If I knew you were comin’ I’d-a baked a cake

Posted: June 20th, 2009 | Author: adi | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I love baking. I also love my seven-year-old nephew. The two often mix, especially, as you might guess, for his birthday. I’ve made three pirate-themed cakes, one UFO complete with aliens, and, my crowning achievement, the catbus from My Neighbor Totoro, complete with “WILL” in the destination window. This year he begged for a Goosebumps-themed cake, based on the series of horror stories for kids. He’s been obsessed with them for about a year, now, devouring each book as soon as he gets his hands on it. First he wanted a cake that looked like a book. While a book-shaped cake would be a cinch, the idea of illustrating a book cover in frosting terrified me, so when he changed his mind to a glowingly green “G” on chocolate frosting, I was relieved. Especially as his other cakes were nothing less than horrifically challenging. I had a pirate ship collapse on me during assembly, another ship disintegrate in the 90-degree weather, and an ocean with island which started its life as a treasure map. I’m not bad at cakes, really. The catbus, despite the extensive sculpting and frosting involved, was more time-consuming than anything else. It’s just that with simplicity I tend to get cocky, and then things get….well. No longer simple.

Simple yellow cake, simple chocolate frosting, an a lemon curd “G” dyed bright green. You can see where this is going.

After helping my sister move, I finally get to the grocery store at around 10pm, no recipe, no list. I grab the few ingredients I think I need, and, because I KNOW ME, a box of yellow cake mix. Now, I HATE box cake. I really do. Why cheat? It’s not as good and not as fun. Where’s the sense of accomplishment when all you did was crack two eggs and set a timer? If it’s not hard, it’s not worth it, right? We’re all food people here. Do we go home and microwave something, or do we think that making our own mascarpone sounds like THE BEST TIME EVER? Come on. In the same vein, my father’s admonitions of “Wouldn’t it be easier just to BUY a cake?” after seeing my shopping spree are met with a silent glare. Although, fun fact, every year for my birthday my (talented baker) sister offers to bake me a cake, and I refuse because it’s the one day of the year I will allow myself to eat the dry, overly sweet, downright BAD cake at our local bakery. It’s the guiltiest pleasure I indulge in, but the nostalgia of the sugar roses wins out over good taste.

But enough of my shame and back to Will’s cake. At home, store closed, ingredients assembled, I realize that of course, OF COURSE, I don’t have everything I need. For one recipe, I’m short on butter. For another, whipping cream. I page through my books and sigh in defeat–box cake. BOX CAKE. It’s all I’m left with. I throw in some confectioner’s sugar, replace the oil with butter, add some extra vanilla, and call it, while nowhere close to homemade, tampered-with enough to save face in front of an audience of seven-year-old boys. The cake bakes and I pout, but cheer myself with a giant bowl of sticky chocolate mess. Melted chocolate chips, butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and cream, combine to make a decadent chocolate buttercream. The recipe I base it off of contains FAR too much butter so I go hog-wild adding more chocolate and sugar, plus a splash of extra milk for creaminess. Thankfully, buttercream is somewhere it is VERY hard to go wrong, even for me. My “interpretation” of the recipe comes out a deliciously rich success.

The lemon curd is equally simple. A concoction of fresh lemon juice and zest, sugar, butter, and eggs is whisked over the double-boiler until thick. I squeeze in a generous glob of green food coloring, and the acid-green ooze is complete. I don’t even wince at the scrambled yolks I have to strain out before I put it into the fridge to await decorating.

The cake out of the oven and cooling, slightly decapitated due to a misjudgement of its rise and the height of the oven racks (oops), I set about deciding how to make this slightly more exciting. A yellow cake with chocolate frosting and a green “G” is a bit…vanilla..for me. Once the cake cools inspiration strikes, and I carefully remove cone-shaped pieces of cake, lop off the point, fill the hole with green goo, and replace the tops. This way, when the cake is cut, it will OOZE SLIME. At the prospect of grossing out a bunch of seven-year-olds, I am thoroughly pleased with myself. The frosting and simple decoration go off without a hitch, and I slide the cake into the refrigerator, another star next to my name on THE BEST AUNTIE EVER score card, and a slight stomach ache from too much “testing”.

All in all, I consider it a definite success.



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