Last year when my dad turned * discernible age ending in a zero* years old Eric and I had just moved to the east coast and were just getting settled into our new surroundings. We didn’t manage to make our way back to Winnipeg and had to settle for well wishes over Skype. This year, when he turned *discernible age plus one* years old and had a new grand daughter to meet, Skype wasn’t going to do. This, I saw as an opportunity; I was going to make one fantastic theme cake for my dad, complete with real looking but edible ice made out of sugar and iced cakes that looked like beer cans. I drew up a plan. I made a list of ingredients that had to be bought. I presented my plan to my loving husband who would surely exclaim how awesome the idea was and offer his support in any way possible. His response to my plans?
So much for support. “Why not make something tasty and simple?” I shot back with the fact that it would be tasty. And simple? My dad deserved more than just ‘simple’. Nope, I was dead set on making a beautiful cake my dad would be proud to say was his, made just for him, by his daughter. Funny how plans have a way of being flipped on their heads.
Now would be a good time to draw attention to the fact that Eric and I became first time parents in July, being blessed with our beautiful daughter Ella. It’s also a good time to mention that Ella is being sustained on breast milk. That she gets from me. Any time she demands it. And does she ever DEMAND it.
With the party being on Sunday afternoon, I waited until Saturday to start baking all the cakes. The plan was to bake two 9 inch pans of Chocolate Coffee cake, a pan of chocolate cookies and vanilla cupcakes. The Chocolate Coffee cakes did get completed, using the recipe below, adapted from a recipe found at allrecipes.com
| 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar or 1 1/2 cups sugar plus 1/2 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
| 2 eggs
1 cup strong brewed coffee (instant works very well and has a good bitter taste)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil (olive oil gives a nuttier taste and canola lets the coffee and chocolate come out)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your pans. I used two 9 inch round pans, but you can use any pans you like.
- Mix together all the dry ingredients or everything on the left hand side of the page (minus the apple sauce if you’re using that version). If there are any clumps of sugar or cocoa, put the mixture through a sifter or use your hand to break up the lumps. Yes, it’s tedious but totally worth it when you don’t have big bitter lumps of cocoa floating in your cake.
- Make a well in the middle and pour in the rest of the ingredients. I usually crack the eggs into a measuring cup before pouring them in, just in case some bits of shell fall in.
- Mix everything together for at least two minutes or until everything is combined and you have a very runny mixture. (Electric mixer is the easiest here.)
- Pour the mixture into your pans and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
The mixing, pre heating and pouring into pans should take maybe 15 or 20 minutes, half and hour if you’re really taking your time. It took me about 45 minutes thanks to a feeding pause. The baking was also perfectly timed. If you can imagine me sitting in the kitchen feeding Ella as I guide my dad in checking if his birthday cake is done. The man helped to make his own birthday cake. It was at about that moment when Eric’s suggestion kept echoing in my head. Simple. Tasty and simple.
The next morning, decorating was attacked as a team effort. Ella was fed until she was drunk off breast milk and promptly snuggled into her stroller at which point Eric carted her off for an hour long walk. I was free to create something beautiful. Simple, but beautiful.
First order was to mix up some whipped cream. Using electric hand beaters, I whipped the cream, adding hazelnut coffee creamer for added flavour. The ratio was about 1 cup whipped cream to 1/4 cup coffee creamer but you can adjust it according to your sweet tooth. The tops of the cakes were cut to be level surfaces and one was placed onto a stand and covered with about a quarter of an inch of whipped cream. For a little extra something, I cut up a package of Kit Kat and sprinkled them onto the whipped cream. After putting the second cake on top the whole cake was covered with whipped cream.
To decorate the cake, I blended two more packages of Kit Kat to something that looked like course sand and then used my hand to cover the sides of the cake.
I did have to go around the cake several times, gently putting the crumbs on, just to get the coverage I was looking for. Also, since it was already on the stand, I had to use my spatula to brush off the extra crumbs that fell and piled up at the bottom.
My mom offered a brilliant last minute detail by running out to the garden and picking out some edible flowers. The purple ones are pansies and the orange one (my favourite) is a Nasturtium.
Since this was a birthday cake for my dad, I wanted it to actually say “Happy Birthday”. Originally, I had planned on using food markers to write on the cake, but that wasn’t possible because of the whipped cream. Instead I used raspberry flavoured Plate Scrapers. As you can see in the photo below, it is a bit runny and does make the lettering look like it’s bleeding. Not the ideal look for a birthday cake, but might work quite well for Halloween baking.
Bleeding lettering aside, the cake was very moist, even a couple days after the party. A few people commented that it tasted like there was alcohol in it (which there was not) but that was likely because of the hazelnut flavouring. I was just happy that my dad enjoyed his birthday cake.
The smiles were because of my mom demanding that we smile.
Simple. Definitely sweet. Perfect for my first cake while tending to a two month old.
Until next time,