What a crazy start to Spring! I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Fortunately, it has all been for good. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, a lot of learning about technology, a lot of learning about ETSY, and a lot of preparing for next week’s Foodways Texas Symposium at which I am moderating a panel discussion about hunting and BBQ. I’m inordinately excited about it. My children had two different Spring Breaks…whose Brilliant Idea Was That? It hasn’t left a lot of time for recipe development. I’ve barely remembered to pick up my kids at carpool every day.
But, I get all excited about these things. Then, I remember…kids’ BIRTHDAYS! Oops. Both of my kid’s birthdays are within 30 days of each other, and each get to choose their cake. Lily’s cake this year was so unattractive as to not deserve any sort of photo documentation. But it was exactly what she wanted…so we are all good on that one.
I’ve avoided doing layer cakes on PIE, because they are a pain in the butt, to put it mildly. I love them. I do. But I’ve done a ton of sheet cakes here because I want you to bake, bake, bake. And I want you to bake for the sake of deliciousness, not for architecture. There are so many wonderful websites devoted to decorative masterpieces and that is just not my strong suit.
But, Ford wanted a layer cake. And I didn’t have time to create one from thin air, recipe-wise, so I borrowed a few recipes. And, I just wanted to take a moment to show some gratitude to the people who made my son’s birthday delicious…and fun. They don’t know me, and they don’t know my kiddo, but they made his birthday a success.
The CAKE: I am a real stickler where chocolate cakes are concerned. I actually like for them to taste good. A lot of layer cakes just don’t taste good. Plus, I find melting chocolate to be a chore at times. I wanted a cake that used cocoa powder instead of chocolate. My very favorite cake, Texas Chocolate Sheet cake, is a cocoa cake that uses buttermilk, as well. I’m crazy about that cake. So, I turned to the one (other) great chocolate cake recipe that I have used often which uses both of those ingredients.
Rebecca Rather is The Pastry Queen. She has a new restaurant in Fredericksburg, TX called The Pink Pig. I love her cookbook like mad. So I used her chocolate cake formula from her Tuxedo Cake recipe. I added an additional 2 tablespoons of cocoa. But other than that little change, it is all hers.
The ICING: Again, I wanted a cocoa based chocolate buttercream. I did some recipe shopping on the blogosphere and I quickly wandered across a perfect and simple Chocolate Buttercream formula on Alice Currah’s great blog, Savory Sweet Life. It is an easy and well behaved icing which lent itself to both covering the cake and doing a tiny little bit of piping.
These two recipes combined made one of the best chocolate layer cakes I’ve had in ages.
I’m not posting the recipes here because they aren’t mine to post. I didn’t add anything to the universe of baking when I made the recipes…I followed them almost to the teaspoon. Click the highlighted link to Alice’s buttercream to find it. I don’t find that Rebecca has personally posted her cake recipe online, though many people have done so or adapted it. I didn’t even bother changing a thing…so I’m going to send you to the source…her book. Click on the bold link in the cake paragraph to find her book on Amazon. It is utterly worth buying.
PIZZA: Have you made pizza at home…with homemade dough? You need to. It is cheap and easy. One of the best dough recipes out there is Jaime Oliver’s. His formula is all over the internet, but the highlighted link sends you to his website. If you want American measures, you can google up the recipe in a dozen different places. This is the one I used for this occasion, but all pizza doughs are fairly basic. These pizzas were shaped and loaded by the kids. It is a great “cooking with the kids” activity, start to finish. Find a dough recipe and try it. Someday, I’ll tweak a recipe to my very own specifications, but in the meantime, Oliver’s is terrific. Pizza stones are not terribly expensive and they are handy. I even bought a wooden peel (the wooden shovel/paddle thing they use in pizza parlors…you know you want one) a few years ago to get the pizzas onto and off of the stone easily (semolina flour works like itty bitty ball bearings and rolls the dough off of the peel like a charm. Dough, watered down tomato paste, cheese, pepperonis…BIRTHDAY DINNER!
So, a random THANK YOU out into the universe to Rebecca, Alice and Jaime for making my son’s birthday quite tasty. I enjoyed having you in my kitchen. Thank you for sharing your recipes with us. And, to my friends reading this…thanks for being here. I’ll be back with a new recipe in a few days…after I go foraging and fishing, write two stories for actual pay, go to a den meeting, and pull a few Easter baskets out of thin air. How in the world have we already gotten to Easter?? This, my friends, is a crazy good life.