|Lars, Anders, & Yet Another Transformer|
The gift unwrapping went without a hitch. Lars received a couple of duplicate toys, and surprised us all by generously offering them to Anders instead of exchanging them for other toys for himself. This was also the first birthday in our household that the non-celebrant boy didn't have to be physically restrained in "Grampa Jail" to prevent him from "helping" his brother unwrap gifts. Ah, they grow up so fast!
For his birthday cake, Lars requested that I just "surprise" him. I know he's not a chocolate fan, so after pouring through Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible I opted for the Cordon Rose Banana Cake with a Lemon Buttercream Mousseline frosting. Sounds delicious, doesn't it? I've made this cake several times before, both times frosting it with a chocolate ganache frosting, and it was heavenly on previous occasions. I always get nervous about making frosting from scratch, but even when it doesn't look pretty it still tastes a whole lot better than the stuff I can buy in a can at the grocery store.
I did happen to read a variation for this recipe on Rose Levy Beranbaum's baking blog that suggested reducing the butter in the original recipe by two tablespoons and adding two tablespoons of canola or safflower oil, and I tried that this time. Also, whereas in the past I've used King Arthur Flour's Queen Guinevere Cake Flour for cakes, this time Bernie went to the Earth Foods organic grocery and came home with King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend instead. It wasn't self-rising cake flour or anything goofy like that, and the package didn't suggest any recipe modifications. What else? Now that I'm thinking about it four days later, I don't remember actually adding the sour cream with the other ingredients, but I was sick and drugged up on Alka Seltzer cold tablets at the time, so who knows? I used my Magi-Cake Strips as Beranbaum recommends, just as I always do, and I started checking for doneness after the minimum baking time. I think I baked the cake for about 32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake came out clean and when I touched the center of the cake, it seemed to "spring back."
|Lars's Birthday Cake, Fresh From the Oven|
I was a nervous wreck about the frosting. I lowered the thermostat in the house and opened the back door so my kitchen would cool down, since the recipe warns that too-warm butter will result in frosting that "breaks down irreparably." I nervously worried about how to tell whether the egg whites were at the soft peak or stiff peak stage, and although I followed the directions as best as I could, I ended up with a frosting that was grainy and goopy looking. Only when I added gobs and gobs of lemon curd did the frosting thicken up to the point that I could put it on the cake. I glopped it on, sprinkled some chopped macadamia nuts across the top, added candles, and told myself it was okay if the cake was ugly because it was going to taste fantastic! Ah, the power of positive thinking!
|Lars Wishing With Ugly Cake|
I think I'll order a bakery cake for his party next week!
UPDATE JAN. 4, 2010: I just read a FABULOUS buttercream frosting tutorial on Baking Banter, the King Arthur Flour blog. There are wonderful photos showing every step along the way (so THAT'S what the soft boil syrup stage was supposed to look like!) as well as tips and trips to "fix" buttercream frosting disasters in case things go awry. I'm bookmarking this for the next time I get up the courage to tackle a cake baked from scratch!