Lindsay’s daughter, Lisa, had a birthday earlier this week. I asked her what plans she had for celebrating it, and like most women, replied “Oh, I don’t do much for my birthday really…”
“Nothing?” I asked. “Birthday’s are meant for celebrating, ah, come on, let’s do something, ok? How about I at least make you a birthday cake. What’s your favorite kind of cake?”
Without missing a beat she said, “Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting!”
“Then, by golly, I’m going to make you a Red Velvet cake then. You and the kids come over after work and we’ll all celebrate together ok?”
Little did I know it at the time, but what I thought would be fairly easy to accomplish task (I have baked a homemade cake once or twice in my life after all) it turned out to be a lesson in baking that I had never experienced before.
It all started at the supermarket. Armed with an “American” recipe printed off from the internet, I started down the “Baking” aisle looking for items Lindsay did not have in his cupboard: cake flour, baking soda, vanilla, confectioner’s sugar, food coloring and cocoa.
I never realized just how much I rely on familiarity in the grocery store until I started looking for some pretty basic items. Instead of finding the distinctive orange colored Arm & Hammer Baking Soda box I am so familiar with, I found I had to read each and every box and container trying to find “baking soda.” It turned out to be in a round, turquoise colored container labeled “Bicarbonate of Soda.”
Then I started looking for “cake flour.” They had every kind of flour imaginable, but nothing, absolutely nothing labeled “cake flour.” I finally figured out that was I was wanting is called “Supreme Sponge!”
Okay…. The vanilla and red food coloring were fairly straight forward, but again in a totally different container other than “McCormick’s” that I’m used to. Finally, the last item that I thought should be a breeze to find was powdered (or confectioner’s) sugar. Not! I finally found it – “British Icing Sugar!”
As I stood in line paying for my items, I also noticed something very different about the check-out cashier, she was SITTING in a cushy office type chair that adjusts and swivels, unlike the cashiers at home who have to spend countless hours standing all day on hard concrete floors! That’s a great idea!
Above are the items I settled for to make the cake and the frosting out of. Next part of the lesson began when I started making the cake.
For starters you need to understand that Lindsay lives alone like a bachelor. Hence, there isn’t a set of mixing bowls, electric mixer, rubber spatulas, etc. The few items he did have (like a measuring cup and 1 measuring spoon) were in grams, not ounces or ‘cups’ or teaspoon, measuring increments. Therefore I found it necessary to convert American measuring methods into the metric version!
I did manage to find a large pan and a rather large christmas serving bowl to improvise with for the mixing bowls. Luckily he did have a wooden spoon for stirring and a whisk to beat the egg whites into stiff peaks before folding them into the cake batter!
All in all, we managed to get three lovely round cakes baked in the oven (although I also had to convert to Celsius from Farenheit!)
Once they were well cooled the next morning, we made the frosting and began the process of putting the cake together.
First step was to cut the top off of two of the cake for the first two layers and set the tops aside in a bowl. Those ‘cake tops’ then were crumbled for putting on the cake after it was totally frosted.
Before beginning the frosting process, I made some ‘Royal Icing’ (which is frosting made with egg whites instead of milk or water for the liquid, and which dries brick hard when put in a warm oven for an hour or so…) I put the Royal Icing into a sandwich bag, cut off a small tip of one corner of the bag and – Voila! – a ‘piping pastry bag” for piping icing onto a piece of saran wrapped upside down cookie sheet!
We started frosting the cake, layer-by-layer….
Putting the crumbles on the outside was a bit of a challenge as long as I was concerned about making a mess. To heck with it – I just started ‘throwing’ the cake crumbles against the side of the cake to make it stick and we ended up with a huge mess of crumbles to clean up off the counter (and all over the floor!) afterward.
When we got done ‘crumbing’ the cake, the piped wording was hardened, so we carefully lifted it off the tray and placed it standing up on the cake. I finished piping the royal icing around the outer edge of the top and bottom of the cake. Lovely!
Of course the best part was seeing the delight on Lisa’s face when we lit the candles, sang Happy Birthday to her and watched her blow out the candles after making her wish.
I’m just so happy she liked it, that the cake turned out light and fluffy, the frosting wasn’t too sweet and most importantly, she got to celebrate her 48th birthday with loved ones which I got to be a part of it!
Fun and celebration was enjoyed by all and she got to take the rest of the cake home with her for later midnight snacking…
You know what they say, “Birthday Cakes” are absolutely calorie free!