Friday, September 11, 2009

Grandma's 80th Birthday Cake

Well, here is the blog post I promised you all in my last post. So it's been, like, a month, but whatever. Haha! Anyhoo, this whole thing started with me volunteering to do my grandmother's birthday cake. In the long run, I want to eventually do wedding cakes. Well, at least on the side. But I don't have any experience, per se. We did some decorating in school and I've seen my boss do dozens of wedding cakes at work, but I decided I should do an actual, for real, full-scale cake for practice. What I did is a little elaborate for a birthday cake, but it was "fun" and definitely an experience. The quotations will make sense later, I promise. : )

So, for the actual cake, I decided to use a family recipe for "Best Chocolate Cake". That is the actual title for the recipe. I wasn't really sure how the cake would work in layers, since we usually just bake it in a 9"x13" pan and throw some frosting on it. Some cakes are better for layers and some are....not. It has to do with how moist it is, how crumbly, etc. So that was a challenge. The bottom layer was to be German Chocolate Cake and the top, cream cheese-filled. Family favorites. Three layers of cake, two layers of filling. Buttercream-covered, ribbon on the top of each layer, piped "pearls" over the ribbon, blah blah blah. Well, from the beginning my biggest obstacle was...the fridge. Sounds strange, but I could only make a cake as big as the fridge would allow. My parents have a side-by-side fridge, which is fine for everything else EXCEPT a large cake. So, I figured out how big it it could be and went from there. I had already bought round cake pans from a lady in my mom's ward, but I only had one pan of the larger size. Oh, and I didn't know what to multiply the cake recipe by. I think I did a double batch to begin with and that made 2 small cake's worth and the one large cake, which is fine, but it meant making another for that last large layer. Whatever. Anyway, I made those cakes Sunday night (the party was Monday night). I had work off Monday, so that is what I was doing. THE CAKE!

So! Monday morning, I had every intention of waking up at 8am to finish that last cake. didn't happen. I got up about 10am and did the cake, stuck it in the fridge. Then I made the cream cheese filling. My mom was kind enough to get the stuff ready for the german icing, so I did that next and stuck it in the fridge to cool. We normally pour it right onto the cake, but as a filling, it had to be cooler and more...solid. Yup. So I filled the smaller layer and put it in the fridge. Oh, and I forgot I had the made the buttercream the night before. Now, that was and experience. I had taken a recipe from work and cut it down by, I think, a fourth, but as I whipped the egg whites while adding the cooked sugar, I began to realize just wouldn't fit. Whoops. So I poured some of it into my mom's mixer (the rest remained in my mixer) and continued to whip the meringue until cool. Blah blah blah. I then had to figure out how to divide the butter so I could add it to the meringue, since it wasn't exactly even in each mixer, but once that was done and added in, I think I put it all back into my mixer to whip until smooth. I stuck that in the fridge over night and then pulled it out before I made the last cake so it would be warm enough the use.
Anyhoo, I filled the smaller cake, put it in the fridge, eventually cut the last cake, filled THAT layer and did a crumb layer for both, which is a thin layer of frosting that hopefully will prevent crumbs from getting in the final layer of frosting. More blah. Well, that was done and I finally looked at the clock...and freaked. My timeline was WAY off!! I needed more time!! Well, I just pressed on and frosted the cake. The plan was to do the frosting layer, cool it, and then "square it off", meaning make the top and sides smooth and straight with a sharp corner. Much easier to do when the frosting is more solid. But I didn't have time, so I squared it the best that I could and put it back in the fridge. We were leaving at 6 or so, and it was very nearing 5:30, so I got dressed and faced the music. This cake wasn't going to turn out like I hoped. But, once again, I did what I could and dove back in. I assembled the cake, with some difficulty, and using straws pushed through the bottom layer for stability, and put the ribbon on. I started to do the pearls, but time was up. So, we folded the middle seat down, placed the cake on it, and attempted to finish the cake en route to the restaurant, Biaggi's. It was located downtown at the Gateway, which gave me time, but speed bumps, pot holes, stop lights, and everything in between made it difficult to keep my hand steady enough to use a piping bag. Well, somehow I got it done, mostly in a hurried manner once we had parked in front of the restaurant. I carried it in and quickly typed "Happy 80th" on the top. I was DONE!! Definitely not how I wanted it to turn out, but not bad for a first big cake.

So, there you have it. Everyone enjoyed eating the cake and the party as a whole was a success!! I learned a lot, mostly "what NOT to do" things, But it was "fun". (You got the quotations now? I thought so.) I'm not sure anyone will read this, or if they did, if they enjoyed it or even thought it worth reading, but at least it's out there. For posterity...or something. Whew! And THAT is why I rarely blog. That took FOREVER. Well, ta ta for now!