my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

November 6, 2012

let's talk birthdays and cake

so i happen to have a large nuclear family, with a random assortment of hangers-on. that fact means many things logistically. first and foremost, it means that the holidays are absolutely nuts. who we're spending which holiday with and when and how long we will be staying, it gets a little crazy. vacations are equally complicated. and birthdays, birthdays are the worst.

the problem with birthdays, as in my kids' birthdays, is that our random family is spread far across the state. so to have a huge party with all the family is complicated. it means that one side or the other will have to travel. my side doesn't have a problem traveling up town, but there aren't many good places for parties around where my in-laws live that can easily (and cheaply) accommodate so many. my parents have the space to have everybody, but not everybody is able to travel so far so, what with kids in school and people working weekends. the solution (which i hate) is that we end up having separate parties for the kids. i didn't always envision myself as a mom, but when i did, i always wanted to have all my family from both sides together to celebrate all the important times in my children's lives. and that just doesn't happen often.

but there is a plus about having such a large conglomeration of people that i get to call family, many people means many birthdays. and in my mind, a birthday is just a good excuse for cake (like i really need a good excuse). but this post happens to be about an epic cake i recently made for a joint party for my sister and one mom, so let's talk about that.

i wanted this cake to be special, and i was scouring recipes, looking for the perfect one. and then i asked my sis lots of random questions about her cake preferences. i know she doesn't like chocolate and peanut butter together, because she's crazy like that, but i also found out she doesn't have a sprinkle preference. who doesn't have a sprinkle preference? she's the first i've found. she also said she prefers vanilla cake to chocolate, which gave me a good starting point.

now i know i've talked about how i like to use cake mixes before. and vanilla cake is a kind that you can find very good mixes for. but i wanted this cake to be special, so i started researching vanilla cake recipes online. i found many, some very complicated, some much simpler, but the unifying quality in all the highest rated recipes was that they all used cake flour. which was fine by me, because this was just the excuse i needed to buy cake flour for the first time.

then, after settling on the vanilla cake recipe i was going to use, i started searching for filling and icing recipes. i knew the outside would be covered with chocolate cookie crunchies, because i had a bunch left over from the ice cream cake i made for my sister's wedding (which will be discussed in another post), and i needed to use them up. so i decided to try and make a chocolate filling of sorts. i found a recipe for a chocolate pastry cream which seemed well within my skill level, and i made that. it was delicious, and only after it was done did i realize it was also basically homemade chocolate pudding.

i wanted something a little different for the icing. because the filling was so sweet, and i didn't know how sweet the actual cake would be, i wanted something tangier for the frosting. so of course that meant making a cream cheese icing. and because i can't leave well enough alone, i added some melted white chocolate while it was beating, because i wanted a hint of chocolate in the icing to compliment the chocolate filling on the inside and the chocolate crunchies on the outside.

overall, the cake was a hit. because i wasn't paying attention, i ended over baking the cake layers, and they were a little dry. the combination of the frosting and the cookie crunchies produced a taste just like an oreo, so that might be something i'll try to replicate in the future. because it ended up being three layers, with all the filling and everything else, it was a very rich cake, and could have easily served 20. all in all, i call it a success.

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