Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grandma's Birthday Cake

Let me tell you a tragic, yet triumphant tale.  A couple of weekends ago, Cady and I made a beautiful golden layer cake with chocolate icing.  It took most of the afternoon to bake and frost.  When it was finished, I decorated it with raspberries around the edge and one in the center.

The party was at my house, so we had the cake on Cady's new (old) cake carrier.  When I got back to my house, I had to carry a bunch of stuff into the house, including the cake.  In hindsight, I should have made two trips.  I think you know where this story is going now...

As I turned to shut my car door, the bottom of the cake carrier gave way and before I knew it, I had a four-layer perfect cake upside down on my drive way.  It took one blood-curdling scream before my mom was running out of the door to my aid.  Somehow, she managed to pick up three and a half layers and plop it back down onto the cake carrier.

Of course I didn't have a picture of the before cake, but I do have a picture of the after cake.  Mom was able to run to the store and get a basic yellow cake mix and make a half layer, in order to refrost the top.  The cake was a little bit more slanted and smashed than it was originally, but my grandma thought it looked beautiful.

"It was never on our driveway," I told her with a wink.

Golden Layer Cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Let butter, eggs, and milk stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Butter, line with waxed paper, butter, and flour four 9" round cake pans.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, beating until well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in salt and vanilla.  Combine flour and baking powder.  Alternately add with milk to butter mixture.  Spread batter in prepared pans using about 1 1/2 cups batter per pan.

Bake about 15 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched.  Cool in pans on wire rack for about five minutes.  Remove from pans; remove and discard wax paper.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Frost with chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing:

  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, cup up
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla

In a four to five quart dutch oven, stir together sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Add butter and milks.  Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Boil gently for four minutes, stirring often.  Clip candy thermometer to side of pan.  Reduce heat and cook to 230 degrees, stirring occasionally, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla.  Cool slightly without stirring for 20 minutes or until thermometer registers between 165 and 170 and icing begins to thicken to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.  Generously ice between layers and on top and sides of cake by pouring on some of the icing and spreading with an offset spatula.

We used store-bought icing and thank God!  We used 3 cans of it by the end, thanks to having to refrost the cake after I dropped it.  Also, don't forget to frost a thin layer first as the crumb coat and let stand for a while until it has hardened.  Then you can do the finishing touches to make it look nice.  With the above recipe, you don't actually need a crumb coat because it pours.

In the end, the cake tasted delicious and Grandma loved it, so that's all that matters.  And I've learned one valuable lesson: always hold the bottom of a cake carrier, even if you think it's secure.  Also, be sure to take a picture of your finished product before you haul it off somewhere.  It might suffer some damage in the travels.

*The recipe is from Better Homes & Gardens.

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