Sunday, August 9, 2009

2 Fun Cakes for 1 Fabulous 4 Year Old

My big girl is growing up. She is a wonderful, sweet, brilliant, and good little girl and I love her so much. And she deserves wonderful cakes for her birthday. This year we split the parties up to keep things manageable. On her actual birthday, which fell midweek, we had all of the family over.

Since most of both of our families live in the area (We MISS you D, M, and E!!!!) our house is just too small to host the family and H's friends together. We did the friend party, which we tried to keep fairly small too, on the weekend for convenience. It also made it easier for all of us to visit with each other during the parties, plus the added bonus - H gets two parties.

There was no particular theme to the family party, just Happy Birthday! to our girl. She specifically asked for a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles. So that is (of course) what she got. I made the basic chocolate layer cake recipe from the America's Test Kitchen Best Recipes cookbook, which is dense and delicious.

For a simple, and not oppressively sweet, frosting, I made a stabilized whipped cream and used it in between the layers and rusticly swirled on top. And per H's request, the whole thing got a playful dusting of rainbow sprinkles. I thought it ended up as a nice, sophisticated, and tasty cake for a 4 year old.

The friend party had a rainbow theme, so of course I had to play that up in the cake. Quite a while ago I ran across the rainbow cake on Omnomicon and ended up using that as inspiration for our cake. I unfortunately ran short on time and ended up using two packages of white cake mix (for shame!), but I would again recommend the America's Test Kitchen, basic white cake recipe if you have more planning time.

The process is pretty easy. I mixed up both mixes together and then separated the batter into six bowls. Each was colored with gel food colorings. The gel coloring is key. The liquid is too weak and you would end up having to add so much to get the rich colors that it would be more chemical than cake.

Once you have your rainbow of batters ready to go, start with one of the two cake pans and pour the first three colors (Red, Orange, Yellow) into the center of the pan. Pour half of the red into the center of the pan, then half of the orange right on top of the red, and then half of the yellow right on top of the orange. As you pour each color, the one below will spread out and you'll have concentric circles of color.

After you pour the first three colors in, start the other pan going in the opposite direction (Purple, Blue, Green). You end up seeing more of the center color when baked , so it's nice to switch the order up to have a good color spread. It also helps to start the second pan after only doing three in the first pan so that the two pans end up with the same amount of batter in case your guess at "half" was a bit off. Finish off both pans with the colors in the order (or reverse order) of the rainbow, then bake away. I used two mixes, but only two pans, so it took longer than the box direction to bake all the way through. Just bake until a cake tester comes out clean.

After the cakes cool, put a very thin layer of frosting on the cake. This is going to help the fondant stay on. What? Did you say fondant? Yes, I finally tried to make some fondant and get all schmancy. As you can tell, it didn't come out as perfectly as I had envisioned (Damn you, Ace of Cakes, for making this look so easy!) but it was still fun.

I used this Marshmallow Fondant recipe, because it is pretty easy to make, work with and it doesn't taste quite as horrible as most fondants. Follow the instruction, and keep them wrapped in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Take your time and don't roll it too thin or it will tear when you are working with it. I got the whole cake covered at one point but it looked so bad I had to rip it all off, toss it, and start over.

I will likely give the marshmallow fondant another try, but get started earlier in the day so I am not so rushed. It is clearly one of those things that you can tell will get much easier each time you do it. Both cakes were a hit with H, which of course is the whole point!