Friday, 28 August 2015

Erika’s Sweet 16 Birthday Cake


For those of you who have been hanging out with me, you know that my focus has been to share ways of eating better; my favourite family strategy of “hidden healthy” and to experiment with new to me plant based ingredients and recipes. SPOILER ALERT!! There are absolutely no veggies in this post and ALOT refined white sugar too! But since this is a post about birthday cake, I personally think its ok to indulge once and awhile… after all, it IS a celebration and we don’t eat cake every day!
It has been my tradition as a mom to make a special cake for both my daughters’ birthdays. Sadly this little tradition ended early for my oldest because she decided that she didn’t like cake. We changed to homemade ice cream cakes NOT made with cheap ice cream and fancied up with crumb crusts, fancy flavoursand add-ins like gummy bears, candy coated chocolate candies, chocolate chips, and candied fruit peelsNo DQ ice cream cakes in this house (had one once and I’m not a fan)My youngest, now turning 16 still LOVES cake and has decided that she is still not too old for a theme birthday cake. The tradition lives on!
Almost every year, I have made a different cake for her. When she was younger, I created a surprise theme cake for her parties including a bunny caketrain cake, and pool cake. Now, she tests my talents with her own requests.  2 years ago, she wanted a happy face cake; last year she asked for a frog cake; and this year, she asked for a cat cake with pink fur and blue spots if I can manage it.

Early on, in my mom career, I used to buy made at the store cakes and I used cake mixes too because I didn’t trust my baking abilities. I even used frosting out of a can... shhhhhhAs I learned more about my food supply and the factory kitchens, I adopted the credo, “if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t eat it” which is probably the reason that I try very hard to minimize my consumption of prepared foods. Gradually, year after year, I dropped a few more made for me products from my shopping list, opting to make them myself. One of the first items to get dropped was cake, and low and behold, I found out that with a good recipe and wholesome ingredients, cake, in any flavour, wasn’t so scary after all!  Nothing beats real ingredients when making food for your family!
If you want, you can always improve your homemade cake by selecting premium ingredients such as unbleached flour (organic if you can find it) to further reduce your chemical intake or Fair Trade ingredients to give your cake a social conscience. You can even give your cake a humane spin by using eggs, butter, and milk from pasture raised chickens and cows. However you want to improve your cake, the choice is yours.  Just remember, the most important thing you can do for yourself, and those that you love, is to make the cake yourself with real ingredients and whole lot of love!
White Vanilla Cake (a Work in Progress, inspired by Canadian Living)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar (try 1 1/2 cups next time; VERY sweet)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp. vanilla
4 cups sifted cake-and-pastry flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 

Measure the sifted flour into a medium bowl. Add the baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine.
Pour the milk, orange juice concentrate, and vanilla into a 2 cup measuring cup, whisk to combine.
In a large bowl, cream butter thoroughly; by hand, or with a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment
Add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat thoroughly between additions.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, continue to beat. Add 1/2 the milk mixture and beat till mixed in. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, beat to combine and then repeat with the milk and the remaining flour mixtures.
Fill your baking pan or pans no more than two thirds full, otherwise the cake batter will spill over the sides of the pan. If you have extra batter, quickly grease a few custard ramekins to make mini cakes. Again, do not feel more than two thirds full!
This will fill a 13 x 9 cake pan, OR TWO 9" round pans OR (probably) THREE 8" round pans. Make sure you don't fill more than 2/3 full otherwise the cake batter will overflow.
Today I used TWO 9" round pans and had extra batter so I filled 2 Medium ramekins and 2 small ramekins. My small ramekins overflowed because they were too full. Live and learn!
Bake the 13 x 9 cake for about 40 minutes, until golden, a cake tester comes out clean, and the cake springs back when touched. 
Bake 9 inch rounds for about 30 minutes; bake 8" foot about 25-30 minutes; bake mini ramekin mini cakes for about 20 minutes
Cool for 20 minutes in the baking pan, on a cooling rack. Remove from pan and completely cool on rack.
Continue with cake preparation or wrap thoroughly and freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Frosting Recipe 

My go to easy buttercream frosting recipe is by Canadian Living.  It is rather sweet but it spreads nicely and is super easy.
For my pink cat, I decided to try my hand at chemical free food colouring, one that is made from real food; nothing artificial. I have seen posts using cooked blueberry for purple, cooked beets for pinks; turmeric for yellows and matcha tea for greens. Today, I used raspberries that I cooked down and pressed through a jelly bag to remove the seeds and excess pulp, and then reduced a little more by simmering gently till slightly thickened. I was left with the most gorgeous red syrup.

I made my recipe according to the recipe and then set aside about 3/4 cup of frosting to keep white.  I added the raspberry syrup to the remaining frosting. to maintain the consistency, I added a few spoonful's of sifted icing sugar. The frosting picked up a subtle pink hue. Sadly, not as pink as I would have liked for my cake, so I ended up using a teensy bit of store bought food colouring gel to deepen the pink colour. Ah well! The frosting did change colour and it had a hint of raspberry flavour too which was quite lovely. If I had been making a regular layer cake and not one for a theme cake, the natural frosting would have been perfect. Next time, I will see if increasing the volume of raspberry syrup and thickening it a bit with cornstarch while cooking it will allow me to add more colour without diluting my frosting. I will keep you posted.


Making the Cat Cake

What You Need:

Pink Frosting for entire cake and ears
White frosting for cheeks, chine, eyes and whiskers (I set aside about 1 cup of white frosting before tintin
Licorice shoe string snipped super short for whisker dots, eye dots, and mouth
TWO round green wine gums, sliced thinly
3 Ice cream sandwich wafers (Bulk Barn) or large graham crackers, cut into triangles with a serrated knife - 2 large and 2 small for the contrast
ONE black wine gum or black jelly candy sliced thinly and cut into a small triangle for the nose

What To Do:

Ice your cake like you would for any layer cake with the pink frosting. Put short slits into the cake where you want the ears to go. Spread a little frosting on the bottom of the triangles and gently press into the slits you made.  Frost the ears, front and back. 

With the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, pat the icing all over to make the icing look "fluffy".

With a large piping tip, pipe 2 large cheeks, a chin, and 2 eyes.

Place nose above cheeks, insert the licorice mouth, and pipe the whiskers. Carefully place the whisker dots on the cheeks.

Gently press the green eyes on the piped eyes, and then then place the eye dots on.

Take the smaller triangles and gently press onto the ears for the contrast.

I hope you try your hand at making your own cake and frosting. With a little practice, you can accomplish anything, you just need the right ingredients, the right tools and a good recipe. The occasional treat, even high in refined sugar is SO much better for you than the chemical laden ones from Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker!