Birthday Cake Basics: Ruffles
Something you may or may not know about me is that I love birthdays and I really do love to bake. If we could eat baked goods as meals every day, I’d have this Homemaking thing down pat! I also love to decorate and make things pretty. I actually designed bedding for a short stint as my first gig out of college.
Anyhow, I love birthdays and other holidays around here because it gives me a chance to practice my baking and my decorating. This includes my relatively newfound love for piping bags and tips.
As things tend to happen with baby number 3, I started searching for cake ideas about 3 days prior to the party. This as opposed to weeks or months of planning and prepping for the other two. I won’t tell if you don’t ok?
This may be totally silly and ridiculous but for the cake portion, I like to make a chocolate cake and a vanilla cake (both 2 layer). So then you can make each cake have one of each flavor. Because really, you never know which one they are going to like, right? Also, this way I have 2 cakes – one for smashing and one for everyone else.
I always place the grown up cake on a cake platter because #presentation. But the smash cake has to be baby proof, right? What I did this time was I covered a small paper plate with some foil to make it look kind of shiny and pretty. All the loose edges ended up inside the plate so the “platter” portion of it was actually the bottom of the plate, if that makes sense. It was also on its own mini platter for display before it was sacrificed to the baby.
First goes the chocolate layer. I put one whole cake on a platter (top side down) and for the smash cake, I use a circle cookie cutter. Be sure to cut from the center in case your cake has any variation!
So you use your cookie cutter in the center of the cake and put that on your little upside down foil plate platter. Technically you could really use any shape. In my opinion, icing these cakes is tough enough already with all those loose cake edges. I think you would need a very dense cake to be able to cut a shape and ice it in said shape. Maybe a pound cake. In case you haven’t guessed, pound cake is not what I have used in any of these recipes for any of these birthdays. But hey, maybe worth a try for the next one.
Mocha Choca Latta
I used this recipe right here. This really is a simple, just plain good chocolate cake recipe (and chocolate cake really isn’t my jam). Next goes the chocolate frosting. I used the recipe that she notes in her recipe, though this time, it seemed extra dense. One chocolate loving guest said she would never fault an icing for being too fudgy. I think that was a compliment.
Va Va Va Vanilla
Next comes the vanilla cake. Yes, this goes right on top of your chocolate frosting, on top of your chocolate cake. This was almost a catastrophe. I got all my cake mixed and as I was putting it in my cake pans (buttered, floured, parchment papered) I saw dry stuff in the bottom of my mixing bowl. If that isn’t the worst feeling in the world. Ok, yes, that’s a little dramatic – there are definitely worse feelings to be had in the entire world – but for baking, in case you weren’t sure, that’s bad. All ingredients should have been appropriately mixed already. I wonder if it could be a mixer issue. Maybe I need to write KitchenAid a letter.
So I stop in my tracks, put the bowl back on the mixer and get the rest mixed properly. After that, I poured my new mixture into the center of each and swirled it around as best I could. Luckily for everyone, it still ended up tasting really good. You can grab that recipe here.
This was actually the first time I used this recipe. With “from scratch” recipes, sometimes you can end up with things that are really complicated. I don’t know why I put “from scratch” in quotes. It’s a real thing. If you’re not using a box cake mix you bought from the store, you’re making a cake from scratch. Yes, they do taste better but hey, no one is judging you for getting some assistance from Betty Crocker or Duncan Heinz! Anyhow, I had used the same recipe for the last two first birthdays and it was super complicated, using cold butter cut in to tablespoon size pieces and beating them in at different timed intervals and all this other mess. While it tasted good, I decided it wasn’t that good for all that effort. This cake was much easier and even aside from our near hiccup, it was very good.
The Cream to My Butter - My Buttercream
If you’re going to do it, do it right. Give them buttercream icing. Just my personal icing opinion. I don’t know who decided “whipped cream” icing was a good idea because if you ask me, why mess with buttercream perfection?
This is my go-to recipe for yummy, delicious, creamy buttercream icing. Something to note is that when you’re decorating cakes with anything more complicated than a smear of a knife, you will ALWAYS need extra. All that pretty stuff takes a whole lot of icing. This time, I ended up quadrupling the recipe. I made two double batches. In the end, I did have some extra, but definitely not a batch worth.
Normal people could use extra icing for making cute little graham cracker cookie sandwiches or things like that. Not me. I just ate it with a spoon out of the refrigerator for a few days while simultaneously feeling bad about my life decisions. I finally made the decision that my life was better off without extra icing in it. It’s taken me many many years and many stomach aches to figure that out.
Prepare Your Cake
Ok, so you’ve got your chocolate cake on the bottom and then your chocolate icing and now your vanilla cake on the top. For ultimate stacking and prettiness, it is best to place the bottom cake, the chocolate, top side down and then place the vanilla cake top side up, on top of your middle layer of icing, of course. This makes them easier to stack (flat sides together) and then you have your pretty, rounded top on, well, on the top.
The next step is to cover the whole thing in icing – the top and the sides. You can use an icing spreader or you can just use a plain old butter knife. You don’t need a ton of icing but I like to put on at least enough so that you can’t see the cake through it.
I find that the smash cake is hard to ice. It just is, like I said above, with all the raw cake edges, but just do your best. I feel like it’s easier to have a larger glob of icing on your knife rather than just a small amount, but again, play with it. In the end, you’re covering it with more icing anyhow so at this point you’re just trying to create a semi-smooth base.
On to the Actual Decorating
I know, I know, you’ve been reading this whole time only to find out that there are no actual ruffles on this post?! Keep Calm. Click Here.
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