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Last Minute Birthday Cake


amapola
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Tomorrow a dear friend of us is having his birthday and we feel he deserves some special attention. So we want to show up at his doorstep with a good bottle of champagne, a friend he has not seen for years and, you guessed it, a home-baked birthday cake. I do not have a lot of time to shop for ingredients and bake the cake but I want it to be something a bit out of the ordinary. Since he is originally from the US, I was thinking it could be nice to make something typically American. I am well stocked up on basic cake ingredients and I also have a huge batch of candied lemon peel I made just a couple of days ago.

Do you have any suggestions on what might be appropriate and doable? Thanks!

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My husband's birthday is Thursday so we decided on a Sylvia Weinstock recipe that we love. I put the eggs in whole though, I do not separate them. And we are going to use a fruit compote on it topped with some whipped cream. Served more in a dessert style than birthday style.

But for a more birthday approach, I'd whip up some swiss meringue buttercream and make a filling out of the fruit. Bake the cakes in 8 inch pans and tort the layers and I'd also use a simple syrup Garnd Marnier splash on it too. Just squirt a little on each layer as it's assembled.

Then you can use the lemon peel for garnish. Before you said lemon peel I thought chocolate cake with chocolate icing all the way.

Raspberry filling from K8

I made one by putting a 10 oz bag of thawing frozen raspberries (from the grocery store freezer section) or use fresh into a heavy sauce pan with a peeled diced tart apple like a granny smith and one third cup of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice and brought to boil stirring often while cooking gently for about 15-20 mins.

*Then in a little cup mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water, then pour into bubbling fruit stuff stirring constantly for another two minutes.

Cool, puree in food processor and then strain out the seeds. Add almond extract if you want. Be sure to securely seal the edges of the filling with buttercream.

You can actually use any combination of berries.

This is not difficult and the fresh bursting taste is well worth the little bit extra effort. Enough for a quarter sheet. Yum Yum

*If your apples are nice & tart you can omit this step. It's insurance.

Maybe somthing like that??

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This Devil's Food Cake from Godiva/Chocolatier is outstanding and I've made it many times. My husband always requests it for his birthday. I never make the "Fluffy White Frosting," since I find that type of frosting too sweet, but I make extra filling (chocolate ganache), and use it to both fill and frost the cake.

CAUTION: If you make this cake, make sure you line the pans with parchment paper, buttered and dusted with flour or cocoa powder - I use cocoa powder. The recipe doesn't indicate do this, but should, since the cake layers are soooooo moist, they stick to the pans like glue - I found this out the hard way!

Obviously, you can use any high quality semi-sweet chocolate for the ganache - I never use Godiva. They have great recipes, but I don't like their chocolate. Also, although they indicate using "nonalkalized cocoa powder," I've used both natural and Dutched with equally good results.

DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE WITH FLUFFY WHITE FROSTING

http://www.godiva.com/recipes/recipe.aspx?id=518

Edited by merstar (log)
There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.
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A two or three layer cake with frosting would probably remind him of home. K8memphis' cake sounds nice and I think yellow cake wiht chocolate frosting might be more generally popular than the red velvet unless maybe he's a Southern boy!

I think a yellow cake with lemon curd filling and lemon buttercream frosting would be great! And of course the candied lemon peels would go well with it.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Boy I sure agree if you made me a yellow cake with lemon curd, lemon butter cream and freshly candied lemon peel on top I would hug you and cry with joy!!!!!!

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Now I really miss that cheap-ass lemon cake mix from childhood with the tub of lemon frosting

Yes lemon for sure, although chocolate with cream cheese frosting is tasty too

tracey

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This Devil's Food cake is outstanding and I've made it many times.

I second this recommendation. Devil's food cake or a fudge cake is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of an American-style cake. The more moist the better.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Thanks so much for all your quick responses and wonderful suggestions! I am going to make a couple of those cakes on other occasions (although the red velvet one scared me a bit, not the recipe but the actual cake itself...).

The three tings that stuck with me after reading all of your tips were Moist, Layers & Frosting. So here is what I did. I decided to stay away from chocolate for a change, it always seems to be the first and natural choice of cake with me and I wanted something different this time. K8, your suggestion immediately appealed to me; raspberries are among my favourite summer fruits and the yellow cake seemed pretty straightforward (in fact, it's quite similar to the very first cake recipe I was taught as a little girl, except that this one has sour cream in it).

So I baked the cake, cut it in three layers and splashed those with a mixture of equal parts syrup from the lemon peels and limoncello. I cooked a raspberry puree (without apple and I didn't sieve out the seeds because I was pressed for time) and layered the cake with it. Then I wanted to try my hand at Swiss meringue lemon butter cream, something I had never made before. Typical, trying to do something like that when in fact I don't even have the time to sieve my fruit puree... I got off to a good start though; heating up egg whites with sugar didn't prove difficult or scary at al and whipping them also was a cinch.

And then the classic under-pressure-worst-nightmare came true: my electric hand mixer isn't very good so I was struggling to keep it working the meringue and then- I don't know exactly how- the beater managed to slip out of the bowl, taking half of its contents with it and transferring them to my kitchen, all over the just-washed dishes, worktop, wall... :shock: I took three deep breaths, scraped the remaining egg whites in the bowl together and just, well, got on with it because time was running out. To make things even more frustrating, when I was about halfway adding the butter, the mixture started to curdle and clump and go all horrible. I had read somewhere that there's no need for panic when that happens, 'just keep on whisking and things will come together into a beautifully smooth substance'. Uh- no. The more I whisked, the less the cream stayed together. :angry: Finally, after a few of the longest moments I have ever spent in the kitchen, I took a spoon and started to gently stir rather than vigorously whisk. To my great relief, that helped. I managed in the end to get the creamy smoothness back and I even got a good slug of lemon juice in ok.

There wasn't any time left for careful decorating so I just slapped on the frosting and randomly dropped some lemon peels on top. Then I packed the whole thing in the big plastic tub that I normally use for kneading dough and tied it to the back of my bicycle to transport it through half of the city, in the rain (this IS Amsterdam, after all).

Top shot of the just-finished cake:

gallery_50634_4617_591006.jpg

My friend absolute loved it. He was so touched that I had gone through the trouble of making it; he had never had someone make him a cake like that from scratch. He was especially thrilled by the crunch the raspberry seeds added :blink: and he couldn't believe I had candied the lemon peel myself because it 'tasted so expensive'. (uhm... maybe expensive stuff just tastes a bit less artificial than cheap crap...? I tried to explain...) And this morning he phoned to tell me that he had had breakfast with the leftovers and they tasted even better now that the cake had been refrigerated- he just got swept of his feet by the moist cake and the now chilled frosting :wub:

Layers!

gallery_50634_4617_717800.jpg

I thoroughly enjoyed trying something new and completely different than what I am accustomed to and on the whole, I was quite satisfied with the way the cake came out. The flavour was superb, the combo of the almost overly sweet frosting and cake work really well with the tangy raspberries and lemon. I totally agree that the extra effort for the filling is worth it more than all the way, without that it would have been a rather bland and simply sweet cake. I hope to improve on the looks though, the next time I make something with a frosting like this (speaking of frosting, d'you see that thick layer on the top? Is it supposed to be that way or did I overdo it a bit...?). At least now I'm not scared of Swiss meringue anymore, it has already ruined my kitchen once so it can't get much worse. :raz:

(btw these are the first pics I managed to post, yet another thing that is easier than I thought...) (especially with no beaters around that can mess me up)

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that looks like my favorite cake!!! and honestly "slapping frosting on" is very American!!! at least in my circle of friends!!! since I am more of a cook than a baker frosting a cake tends to be a performance art! ..I call it abstract icing and I think your cake looks stunning! I know I would love a piece of it right this second!

you did such a nice thing for your friend!!!!

...I know recently on my birthday my friends at work made me a platter of Korean food and a wonderful cake ..I am far from my parents, brother and sister and this was the absolute mose familial and wonderful thing they could have done for me ..is prepare some wonderful comfort foods in my honor ...

I still get teary 2 months later

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Bravo, amapola! That looks wonderful and I'm so glad that your friend enjoyed it! I like the flavor combination you decided on and it is so pretty as well.

I think the amount of frosting is perfect and that you did capture the zeitgeist of a classic type of American cake-- moist, layers and frosting!

If you ever feel like trying another American cake; a classic and wonderful one is the coconut layer cake. We have a few good discussion threads on egullet; I'll try to find them.

I love coconut cake and fresh coconut so much that I like doing the extra work to shred fresh coconut for covering the cake, but it's very nice even with pre-shredded coconut. (I prefer unsweetened.) Well, anyway, the cake typically has 2-4 white cake layers (soak with the slightly sweetened water inside the coconut if you use a fresh one), fill layers with lemon curd, coconut cream or more of the frosting which can be a vanilla buttercream or a swiss meringue. Heavily shower the outside of the cake with grated coconut (toasted or not; I like untoasted just b/c I love the snowy white look and fresh taste.)

edited to add: This mental picture is as good as the photo of your cake!

...

There wasn't any time left for careful decorating so I just slapped on the frosting and randomly dropped some lemon peels on top. Then I packed the whole thing in the big plastic tub that I normally use for kneading dough and tied it to the back of my bicycle to transport it through half of the city, in the rain (this IS Amsterdam, after all).

...

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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or what about the German's chocolate cake (my husbands favorite correct me if I am wrong ... came from Dallas Texas?) ...a mild chocolate cake frosted with a cooked praline type frosting that has coconut and pecans in it..then it is slapped only in the middle and on the top and the cake sides showing through...

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Wow but ain't that cake the bombshabomb! Geez, so sorry about the mixer mix-up. It's just totally awesome that you have been so caring for your friend and that my suggestion was incorporated into the mix. Thanks for making my day too! And first picture posting as well wow history is being made!! :biggrin:

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a beautiful cake--and vey American!!

I love your account of the last minute tragedy--it is exactly how things are in my kitchen--trying to do too many things with not enough time--and those mixer mishaps--all too frequent.

the transport of the cake across town on a bike sounds so romantic--I would love to live somewhere that i don't have to get in a car to go absolutely anywhere....

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Thanks for all your cheers and praises!

Today I got a slice of the now matured cake and it was indeed much, much better. Moist, quite so. The layers had now all sort of congealed together, and this time I REALLY got the point of a thick layer of randomly slapped-on frosting- yummm. That'll teach me to plan ahead a bit the next time.

My next project will be a dobos torte. Other friends of ours just celebrated their first daughters first birthday and they spent the whole night making two cakes that didn't turn out to their satisfaction- he ran out in the morning to one of the most expensive patisseries in town while she went and hid the home baked products in the basement. (I got to taste a bite after a lot of pleading and I can understand why they didn't want to serve them to the guests but it was not nearly as bad as they made it come across...)

Well. We got to talk about cakes a bit and at one point he started musing about what he really thought sounded scrumptious: 'one of those Hungarian things, with all those layers and chocolate cream in between'. That must be a dobos torte, I think. And it so happens he also had his birthday not too long ago AND they're on vacation right now AND we have the keys to their apartment so we plan to sneak in the evening before they return and leave a dobos torte in the fridge.

Again something I have never made and again to be done under time pressure- I'm working tomorrow and the cake has to be finished Friday evening. There goes my planning ahead resolution... :wacko: If I succeed I will report on it in the dobos torte topic I spotted.

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