Monday, November 13, 2006

Karen's Birthday Cakes

The last two years, I have been lucky enough to make my neighbor friend Karen’s birthday cake. As long as her husband David is in the midst of writing his dissertation, I think I am safe, and will get to continue baking her birthday cakes (a privilege I enjoy; I figure I need all the excuses I can find to make cakes, otherwise I just look like a glutton making cake after cake after cake). But, I’m slightly concerned that once David finishes his “book report” as he currently calls it, and finds himself with a bit more time on his hands, he might want to take over and make the birthday cake himself.

What Karen requested last year was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I am pretty sure that I used my old favorite chocolate cake recipe (one that includes eggs… see Wacky Cake entry below). It is one that I feel pretty confident about and while it is not as easy as Wacky Cake, it really is a snap to make and seems pretty foolproof. As for the chocolate frosting, therein lies the problem. I have never, ever, ever managed to find a chocolate frosting that I am happy with. I don’t know for sure what frosting recipe I used for her cake last year, but I do know that I did not walk away from the experience feeling like I had solved my chocolate frosting problem.

This year, Karen asked for yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I used a basic yellow cake recipe, which I think came out okay. As for the frosting…. in retrospect, I am pretty sure that I used the same recipe from last year. Jeez, I can’t believe I did that, but, I guess a year is a pretty long time. Once again, I did not think it was all that great and, to make matters worse, I continue to be left without a decent chocolate frosting recipe.

In spite of my criticisms, the cake was enjoyed by Karen and Samantha, Alden, Ray and me, and also my father in law John and his traveling companion Bill, who were stopped over at our house on their way from 31 Mile Lake (Quebec) to Utah/Nevada.


Anonymous said...

So maybe I'll get busted for inappropriate (to the subject) blogging (but there must be a connection somewhere). Heard on Weekend Edition this morning from the British Minister of the Environment: "if you think there's too much packaging on the item your are buying, here's an idea; leave it at the checkout counter." What a great idea! So it could apply to storebought cakes, though it might be a little harder to carry them home in your bare hands.

Clarissa said...

okay. point letter A. NO ONE should be buying store bought cakes.

I mean, really, that completely goes against the entire MAKE MORE CAKES concept.

maybe you were just trying to make a connection between the blog and the NPR story. maybe that excuses your sacrilegous (uh-oh, don't know how to spell, and there is no spell-checker in this format) comment.

point letter B: I just heard that NPR story, too. thought it was a good idea also (dump the wrapping at the store.)

Point letter C: was out driving around, and therefore listening to the radio on my egg-errand - that is, trying to get the BEST EGGS POSSIBLE.

Future blog entry on getting good eggs coming soon. Stay tuned.

Ms. Z said...

okay. I must contribute my chocolate frosting recipe. It's way easy and way yummy. I make it with vegan margarine (the Earth Balance brand that the local King Sooper's carries, which is incredibly buttery).
1 c. vegan margarine (I'm sure you could use butter--I've never tried it that way)
4 c. powdered sugar
2 tbl. vanilla
4 tbl. soy milk (or cow milk if you want)
1/2 c. cocoa powder (or more)
dash of salt

Put the room temperature margarine in a bowl and blend until mushy. Add the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, cocoa, and soy milk and mix until frosting-y. Easy.

This has never failed for me. And I've made it without the cocoa for a basic vegan buttercream frosting (for Jane's yellow VW Bug-shaped birthday cake I made on her 2nd birthday).

I got this recipe from, by the way. A great source for vegan and vegetarian recipes.

And my chocolate cake recipe (vegan) is very similar to your wacky cake recipe--just not all mixed in the pan. It's so good; people have no idea that it's vegan.

Clarissa said...

thanks for the recipe, Sarah. I'm definitely going to try it.

as for the VW bug cake, did you use a mold for that? If you did, I'd be interested in possibly borrowing it. A VW cake sounds like a must. Plus, Milo has a birthday coming up soon, an event I'll most certainly need to make a cake for.

I have a train mold and a star mold - which I am more than willing to share!

Ms. Z said...

Hi Clarissa--
I did not have a mold for the VW bug cake. I baked a rectangular cake in a loaf pan. And I baked two 9-inch rounds. And I baked 4 cup cakes. I cut one of the rounds in half and stood the halves next to each other on the cut ends on top of the rectangular cake. Then I cut the other round into 4ths and set two 4ths side by side at either end of the rectangular cake with the half rounds on top of it. I put the cupcakes on their sides where the wheels would be. Then frosted it all yellow with chocolate on the wheels and some purple for details. And a big number 2 shaped candle on top. I'll email you a picture of it.

It was a fun challenge to figure out how to make it. I was pleased that it worked, even if it did look kind of rough. And Jane didn't eat a bit of it (as I expected--she didn't like sweets until recently, and she's not that big of a fan still). But she did like looking at the cake!

I'll remember that you've got the train and star molds... have you seen Williams Sonoma's train mold that they have out this season? Makes a fabulous train--several different cars and all.