Birthday Cake Bliss and Giving Back

After everyone was snug in their bed last night, I turned on a chick flick (my husband is away on his annual fishing trip in Northern Saskatchewan) and cut myself a really, really large slice of my daughter’s birthday cake. I cut it with great care, ensuring that each bite would be loaded with as much candy as possible.  And as I gorged myself, nibbled delicately on this slice of candy-studded Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain, I decided that this was the cake I wanted for my next birthday party—that candy and cake is a deadly good combination.

I’m not sure if I’ll be perceived as nuts or fun-loving. What do you think?

With ponytails born five days apart (plus three years), June is always a hectic month for birthdays in our house.  This past week we hosted two parties – one for each girl. Add another four birthday parties over a two week stretch to the mix, and you’ll agree that it was only understandable that I RSVP’d about the wrong date to one of the parties. Right? (Note the desperate tone of my voice here!)

But it’s the same every year, so I try to plan ahead as much as possible. I made some of my new favourite cookies (Funfetti Cookies by Two Peas and Their Pod) for the loot bags for both parties a couple weeks ago and popped them into the freezer. I also made a Blueberry Coffee Cake for the adults at my four-year old ponytail’s party, and popped it into the freezer.

That left me free to make cupcakes for my oldest ponytail’s party and the Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain for the youngest ponytail’s party the night before. I haven’t made many cakes, so making this Fairy Cake was quite an adventure.  It was lots of fun to make and very rewarding, as my little ponytail’s entire face lit up when she saw it. When it comes to birthday baking, it really is all about planning ahead.

Over the past few years, I’ve also realized something else about birthdays.

It’s about the party—big or small. It’s about the cake. It’s about the running around with your friends and squealing with delight. It’s not about the presents! Sure every kid loves to get a few presents on their birthday. But a few carefully chosen presents is all it takes to make my girls really happy on their birthday.

This year we found a great new website called ECHOage. It is a service that allows you to invite your guests using their online platform with great invitations and reminders. Your child decides on one or two gifts that he/she would like for his/her birthday and selects a charity. The parents of the invited guests can then make a contribution online—half the money goes to the charity and the other half goes towards your child’s gift. (I should point out that Echoage has a service fee of 15% of the total funds raised.) I was able to buy each of my girls a couple outfits and a pet for their dolls. They were both more than happy and didn’t miss the mountain of gifts that they would have otherwise received. This was the third year that my oldest ponytail has raised money for a charity on her birthday and she’s raised over $700 in three years. I think ECHOage is the greatest thing ever, because everybody wins. Your child gets to learn about giving back at an early age; the charity receives much needed funds; parents of the invited guests don’t need to spend time shopping for birthday presents; and parents of the birthday boy or girl get to manage the volume of toys coming into the house.  ECHOage is linked to charities across Canada and the United States, so it’s a great option for anyone living in North America. For more information, click here.

If making a cake with the word “mountain” in it isn’t for you, then you might want to try Kristy’s Best Birthday Cake with Raspberry Filling and Super Lemon Buttercream Frosting, or Charles’ Kladdkaka (Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake), or Eva’s version of Kladdkaka. All of these cakes look really delicious!

Would you believe that I scaled back on the batter for the top three layers?

Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain

Adapted from the recipe by Fran Warde in Food for Friends

  • 6 sticks unsalted butter (each stick is ½ cup)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup boiling water

Required: 3 non-stick cake pans, 6, 8, and 10 inches in diameter, buttered, plus one paper muffin liner and muffin tin. (I used springform pans and they worked really well.)

Instructions

Mix cocoa powder and boiling water in small bowl. Stir until smooth.

Make the cake in two batches. Mix 2 cups of flour with 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp of salt in small bowl. Put 3 sticks of the butter and 1 ½ cups of the sugar in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. (Use paddle attachment if using Kitchen Aid mixer.) Add 5 of the eggs and beat until well mixed. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and milk then mix until incorporated.  Scoop out ½ cup of batter and mix with half of the chocolate mixture in a small bowl.

Transfer white batter to a greased 10” cake pan, drop the chocolate batter into the pan by the tablespoon. Swirl chocolate batter into the white batter with a knife or skewer. Bake in a preheated 350° for 35-45 minutes until golden, springy in the center and just coming away from the edges of the pan.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and put onto a wire rack to cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients as before, filling the smaller 2 cake pans (8” and 6”) and the one muffin liner in a muffin tin. Swirl the white and chocolate batter as before. Put all 3 cakes into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking as before to see if the cakes are cooked. Let cool completely before frosting.

Butter Frosting

  • 2 ½ sticks softened unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cups icing sugar

Put the butter and icing sugar into a bowl, add 2 tablespoons hot water and beat until soft and creamy. Put the largest cooled cake onto a plate or cake plate and spread with butter frosting. Put the middle-sized cake on top and spread with butter frosting. Repeat for each of the remaining layers, ending with the muffin. The icing does not need to look perfect as it will be covered with the top frosting.

Top Frosting

  • 5 cups icing sugar
  • Water (I used just under a ½ cup)
  • Assortment of candies (I used smarties, skittles, swedish berries, chocolate covered raisins, red shoe laces, coloured mini marshmellows, and pastel candies with hearts.
  • Food colouring of your choice

Put the icing sugar into a bowl. Add water a little at a time and stir until smooth and blended. It should be thin enough to run down the cake, but still thick enough to cover it entirely. Pour over the cake, letting it cascade down and cover all of the cake.

While the frosting is still wet, add the candies, sticking them all over the surface.

NOTES:

  • The top frosting on the cake keeps sliding down the cake as you pour/drizzle it from the top. I cleaned up the base of the plate before decorating with the candies. It shifted a little after the candies were added, but I think the fact that the rows of candies are perfectly straight adds to the charm of the cake.
  • I used pink food colouring for the top frosting.
  • I sliced of a few small bumps on the cake tops before icing. This was easy to do.
  • The dollar store is a great place to buy the extra long candles and candies, especially those little pastel heart candies with expressions like “be mine” or “email me” (this wasn’t on the candies of my youth).

Blueberry Coffee Cake and Funfetti Cookies

Blueberry Coffee Cake

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Blueberry-Coffee-Cake-1275

My adaptation – added 1 tsp of lemon zest and 1 tbsp lemon juice to the batter; mixed blueberries with 1 tsp flour then poured half of the batter into the pan, followed by half of the blueberries, then remaining half of batter. Sprinkle second half of blueberries on top of batter, followed by the topping.

Funfetti Cookies

http://tastykitchen.com/blog/2012/05/funfetti-cookies/

Make a wish!