anatomy of a birthday cake

February 25, 2016

 So I shared photos of the child's birthday cake on Instagram recently, but I wanted to have a more lengthy conversation about it, and also many of you who read the blog here are not on Instagram. (seriously. Instagram is my happy place, much in the way that Pinterest used to be, before all the ads. I love love love Instagram!)

This cake is pretty much the only thing that's getting me through this week. I've hit the wall of winter. I know spring is around the corner, but I don't know, I'm hanging on by my fingernails, I've been in the slumpiest of slumps. Tired, and at this point in the season every year my skin is just all 'hey Melissa, guess what i HATE you!' and I'm just draggggggggging. Blah blah blah, woe is me. Stupid winter.

All I want to do is lie in bed and watch movies and eat cake, but I can't. Bills, chores, a car just stopped working (it just stopped. working.) and honestly, I think I have a seasonal allergy to this time of year. Complain, moan, wail. Isn't this fun? The theme music to one of Andrew's and Julia's video games makes me want to cry. 'Downton Abbey' ending soon makes me want to cry. The state of the American political system makes me want to cry.

I'm going to focus on the little things and right now, that's cake.

Ok, so anyway this cake! It was good, and fun, and I have some things I'd like to share about it. Initially, Julia (who has now watched every episode of 'The Great British Baking Show' multiple times) asked for a chocolate-orange flavored cake with a passionfruit middle frosting layer and a chocolate ganache on the top. Oh and she wanted THREE TIERS of cake, like a wedding cake. That's exactly what she asked for and then I laughed in her face.

The compromise was that I basically ended up ignoring most of her requests and we tried to create a new cake that she'd feel was somewhat creative and I'd feel not so like I was going to lose my mind creating it - I used a chocolate devil's food recipe from this book, and you can find the recipe here. I've made this cake many times before. And it's just an all-round delicious chocolate cake. I'm going to breathe deep and summon my inner Nigella, and tell you more things about this cake. It's SQUIDGY. What do I mean by that? It's not light and airy, it's a bit dense-ish and very moist and a lot of the bottom sticks to the plate when you cut a slice, it's that moist. Julia pronounced it to have a nice gummy flavor, which doesn't sound nice, but it really is - it's almost a bit brownie-esque in its fudgy-ness.

Now you might notice that my frosting doesn't look as billowy as the picture on the website does - I did that on purpose - I knew I had to transport the cake to Julia's party destination and I wanted things to stay in place and intact on the way there, so I deliberately did not add the full measure of cream called for in the recipe. Actually, I find that I need to add MORE cream than the recipe calls for to get that pillowy, marshmallowy, really creamy texture. But for this version, I made it a bit more firm, so I added slightly less cream.

So the frosting ended up tasting like fudge, really. The whole affair, just really screams FUDGE, to the tastebuds.

The other thing I did, as you can see from photo #1, which is my favorite photo, I love seeing that lone slice on the messy plate - (I feel like it represents my inner brain right now) - is I threw the extra frosting that would normally go on the middle layer in a little container and put it in the fridge. I've taken to eating it with my fingers, just scooping it out of the container. Andrew was like, "Has it come to this?" And I was like, "YES IT HAS." Instead of using the chocolate frosting in the middle, I put in a vanilla frosting, mixed with vanilla bean, scraped from one pod, and shredded coconut.

Julia had requested this, and it turned out to be an amazing addition that really put the whole cake over the top, and made it taste like how I was always hoping a Hostess cupcake would taste like, only it never did. I did try and make my own vanilla frosting, but I followed some recipe in a cookbook I had and it didn't turn out, and I was like, um I totes don't got time for this, and I sighed deeply and ignored the ingredient list label on the back of the can and went ahead and used either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker (I can't tell them apart) 'fluffy white flavor' frosting. I wish you could have seen the texts Andrew sent me from the store. WHAT IS FLUFFY WHITE FLAVOR?? How is that a flavor?? Well, it is. And I mixed in some vanilla bean with my little mixer, and spread the whole can of it on that middle section and then poured on a nice layer of sweetened shredded coconut over it, and by gum, my arteries are having themselves a party with those fillers and hydrogenated oils.

Also those little pink piped rosettes? CUPCAKE FROSTING IN A SPRAY CAN. We live in amazing times, my friends. Petal pink amazing times. Then I threw on sprinkles along the base, to cover up my horrid frosting skills, and more on the top, and BAM, that's a good looking cake I managed to create.

I want you to know that when I presented it to my daughter, she inhaled with delight. Like, a mini gasp. As a professional gasper, I was very delighted, and so happy that she was happy. I hope she remembers when she's grown up, how hard I tried to make lovely cakes for her. Someday soon I'm going to make a photo album of birthday pictures - to serve not just as memories, but as evidence.




13 comments:

  1. When I was growing up my mama always made our birthday cake. Now its one of my favorite things to do for my 3 kiddos. This is the vanilla frosting recipe that is everyone's favorite at my house. It says buttercream but I always add extra vanilla for more of a vanilla flavor (sometimes adding a bit of almond too) https://www.pinterest.com/pin/248401735668961552/
    Your cake looks so yummy and fudgy, just the way I like it!
    And, 'put sprinkles on it' should be the next 'put a bird on it' ;)

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    1. HA ha ha yes! put sprinkles on it! love it. and oh my, why did I not think to look on Pinterest??? and so wow, fluffy really is a flavor LOL. I'll save that frosting for the next go-round!

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  2. this is hysterical! you need to submit to Huff Post or something! I also really want a bite!

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    1. ha ha is that a thing?? i assumed they had a professional writing staff! thank you darling, i'm glad you liked it. I would have gladly shared cake with you!

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  3. Such a fun story about your daughter's cake! I can imagine myself having a similar conversation with my son - Him: "I want this and this and this and this and this...." Me: "HAHAHAHAHA (hysterical laughter) - I can do a box mix cake and some really fun colored frosting." Like you, we are usually able to compromise, although our compromises usually involve large amounts of candy used as decorations. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. oh and CANDIED VIOLETS, she wanted those too. I kept telling her over and over, look if you want certain things like that, you need a professional bakery to make the cake. Mama doesn't have those skills. getting me to budge and add a differing flavor to the middle took some doing on her part lol - i was all one flavor! one frosting! candy hides all sins, doesn't it?

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  4. You are amazing.

    My skin hates me right now too.

    Wish we could have you over for a little sunshine!

    Allison
    sunshineinthekitchen.com

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    1. if only it could be late summer, early fall, forever and ever! my skin is always happiest then. i would love to sit in a nice sunny patch right about now. and have you give me a muffin!

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  5. I love your blog for all kinds of reasons (I've been reading it for years (found you from Posy...because I have the same kind of dog:)--but this entry typifies why I love it. I like your honesty, your trying so hard (and succeeding) to be a good mom. I love your book reviews (have a new nephew and godchildren) and your commitment to reading. Your decorations are amazing! And it's been wonderful to watch Julia "grow up". Funny that our lives are not very much alike, but I find so much to like here! Just had to comment, finally. Fay (in SC, via NH, but mostly Sausalito CA).

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    1. ok i sat reading your comment with tears in my eyes. oh my goodness. thank you SO much for the kind words! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your note. that's so awesome that you found me via Alicia's blog!! I like to leave shouty comments over there from time to time. I think blogging is ultimately a kind of dialogue between the blogger and those who read it, and to hear such marvelous feedback from someone reading out there is such a gift.

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  6. Replies
    1. i gotta tell you, I should write more blog posts off the top of my head at 11:40 pm - they are always the ones people like best! seriously! the posts where I just let whatever is in my mind fly, i always get feedback from those the most, it's so funny :) XOXOXO right back!

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Comments TOTALLY make my day! Let's keep everything friendly and polite and 'use our tea party manners :)

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