Using someone’s birthday as an excuse to make cake… This is something I do often.

I made cake on Monday. It was my sister’s birthday – well, that’s my excuse. She didn’t actually get any of the cake yet…

Anyway, I was excited to try another recipe from The New Best Recipe*. Unfortunately, the oven is on the fritz. The thermostat seems to be broken, and it’s unfortunately not in a systematic way. If you turn the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit it heats up to 450. If you turn it to 325, you get about 400. If you heat to 300, it seems to heat to slightly less than 350. The point is that my attempt to bake a cake was severely inhibited by the oven.

The cake didn’t rise. I can’t quite figure out why. I thought I had the oven to the right temperature, but it may not have been where it needed to be. The baking powder may have been old, and it certainly didn’t mix perfectly into the batter (despite my diligently following the recipe and mixing all dry ingredients before adding any liquid). You know those random times when you get a really sour and disgusting taste from otherwise delicious baked goods? I experienced that on Monday night.

Ultimately, I ended up with a super dense cake. You may not realize this, but super dense** cakes aren’t very good. The texture actually ruins the experience of eating the cake.

Regardless, I frosted the cake using the rich buttercream frosting recipe from The New Best Recipe. I won’t do that again. While the frosting is delicious, it’s too buttery. I didn’t even use the full amount of butter called for in the recipe (a piece of it hid from me…), and it was too buttery. Imagine sweetened, whipped butter. Now spread that on a cake. It is extremely creamy and delicious, but I can feel my arteries clogging with each bite.***

In case you’re curious, the NBR recipe for rich buttercream calls for four eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pound of butter. The eggs, sugar and vanilla are whisked in a makeshift double boiler (mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water) and heated to 160 degrees F. This mixture is then beaten with an electric mixer until it cools to room temperature, and softened butter is added 2 tablespoons at a time. If I were to make it again, I’d cut down on the butter and probably cut out an egg or two. It tastes good, but I prefer frosting that doesn’t forcefully remind me of whipped butter.

While putting the layers together, I decided to try something new. I melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips and spread them on the first layer.

The layer went into the freezer to harden the chocolate, then I finished frosting and assembling the cake.

The final touch was a ring of dried (fair trade!) cherries around the top of the cake.

*Actually, I tried one on Sunday: pan roasted pork tenderloin medallions with cream, apple and sage. Also made quinoa with zucchini and yellow squash.

**When I say super dense I mean really, extremely dense. Not moist and dense in a good way.

***Okay, I can’t actually, but I imagine it happening.

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6 thoughts on “Using someone’s birthday as an excuse to make cake… This is something I do often.

  1. Jimi says:

    Tip: Most grocery stores or even Wal-Mart sell thermometers you can put into the oven to show the actual temperature. Quick fix until you can repair the stove and always useful to have a back up in any case.

    Also, if you ever need an excuse to make a cake feel free to use me!

    • It’s not a quick fix. I have one. I also have an instant read thermometer. See, you have to guess which temp to preheat to, and then you can’t count on it to preheat to the temp you want and stay there. The extra thermometer really doesn’t help much. I appreciate the attempt to help, though.

  2. Donald Miller says:

    Hello Amanda, I’m kicking around an idea and I’d like to get your opinion on it, to see if you are interested in the idea. I’m thinking about starting up a weekly magazine where nice people could place their stories and give each other support and a larger readership through a strategic alliance.
    Here’s the link. http://wordexpressweekly.wordpress.com/

    You could place your recipes there, if you’d like.

    • It’s definitely interesting. I stopped by and read the comments. I generally do two types of “non-controversial” posts – food and photos. I’d be happy to share my posts via Word Express. 🙂 What are you thinking of as your system for publishing? Do you intend to ask people to share one post weekly, kind of how a weekly student newspaper runs?

      • Donald Miller says:

        I have the hope that we wordpress friends can pool our skills together and make a decently good magazine that is updated weekly. I already have the archiving worked out.

        My idea is that at first we will make certain that we read each others work–so we know from the outset that we have at least that much of a readership.

        The controversial stuff I’ll have to think about. We want it to be interesting–but without any knife fights breaking out. There”s good potential. Joanna is intersted and she is very good, and know you. So, we are looking in okay shape early on. 🙂

        • Donald Miller says:

          Your post “Why $500,000 Is A Lot Of Money” seems like a good one — provided it’s one you wish to have published in the Word Express Weekly.

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