I am sooooooo done with cake.
This last part of the month is like my version of Super Bowl week, only times two. There’s official birthday number one, then a family birthday party (where we also celebrate my niece’s October birthday), then a kids birthday party, then the official birthday number two. Then Halloween. It’s all enough to drive a person batty, or into a sugar-induced coma, or both.
The seismic birthday activity peaked this past weekend, with two parties scheduled, one with family on Saturday and one with kids on Sunday.
For these two birthday extravaganzas, over the course of the weekend, I baked a total of 5 two-layer mini-cakes and 2 dozen cupcakes. Yes, why not dive right in from non-cooking to full-throttle cooking? It’s the way of Amy.
Why did I choose to bake the cakes myself rather than buy them? It’s a question my husband tactfully posed to me and one that I also tend to ask myself midway through the process each year (as in, what the hell was I thinking?).
But then, the next year, the mental slate is wiped clean and I rationalize it to myself saying, well, I like to bake. They’re easy to make. They’re cheaper than buying cakes from the store. And, since the kids birthdays are so close together, they inevitably share parties. The least I can do is to give them each their own cake, right? Riiiight.
To preserve my stamina and sanity, I had to prepare these in stages.
- On Friday, I made the three cakes for Saturday’s family party – two devils food cakes and one yellow cake.
- On Saturday, I frosted the three cakes, and baked the cupcakes for Sunday’s kid party.
- On Sunday, I frosted the cupcakes, baked two more cakes and frosted them too.
In the process, I went through four cake mixes, over a bottle of vanilla, a bag and a half of powdered sugar and over two cups of cocoa powder. That’s a personal record.
The first set of cakes went pretty well, with a few stumbles along the way. I bought a new oven thermometer to gauge the calibration of our new range and, even though the oven dial was set to 350 degrees, the thermometer read 450. I filled the pans too full, so the layers were freakishly tall.
And the Fluffy Chocolate Frosting that I made didn’t live up to its name. I’ve made this recipe several times now and it tends to be floppy rather than fluffy. It’s not the most elegant looking frosting, but I continue to make it because of its fudgy taste.
I took the boxed mix shortcut just because I had so many cakes to make at once; I really do prefer scratch cakes. There’s a big texture difference between cake mix cakes and cakes made from scratch; using cake flour produces a finer, more tender crumb. Also, I think cakes made with butter simply taste better than the vegetable oil-based cakes.
So I decided to make the cakes from scratch for Sunday’s party.
Frosting is one of those things that always should be made from scratch too. The kids were going to decorate cupcakes at the kids birthday party, so I planned to make a cooked seven-minute style white frosting. Plus I wanted to take another go at the chocolate frosting and see if I could get it to fluff up more this time.
My hand mixer only had three settings, but I knew I needed more power. Time to break out the big guns and use the stand mixer.
A lot of bakers, their mixers only go to 10. But where can you go from there? NOWHERE. My mixer goes to 11.
Recipes to follow in tomorrow’s post…