Sunday, March 16, 2008

it's all about the cake.

I had a few comments about the cake my mom and I made for Csilla's birthday party, so I thought I'd share the details.

First, the mouth-watering pictures for those of you who missed it:

(Click to see them bigger.)

Now, the story behind the cake:

First, the design was very loosely inspired (and pathetically interpreted) by one of my favourite shows called Ace of Cakes on Food Network. Check out the incredible masterpieces at Chef Duff's web site Charm City Cakes. Now those are some amazing cakes!

To make the wacky decoration on top, I bought some floral wire at Michael's, which I wound around a pop can to get a nice even curl. I wrapped the ribbon around the place where I duct-taped the three wires together in the center (yes, duct tape!) I strung a few beads to hang from the wires. The wires themselves were stuck into the cake inside a very heavy-duty floral tube (you know the ones you get around gerber daisy stems?) If I hadn't done this, the wire would probably have cut through the cake and fallen over.

I have to say, one of my secret fantasy jobs is to be a cake decorator. This might seem unusual for those of you who know me, because I have no interest whatsoever in spending time in the kitchen. I can make food that tastes quite good, especially Hungarian food, which really pleases my husband, but I can't say that I'm passionate about preparing food. I love to eat it, but I'm not so excited about making it.

Cakes, however, are another story. I love to decorate cakes. The cake we made for Csilla's birthday party this year was actually pretty half-assed when it comes to cakes around here. I've made some relatively elaborate cakes in my day. I even made a wedding cake for a friend. If you're interested, I could probably hunt around and find a picture of it. I think my brother (who I think secretly reads my blog) may have a copy.

Gord - if you read this, can you send me a picture of V&H's wedding cake?

Let's just say it involved a lot of chocolate curls and strawberries.

Moving on.

Csilla's birthday cake this year was rather lame by my standards, but we we've been sick around here and I just wasn't up to it.

Now here's the secret. The cake itself was a Duncan Hines pre-packaged cake mix. Eeeeeek! And it tasted great. Seriously.

The day before Csilla's originally scheduled birthday party, I was supposed to be making her birthday cake, but instead I was sick as a dog, so my wonderful mother rushed home on her lunch hour and threw together a couple of good old Duncan Hines cake mixes and baked them up.

Shortly thereafter Csilla barfed and the whole party was called off.

The cakes my mom baked that day got wrapped up in several layers of cling wrap and several plastic bags and were stuck in the freezer. Yes. The freezer. Cake actually freezes amazingly well and thaws beautifully without any loss of moisture of flavour (just so long as you wrap it up well and don't leave it in the freezer too long). Anyone who has saved the top layer of their wedding cake for their first anniversary may already know this.

Two weeks later, when Csilla's rescheduled birthday party rolled around, we thawed the cakes and iced them up and voila! Birthday cake. Yum yum.

The icing doesn't glide onto a previously frozen cake as easily as a fresh one, but if you do a 'crumb coat' and stick it in the fridge for a while, and then come back to add a second layer of icing, it will actually turn out pretty well.

Speaking of icing, the lovely yummy chocolatety stuff you see in the photos above was made from a thirty-year-old recipe out of Bon Appetit magazine. This is the family's no-fail chocolate icing recipe.

If Csilla and I hadn't been sick on cake baking day, the plan was to bake the cake from the same Bon Appetit recipe that goes with the icing. It is also an amazing no-fail super delicious yummy cake that I love.

Now that I've talked them up so much, here are the recipes.

(Just for you Sandy. Hi! Hope all's well in Belgium.)

I don't know if there is some sort of copywrite on a recipe like this, so I'll do my duty and at least link to Bon Appetit magazine. I'm not making any money off this post, so I figure who cares.


2-¼ cups all-purpose flour
1-¾ cups sugar
¾ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup milk
4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate melted
1-½ teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp salt
¾ cups milk
3 eggs
1-¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 9-inch layer cake pans. Sift flour into large bowl. Add sugar, butter, ¾ cup milk, chocolate, baking soda and salt, and beat with electric mixer 2 minutes at medium speed. Add remaining milk, eggs, baking powder and vanilla and beat 2 minutes more. Pour into prepared pans and bake in middle of oven for 30 minutes, or until cake tests done and has pulled away slightly from the side of the pan. Allow to cool completely on racks. Frost cake when it is cool.

Numerous servings.

[Edit - Hilarious Sandy. Thanks for noticing. Oooooooopps!!! I totally cut and paste the same recipe twice. Duh! Here's the correct one, and it's delicious. I should really send you a prize for spotting a mistake like that. Although, I guess the recipe is prize enough. Hardi har har.]


6 to 8 ounces (6 to 8 squares) unsweetened chocolate
¾ cup butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
6 tbsp strongly brewed coffee *
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Soften chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling water. Stir in remaining ingredients. Place in top of a double boiler in a bowl of ice and beat the frosting with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches a spreading consistency. *Creme de Cacao or water may be substituted for coffee.

Enough to ice a triple layer cake.

That's about it. Enjoy!

[Edit - Ah-ha! I knew my brother read my blog. Here's a picture of V&H's wedding cake that I made. Sorry for the horrid photo. Taken in our refrigerator no less. Yikes!]


Corey~living and loving said... now I am really starting to think we are long lost soul sisters. I LOVE that show. love love love it. WOW! I'm alittle disappointed you didn't use any powertools to make your cake....sigh.....

okay, but as much as I WANT to make good cakes.....I stink at it. tee hee

Jan said...

Holy Yum fest. Thanks for the eye candy literally. I did really like that cake of Csillas. I am so glad I have the know how. The cake that you brother secretly sent is way over the top of desire. Love it. I love duck tape and think it will save the world someday. I think it holds the secrets to life. Keep up the talent on this one. Hungarian food sounds interesting as well. I am going to have to check some of those recipes online.

softinthehead said...

Thanks for the recipe and decoration instructions. Now see I would have just stuck the wire in the cake and then spent the next few hours cursing under my breath as it kept falling over :) This has made me very hungry and I don't think the usual bran flakes are going to cut it!

Kaycie said...

Beautiful cakes. When I was a teenager, I think about 14, I took a class in cake decorating and candy making taught by a mother's friend at our county vo-tech school. Those skills have served me well my entire life.

I actually prefer to ice a cake that's been frozen. I always use a crumb coat, so that may be part of it.

That wedding cake is beautiful.

Carolyn said...

Jan - My favourite Hungarian dish in the whole world is something called hortobagyi palacsinta. Maybe I'll share Balazs' grandfather's super secret recipe on my blog one day soon.

Jules said...

I'm humongously impressed. The chocolate looks like it it TO DIE FOR. You are one talented cook.

Thanks for sharing. Now I think I need to search out my hidden stash of Easter Chocolates 'cause I feel a MOMENT coming on.

sandyjgrant said...

Ok, why am I the only one to notice that your icing recipe is the same as the cake recipe? I guess I'm the only one that wants to steal the recipe in the coming week :)
I secretely want to quit my over-paying job and become a cake decorator too. My mom says I don't have enough creativity or patience, which is true, but what about passion? That must count for something! Thanks for the recipes...will try it out this weekend!

Carolyn said...

Here's the correct recipe Sandy. Hope it works for you!

Note - humidity may play a slight factor in the icing. Sometimes I have to add a bit more icing sugar to get it as thick as I want it.

Also, if children will be eating it, you may want to cut back on the coffee in the icing a bit.

Happy Birthday to Clara and enjoy the cake!

Leslie F. Miller said...

That's an amazing cake. Gorgeous. I could never do anything like this. I could make it taste good, but it would never look this good.