Do you remember when a new cuddly cub was born and we welcomed him home from the hospital with Teddy Bear Cupcakes? Well, my friends, that was one year ago. I know—I can’t believe it either. Boy does time fly. Our little one is scampering around, pulling himself up on every piece of furniture, teasing us, laughing his head off at just about anything, wooing us with his dimple, his sparkling blue eyes, his tiny-toothed grin and charming personality. He is a snuggler by nature and when he buries his head into my collar I am smitten. (Geez–I am a sappy and nostalgic wreck these days!)
I was elated when the parents asked me to make the birthday cake for his carnival party. I tend to get so overly excited about projects like this that it is nearly impossible for me to settle on a recipe. I think my favorite part about baking is that the possibilities are endless! The colors, the flavors, the textures! A slight variation in one and you end up with a completely different product. So many decisions, so many options! My mind was BURSTING with ideas!
Strawberry curd filling, no lemon curd, no kids don’t like lemon, but parents do, no I should do strawberry, but aren’t there a lot of strawberry allergies in kids these days? Peanut butter! Kids love peanut butter! That’s it; I have to incorporate peanut butter! But what about peanut allergies? Damn allergies! Well how about cookies inside the layers of the cake? Both adults and kids like cookies! But I just made cookies inside a cake…twice…
Oh dear. I needed to real myself in and make some decisions if the cake were going to be made in time.
Here’s what I knew:
- I wanted this cake to be moist–It was incredibly important to me that this cake be moist. In my opinion that is the most important advantage that home-made cakes have over store bought cakes. Who cares how pretty a cake appears if it goes down like tree moss!?
- I wanted this cake to have a unique filling–I did not want to use plain old frosting as the filling.
- I wanted this cake to be frosted in white with primary color accents–Carnival was the theme of the party and though I love chocolate frosting (Hershey’s recipe is my latest favorite) it just wouldn’t be right to serve a brown cake amidst the bright yellow, green, blue and red decorations. However, I don’t have a butter cream recipe that I love and Wilton’s recipe, though tried and true by many, kind of scares me.
And those led to these decisions:
- Butter cake. Except, to ensure the moistness factor, I replaced half of the granulated sugar with brown sugar.
- Chocolate pudding filling. Everyone loves chocolate pudding!
- Trust Wilton–kind of. I used Wilton’s “butter cream” as a guide but replaced half of the shortening with butter and the water with heavy cream.
- Success on officially the largest cake I have ever made! (I used two 15-inch pans.)
- A very odd-colored cake. I wish I remembered to take a photo. Because of the extra brown sugar, the color of the cake was probably the least appealing aspect. It was a dull beige–not at all the happy yellow birthday cake we see in cookbooks. Guests were really intrigued and many people asked what kind of cake it was…and, what was that flavor that they just couldn’t put their finger on?
- MOIST. The moistness factor was off the charts. Mission accomplished.
- Decent frosting. I love how it spread nice and smoothly and did not melt even after sitting outside on a warm day for several hours. (Thanks Crisco!) I am just warming up to the Wilton frosting concept but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that in this case the frosting worked pretty well.
- Lots of compliments. People are so nice! Everyone really seemed to enjoy the cake! And at the end of the day, that is, after all, what the idea is!
(I doubled the below recipe for each 15-inch pan. As-is, this recipe yields enough batter for two 8 or 9-inch cakes)
- shortening and flour for pan prep
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 8 oz. sour cream
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Rub shortening on the bottom of cake pans. Sprinkle with flour. Set aside.
Combine melted butter and sour cream in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add sugars and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs; beat 2 minutes or until well blended.
Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Sharply tap pan once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 F for 27-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
Chocolate Pudding (filling):
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 9 ounces (2 cups) chopped semi-sweet and milk chocolate
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until blended. Combine milk and cream in medium saucepan, and cook over medium heat until hot. Gradually pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula, for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats the spatula or until a thermometer reads 180°. Remove saucepan from heat. Add chocolate, and let stand 10 seconds; whisk until smooth. Transfer chocolate cream to a clean bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours.
Frosting (I made this recipe about three times for this cake):
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon meringue powder (this stuff is a little weird…)
Cream together shortening and butter using an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Add confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time and continue to beat with mixer. Add cream and meringue powder. Add more confectioners’ sugar or more cream to reach desired consistency.
Place first cake layer on cake board. Pipe a thick layer of frosting around the entire edge of cake. Scoop one big even layer of pudding onto cake. Top with second cake. Frost top and sides of cake for crumb coat. Place entire cake in fridge for at least 10 minutes. Finish frosting cake with another thick layer of frosting and decorate with piped frosting.
Cake for the guests + cake for the birthday boy!
The birthday boy’s cake before!
The birthday boy’s cake after!