Last weekend there was a birthday in the family. While it wasn’t a big birthday number, anytime you get near 90, it should be a special birthday with a special birthday cake.
Joan, John’s mother and Rob’s wife, turned 89 this week and his sister Cathy, his niece Emily and her nearly new son Sam came up from Melbourne for the festivities. I was so excited to have a 3-month old baby to play with but I couldn’t do that until the cake was made. After making the Penny Polkadot skateboard cake, I have to tell you that I’m on a cake roll these days.
Joan lives nearby in a dementia unit but she loves to get out and feel human, as we all would. We went overboard with wrapped presents and surprises to make her feel special. She’s
a bit a lot forgetful and at one point she leaned over and told me that I could choose one of those ‘things’ to take home. I looked at her and said, “Joan, it’s your birthday and those are your presents!”
She grinned and decided she’d keep them all.
We had a lovely birthday lunch at The Pitchfork restaurant and I’ll blog about that soon. Today it’s all about the cake. I wanted it to be more than a cake that I could make from a packet and frost from a can. I wanted it to show that we were thinking about her all day while we made the cake. Okay it was only me making the cake but the rest of them watched from time to time. I even gave Rob the trimmings from when I leveled the cake and he gave his approval.
Once I’d made the cake I made vanilla buttercream icing for the filling and chocolate buttercream for the outside.
Once I got the top on it was time to add the chocolate buttercream. I didn’t have enough liquid in the icing as you can see but remember, this is cake #2 so I’m still learning.
Once I’d gotten the icing on the sides, I put those little pearly things you can get from the store. I thought she’d think those were dainty. Joan is only 4’10” tall and about the size of a fat pencil. She’s all about delicate. I’m more Fred Flintstone.
Once I had the cake all done and the chocolate curls and shreds on top I realized how hot it was and how far this cake had to travel. I’d put 4 plastic drinking straws through it so when I put it in a cooler with some plastic ice blocks, it made the 20 minute drive to Peregian Beach with no effort at all. Thankfully.
The restaurant took the cake and when we’d eaten, they brought out the cake complete with sparklers and everyone in the restaurant sang happy birthday to Joan and applauded. She was quite pleased by all the attention and she loved the cake.
She took a few bites and leaned over and said, “I don’t know who made this cake but it’s really good.”
“Joan, I made the cake,” I said.
“Well, I thought that,” she replied.
- 3 cups plain flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2¼ teaspoons baking (bicarb) soda
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons espresso powder (optional)
- 1½ cups milk
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 3 teaspoons good vanilla extract
- 1½ cups boiling water
- 1 cup soft butter
- 3 – 4 cups sifted icing/confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons of milk
- 1½ cups soft butter
- 1 cup sifted cocoa
- 5 cups sifted icing/confectioner’s sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F and grease and lightly flour 2 nine-inch cake pans and 2 6-inch cake pans (or you can use one pan and slice the layers)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together all the dry ingredients
- To the dry mixture, add the eggs, vegetable oil, milk and vanilla and mix on medium speed until well combined.
- Reduce the speed to as low as it will go and add the boiling water.
- Increase speed to high and beat for one minute.
- Distribute the cake batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 24-35 minutes depending upon the size of the pan or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes and let cool completely before icing.
- In a mixer, cream the butter 3-5 minutes until light and smooth
- Add half a cup of icing/confectioner's sugar and beat until incorporated and then add another half cup until all sugar has been used.
- Increase mixer speed to high and beat for a minute and then add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined.
- Add the milk until the icing is of the consistency you prefer. For softer icing use more milk, for stiffer icing (for piping) use more icing sugar/confectioner's sugar.
- In a mixer, cream the butter and sifted cocoa powder 3-5 minutes until smooth
- Add icing/confectioner's sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
- Add vanilla extract and combine well.
- If frosting appears too stiff, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it's the consistency you want. If it appears too wet and does not hold its form, add more icing/confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
- Level the layers and spread vanilla buttercream between the layers
- Spread chocolate buttercream on the top and sides.
- Pipe icing on the bottom and where the top tier starts (it covers a myriad of sins)
- Make chocolate curls or chocolate shavings for the top.
- Sparklers are optional :)
p.s. I must confess what happened when I made this cake. Weeks before Joan’s birthday I trolled the net for the best, chocolate cake to make for her celebration. I was out of ink in the printer and wrote out the recipe longhand on the back of an envelope. I brought the envelope up to the computer after I made the cake and couldn’t remember who’s blog I got the recipe from. I went to Pinterest and searched on Google but all I’d written down was ‘good chocolate cake.’
Today I got a comment from Robyn from Addapinch.com – it’s HER cake!! I have emailed her with my apology and I’ve updated the recipe. Visit her site – she’s got the best food!