Friday, July 4, 2008

Birthday Cake: The Fall and the Redemption

If your browser doesn't like photos, look away now. This is a soap opera in photo-vision, about my trials and tribulations during my quest to make Andrew's birthday cake... *sob*.

Okay, yes, total overacting. But I told you it was a soap opera. Let's start at the beginning, shall we? I wrote about this particular recipe before (ironically, similar results, go figure) but this time instead of little tasting cakes I made the Full Monty version: a double-decker 9" masterpiece. Or sort of. As you can see (both in this post and yesterday's), the cake part wasn't too happy about coming out of the (well-greased and floured) pans. Sigh. I debated trashing it and running out for a cake mix, but no, this was Andrew's birthday cake and you only turn 21 once, he needs a special treat. So says my brain. So, Plan Massive Salvage Attempt was born. I stacked and crumb-coated the layers last night while fighting tears of depression and frustration, then stuck the ugly beast into the fridge while I recuperated. By the time I got around to the second icing layer (AKA "The Reconstruction"), I was feeling a bit better and a little bit more creative.

Slowly, the sagging, bowed-in sides of the cake evened out and became creamy white (and anyone with a heart - who wants it to stay beating - probably doesn't want to know how much "cement" that took to pull off), the sparsely frosted, cracked top got a delicious cookie-crumb buttercream hat, and back into the fridge the beast went to set while I cleaned up, made a cheesecake (um, yeah... I was up to my eyeballs in sugar and white chocolate today) and got my gear together for Stage III of Plan Massive Salvage Attempt - the decoration.

Now, professional cake decorator I am not (I don't even know how I got through that part at George Brown College - compassionate professor, no doubt), but I preserved and wrangled my piping bag and star tip to form some borders on the upper and lower edges of the (now thoroughly chilled) cake. If nothing else, the borders covered up the bits and pieces of the cake edges that my knife missed on the first and second base coats, and gave me a "glue" for the final touch - halved dark chocolate wafers marking the cake into 12 slices. Looking at it now, it's like a tarantula, but with luck those eating it will be too blissed out on their sugar-highs to care.

This was a fun learning experience, if nothing else, and thanks to Andrew for letting me make (and butcher, and reconstruct) his 21st birthday cake. I've made notes for the next time I do cake:
  1. Crumb coats are tricky at the time, but make the rest of the frosting SO MUCH EASIER later.
  2. Palette knives are optional (I used a plain old butter knife - what a $12 waste that palette knife was!).
  3. However, some sort of piping bag (even a Ziploc with a snipped corner) is not. Piped borders can cover all!
  4. Chill, chill, chill. Both the cake and you. Repeatedly.
  5. If all else fails, add chocolate. Nothing beats chocolate.
  6. It's cake. Not the end of the world. You can hide the evidence, or (like me) post it on Flickr, your FaceBook page and your blog for the world to see.

So, here's the recipe again, updated as per my experiences, for those of you who missed the cupcake saga (though do take a gander at that as well, since the photography is better). The frosting job I did is as follows:

- In between layers, a thin base of vanilla frosting followed by a layer of chocolate cookie frosting.
- Plain vanilla crumb coat all over.
- Cookie crumb frosting for top final layer.
- Sides and borders done in plain vanilla

Torta Stracciatella Alla Andrew
Serves 12
8 oz high-quality white chocolate, chopped
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
¾ cup broken (not crushed) chocolate cookie wafers (like Mr. Christies)
A LOT of buttercream frosting (I used a combo of homemade and - gasp! - canned [I added the crumbs to this])

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. Melt the white chocolate, being careful not to scorch it. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Separately, cream the shortening and white sugar.
  5. Beat in the melted white chocolate, the applesauce and the vanilla.
  6. Mix the cream, buttermilk and water together.
  7. In three additions, with electric beaters, alternately beat the flour mixture and the milk mixture into the creamed mixture.
  8. Beat only until just smooth.
  9. Fold in cookie chunks by hand. The batter will be THICK.
  10. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  11. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tests done. Allow to cool thoroughly before frosting.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 696.4
Total Fat: 29.7 g
Cholesterol: 31.9 mg
Sodium: 85.7 mg
Total Carbs: 103.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 5.7 g


  1. What a GORGEOUS "save"!! The final version is beautiful and looks totally delicious--and no one would ever know ;)

  2. nice job i hope it didnt make you over stress to much. you didnt need to do it for me if it was gonna take you to your limit but i really appreciate it ... thank you and i LOVE YOU

  3. Fabulous - glad that it all worked out, and that you've discovered that icing covers a multitude of sins / mistakes. ;)


Thanks for the feedback!