We celebrated my sister’s birthday last Monday, and of course there was cake. Every special occasion is a chance for me to practice my baker skillz, so there’s no doubt I took advantage of my sister’s birthday and made her something super special.
These days, I tend to make something for any occasion; my own birthday, Valentine’s Day, even Easter but I try my best to make something new. For my sister’s birthday last year, I put my no bake skillz to the test and made her a vegan icebox cake consisting of Oreos (which are surprisingly vegan), coconut whipped cream, and toasted unsweetened coconut. We kept it dairy free because she is lactose intolerant. It was a delicious hit, despite the fact there was no actual cake or any dairy. So delicious, it helped land my sister in the hospital several days later! We spent the remainder of her birthday week couped up in the hospital, while she had her gallbladder removed. It wasn’t very glamorous but it was definitely memorable. To my defense, it wasn’t necessarily my cake that was the “final straw” but an influx of sugar and high fats consumed over the days revolving around her birthday was definitely part of it.
We made deal that for this year, we were not going to try and end up in the hospital again, because she doesn’t have anymore organs ready for removal. This was after we decided we were aiming for her liver this year (which we may or may not have hit). I kid, I kid; no more hospital trips for anyone’s birthday this year. Anyway, for this birthday, she knew she wanted a Sweetapolita cake. If any of you can recall, I made her funfetti birthday cake for my birthday this year, and it was amazing. High off of that sugar rush, she wanted something similar. We chose Rosie’s Fluffy Vanilla Cake, which was basically the same thing I had sans sprinkles (blasphemy, tbh). She did want some flavor somewhere, so we also picked her Whipped Strawberry Frosting.
Looking at the recipe that accompanied the strawberry frosting gave me an idea. I have never attempted to make more than two layers for a cake, so why not give it a try this year? I aimed high and decided I wanted to make my sister’s cake four layers. For this, I baked the cake in two cake pans, and split each cake in half. Easy, right? Well, no. My oven (and kitchen, actually) appears to be on an angle. One of my cakes came out really lopsided. It was kind of sad but I ran with it. My only concern with halving these cakes was to make sure they were even. I am a huge stickler for accuracy; more when there are numbers involved. I had a ruler, tape measures, toothpicks, and a calculator nearby to make sure I was as accurate as possible. This lopsided cake threw me for a bit of a loop but I wasn’t about to give up. I used this creative and unique method to halve the cakes, which as you may recall I used something similar to slice these cinnamon rolls a while back. I just never thought it would work on a cake! Despite this ingenious method, I still ended up with a slightly uneven layer because the of the lopsided cake. Thinking on my feet, I used the scraps to help me level out that layer. It didn’t look too good but it did even things out enough that the cake wasn’t lopsided at all.
Now, the buttercream also proved to be tricky. We had a giant container of fresh strawberries in the fridge, which partly influenced the flavor of this buttercream way before we’d even planned it. The problem was that these strawberries, while pretty, were virtually tasteless. We live in New York, which is nothing close to warm during this time of year. It wasn’t surprising that they didn’t taste right, as they’re not in season yet. Even with that in mind, I decided to roll with that too. I cooked the strawberries a bit with some sugar and a squeeze of lemon, cooled it, blended it, and then passed it through a sieve. It was beautiful and thick but still sort of tasteless. I held back on the sugar because I didn’t want sugar overkill in the buttercream; we wanted the contrasting flavors of the sweet buttercream against the fruity strawberry. I added almost a cup’s worth of puree to the buttercream, which gave me a pretty pink frosting with the slightest taste of strawberry ever to grace a cake. I ended up with some frosting left over after covering the entire cake, so I got creative with my piping tips and decorated the cake with some rosettes and a pathetic attempt at a buttercream rose.
I was so proud of the fact that I was able to pull together a four layer cake, that came out almost flawless. My sister was super happy with the result, which in turn made me happy; despite the fact that a ton of things went wrong (which I honestly just noticed as I was writing all of this). The cake was truly fluffy and reminded me a lot of box cake mix, except that this tasted eons better than the boxed stuff. Although this cake’s method was strange, it was important for the awesome taste and texture it provided. The frosting’s pretty pink tint was a lovely visual contrast against the white cake. It was definitely sweet and airy, with the slightest hint of tangy strawberry. The fact remains that buttercream tastes like ice cream, and this was no exception.
If anything, all these minor (hah) mishaps left me wondering when I’ll make my next layer cake. I had fun making this cake, and reveled at the fact that it looked like the real deal; like something you’d find in a real bakery. I’m extremely pleased that I helped make my sister’s special day a success, and hope that this year is her greatest yet.
- Follow the cake recipe verbatim! Although the process may seem strange (read: like no other way you’ve ever mixed a cake), it really does work. Also, use a large bowl; flying pieces of floured butter are NOT a good time.
- Weigh everything. I know it’s a pain but accuracy is definitely required to make Rosie’s cakes successfully. This is especially helpful if you tend to buy extra large eggs!
- Use frozen strawberries for the puree, unless the fresh ones near you actually taste like strawberries. Also, no need to cook them if frozen. Have extra puree? Make bellinis!
- Keep cake chilled if you’re not serving it immediately or if you have a warm house, but remove from the fridge at least 20-30 minutes before serving. The buttercream hardens in the fridge and needs a chance to soften up for slicing.