mummy's dream.
carefully stacking my cake
All stacked up, I was ready to frost the outside of the cake. A word to the wise; I don't recommend trying this with a normal rubber spatula. It's a bit fiddly at the best of times and it doesn't give you the crisp, clean, even look that people are usually going for when they frost a cake. Get a flexible metal frosting spatula...that's the way to go. (It's also the next thing on my, What Is My Kitchen Missing list.)

Nonetheless, things moved along alright. I tended to follow two rules:
1) Use way more frosting than you think you need. It helps avoid bald spots
2) Only smooth in one direction so you don't pick up crumbs.
I think my two rules worked pretty well:

Complete at last, I set my masterpiece safely in the fridge to rest and wait for its unveiling on the morrow. It was quite unassuming all frosted and concealing its (hopefully) gorgeous inner layers. In the meantime, while I was dying to see how well my cake baby had turned out on the inside, my actual baby was going crazy with his daddy in the hallway doing some marathon crawling (all documented for posterity, of course).

Finally, the Husband convinced me to give in to my need to photograph everything. I pulled the cake from its save haven in the fridge and cut out a slice: just to see, just to make sure, just to take a pretty picture before I bring it to church tomorrow, and then I'd put it back; honest.

You guys: it's beautiful.

hello, Gorgeous.

Look at those pristine layers.

This cake is boss. It is a cake boss.
I had done it. I successfully recreated one of my domestic dreams from Pinterest. I felt like a champ. This cake was a work of sublime beauty, and I was its creator: I was the god of cakes. Look on, mere mortals, at my whisk that glimmers like gold in the setting sun; the strings of my apron fluttering majestically in my wake as I bake cakes from scratch with impunity.

Needless to say - as my lack of any sense of seemly modesty implies - I felt pretty damn good about myself after that. When it comes to the culinary arts, it turns out a childhood aversion is not indicative of a life soon to be spent eating ramen noodles and Pillsbury cookie dough from a pop-tin. Hey; if I can learn to cook and bake, there's hope for us all.


  1. Cool cake! That'd surely be a big hit with the kids!

  2. Thanks; it was, actually! Loads of my friends' kids were really excited by the colours.