This past Saturday night was Mama Sis’s birthday.
I asked her what she would like for her birthday dinner. Going out is not an easy feat with the monkey’s so a dinner at home was a given. Nonna was going to be out of town so I had the run of her apartment and kitchen…thank god….because sis requested my Mexican Fiesta Fish Taco Dinner. I LOVE this meal. Guests always love this meal. I am good at this meal. But….. it takes a LOT of time to prepare. I am working on the blog post to share some of the recipes for my Baja Fish Tacos, homemade Baja Sauce, Tomatillo Salsa Verde, Jicama salad, Guacamole….you can see there a lot of elements going on!
Today however, I am going to talk about the cake. Mama sis loves Chocolate. I mean who doesn’t like chocolate right? I love it as well. The difference between us though is in the fact that I can have chocolate sitting around, in the freezer or apothecary jars (it looks pretty) and will only be tempted to indulge a few times a month. If that. I can live without it, I have my other vices believe me.
Mama Sis tries not to keep to much chocolate in the house because she admits she has little self control and eats it all.
I don’t think I got more then one taste of the last jar of Nutella before it was gone.
But this is a special occasion. A birthday. A birthday after a long and stressful few months. A celebration where we were going to have a few friends over for our first real dinner party so I wanted to make it special.
I may have overdone it.
This is NOT Gluten Free by any stretch of the imagination. It was her birthday not mine, and no one is gluten sensitive but me so it was full fledge real cake. I also did not make it from scratch. 2 days of prep for the meal. I had to draw the line somewhere. Besides I am still waiting for my very own Kitchen Aid mixer. <Wish List> It was Devil’s food cake mix and store bought icing. No big deal except I began to think it was far to little of a deal and decided to step it up a bit.
I wish I had realized my cake caddy couldn’t cover a 4 layer stuffed cake with 2 layers of icing. Or that I don’t have real cake decorating skills. After this adventure though, I have determined I am going to take a class in decorating. For fun of course…not because I am am a competitive perfectionist or anything.
After making the standard box mix and ending up with 2 rounds of cake, I of course decided that wouldn’t cut it. Luckily for me Publix is a few blocks away so out I went for more mix, and more icing. You should always buy double the icing anyway, those little containers are not enough, to play it safe I got triple the icing of chocolate, chocolate fudge and vanilla. On the way home I decided fresh strawberries was the missing element. Sis loves strawberry as well. So I detoured over to Fresh Market for some organic strawberries. Luckily this was all on Friday. I took the day to prep the meal at Nonna’s pad, and spent half of it on the cake!
4 cakes. Rounded tops cut off of 3. In retrospect I should have cut more AND done all 4. Note for next time.
I decided to put vanilla icing and strawberries on top of each layer.
Looking good at this point,
I hesitated in cutting the top off to flatten it. It may have made it look a little better. I smoothed the icing that was oozing out and prepared to put the crumb coat on.
You know how when you are spreading the icing, particularly store bought icing, all the crumbs get mixed in and it looks terrible? Well I read somewhere about the “crumb coat” and I assumed it was a layer of icing you put on first before the outer layer in order to make it “cleaner”. I think I was right. I also instinctively decided to stop and refrigerate it over night, rationalizing that it would be far easier to put the second coat of icing on it after it had chilled. I was SO right about that!
The next day I took it out and spread the next layer of icing. I had this grand idea inspired by photos I had seen about cake decorating tips that would require a pastry bag, the right tip and a lot of patience. I didn’t have the right tip, but found a close one. I loaded a plastic pastry bag I had from a kit my grandmother had that I rescued (I was out of basic wilton bags) and set to it. The bag split down the seam and icing went everywhere! I would show you a photo but I didn’t want to go near my camera as I was covered in icing! So I was resigned to just using my icing knife and slapping it on there. I REALLY want to take a class and learn some techniques now.
So now the decorating. Now Mama Sis is the artist, not me. Freehand decorating with icing intimidates me, but my options at this point were “ugly cake” or “bare cake”. I thought about it for a while. I sliced some strawberries and practiced with them and the colored icing and tips on wax paper. Not good. Then I thought it would be cool to make the strawberries look like roses. So I googled it, watched a YouTube video. Practiced on a half dozen and ended up with 3 fairly decent ones.
And then I quit while I was ahead. At this point the cake was the size of my head and probably weighed as much, not to mention I had a fair amount of work left to do on dinner and now we were day of.
The end result? Mama Sis LOVED it. So did all the guests. She said it looked professional. I think she was being nice…but it did make me happy that she loved it so much.
Hmmmmmm I don’t think he liked it at all.