Can you believe that we have another birthday?! My little Curly is three years old today. And since it’s Friday, I thought it might be fun to share some secrets about my fabulous birthday cakes (OK, they aren’t really that great, but lots of people like them…at least 16 that I know of…).
First I want to remind you about my awesome little guy who is definitely a “king” at our house. He arrived 3 ½ weeks early and that is how he lives his life…way ahead of schedule. Because the Dog Walker is autistic, we worry about milestones for our boys especially. Curly did almost everything early. Right after he turned two he used full sentences and even now he has an amazing vocabulary (at least as good as my five-year-old). He potty trained himself right before Baby Doll was born and shortly after his second birthday.
He is a sweet happy boy who loves cars, balls, and blocks, Toy Story and Lightning McQueen. And sleeping in the middle. He often thinks of others and how they feel and his level of gratitude is amazing. When he gets out of the shower, his white hair curls as tight as a little wooly lamb. Last week my sweetie and I were out for a walk and we got in after dark. As we were approaching our house, I spotted Teach and her friend talking on the lawn. “Who is it?” my sweetie asked. “Oh,” I replied, “It’s Teach and Alex, and Curly.” As we got closer, it became obvious that the little curly blond head I thought was Curly really belonged to Alex’s little dog, Sophie. Oops! Happy Birthday, Baby, I love you!
I took a class in cake decorating a dozen years ago (that lasted about an hour), and that is all the experience I really have with cakes, but they did share a few good things, so I'm going to pass them along to you.
I know I'm a slacker, but I always use boxed cake mixes and I always use two. Curly wanted his to be chocolate and these happen to be Betty Crocker. I pretty much follow the recipe except for a couple of things. If it's a white cake, I always use the high altitude directions since I live in Utah. If I don't...the cake falls in the center. For some reason it doesn't matter if it's chocolate.
I also grease and flour the pans (for everything else I use cooking spray, but not birthday cakes), but not the sides, just the bottom. If you grease the sides, the cake won't rise properly. I mix each cake separately, beating on low for 30 seconds and then on medium for two minutes even if the mix says you don't need to do it that long. It's also very important that you hand the birthday child the beater to lick.
Then I put the entire mix in my 8" pan. I know the box says you can get two cakes, but they won't get to the top of the pans and then the cakes won't sit flat on top of each other. (If you do it my way, make sure the first time you cook them you put a cookie sheet beneath your pans just in case some of it cooks out. My pans are about 3" high and I rarely have trouble.) Adjust your cooking time to about 40 minutes for both cakes give or take a couple of minutes. Do the toothpick test. My oven takes about 42 minutes at 350 degrees.
When the cakes come out, let them cool for 20 minutes, but no longer than about 45. If they cool too much, you won't be able to get them out of the pans easily. Now comes the fun part. Find a knife that is bigger than the top of your cake (a good bread knife will do) and carefully slice off the top of the cake. (That is so yummy warm!) Then run your knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Turn the cake out on a piece of plastic wrap. Cover it carefully...I usually use two pieces to make sure it's completely wrapped. Then place it in the freezer. Overnight is best.
After you make your own delicious frosting (I'm including the chocolate recipe here, but for vanilla or other colors, simply omit the cocoa and add a tsp of vanilla.), pull the frozen cake from the freezer and unwrap. It is so much easier to frost frozen! I don't do fancy stuff, just a little border and Happy Birthday on the top. We let the kids have candles until they are 18, but after that we just sing.
I hate the cheap little cake toys you get at the grocery store. It only costs a little more to get real toys and put them on the cake. Then they make a fun gift to give to the birthday kid. (No toys for grownups either...). As my kids get older, I try to be creative about cake toppers. I gave my girls Tupperware measuring cups and spoons on top of their cakes when they were 17. Cute chunky jewelry...pretty much anything goes as long as it can be cleaned. Prima Donna even got a WebKinz seahorse on her cake this year because it was mostly fabric and easily washed. I limit it to about $5.
So there you have it...all my cake secrets. Let me know how your cakes turn out! I would love any suggestions you have...one of these days I'm going to try fondant...but not today...the frosting pile will just have to do.
2 stick of margarine or butter
2 lbs of powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or 3 tbsps cocoa powder for chocolate)
1/2 cup of milk
Cream butter. Add all other ingredients. You may need to add more milk to get a good consistency. Whip for a couple of minutes (the whipping really is the secret to making it nice and creamy). If you want to make chocolate frosting, leave out the vanilla and add about 3 tbsps of cocoa powder. You can put in more or less depending on how dark you want your chocolate. Add food coloring after frosting has been whipped.