Aces of Cakes

So a couple of weeks ago Clay and I had our first weekend getaway since Evelyne’s been born.  (almost 3 years!)  My parents flew up here from TN and stayed with the kids, and we went a few hours north to Victoria, British Columbia.  (I’ll put-up another post with pictures because it was truly beautiful)  So, one afternoon while we were sitting on “The Veranda”, an outdoor restaurant on the front porch of our beautiful hotel, watching people and the harbor and having drinks, we had a good conversation about our relationship.  A sort of “State of the Relationship Address” as we like to refer to them.  We agreed that we have been awesome partners in parenting, we almost always work together and agree on things in raising the kids, and we’re a great team.  But, as expected, something has been slowly lost over the years as most of our focus has been on parenting and less on being husband and wife.  So we tried to think of something we can purposefully do to spend time together that has nothing to do with parenting.  (other than sit next to each other on the couch watching the same tv show)  Clay suggested we start cooking together (like I’ve said before, we’ve been watching a lot of Food Network!), and that led to the decision that we’re going to…..drumroll…..learn how to bake and decorate cakes together!  Isn’t that great?!  Ha!  Of course Clay is an optimist and thinks that in a few years we’re going to be so good that we’ll be making the kind of creations that we see on tv, but right now our immediate goals are to bake approximately one cake a week together and to make cakes for Evelyne and Harris’ birthdays (in December and January) that are decent.

I’ve never made a cake that’s not out of a box, so simply making one from scratch is my goal and something I want to learn.  Clay mostly wants to focus on the decorating since he’s a really detail-oriented kind of guy who will probably be awesome at that sort of thing once he learns.  Now if you remember The Birthday Cake Debacle of 2008, you’ll probably understand how much of a non-expert I am in this area and am looking to redeem myself in the decorating area as well.

So last weekend we made our first cake.  I just picked a random yellow cake recipe and buttercream icing from Allrecipes.com and we got going. (I did substitute butter for the shortening in both recipes)  The cake came-out looking golden and smelling wonderful, and since it was so late at night, we covered it and left it in the pans all night long.  (I don’t know if this was a good idea or not)  The next night after Evelyne went to bed we started trying to get them out of the pans….ehhh, that didn’t go well.  First I noticed that the middles of the cakes had totally sunken down.  I had buttered and floured the pans, but they were stuck on the edges.  We butchered it as we tried to get it out, and once we got it out, it looked like this:

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P1050078(you’re going to have to excuse our gross cabinets and countertops….we’re renting, and I don’t think this house has been updated in the past forty years)

We iced the middle and stacked them, and it just looked ridiculous.

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Then I released Clay to the carving.  (He had been itching to get his hands on a knife and start shaving-off the sides to make it more even.)

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It did look a lot better after he did that, although he had to remove the entire top layer and it was still really uneven.  We did a crumb coat of icing, and then the next night finished it with a top layer of icing.  I hadn’t been able to find an offset spatula yet, andI just had to ice it with a knife, so even though I tried to get it as smooth as I could, it still wasn’t that great.  (and notice the lean to the left!)

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And then we started piping.  Oh yes, we piped.  It wasn’t very good, but we did it.

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We didn’t really know what to do after this, and by this point it was 10:30 p.m. and we were both tired, so we just put a big number 1 in the middle to signify that it’s our first cake.  Apparently I put it off-center (I’m like the anti-perfectionist, so I don’t really notice or care about those things, but it seemed to bother Clay), so he made me put an exclamation point after it to center it.  (which I thought was silly, but whatever)

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So there we go.  Our first cake.  It tasted pretty good…. the actual cake was pretty thick, tasted more like a pound cake than the light and fluffy cake mix cakes I’m used to, but it was good.  The icing was really, really sweet.  It was good, but very rich, and we’re going to definitely try another recipe next time.  Maybe we should’ve used shortening?  So, that was our first cake adventure, and we’re planning to make another one today.  I’m hoping to turn this into a blogging project to keep us accountable to doing it, so get excited that you’ll get to see all of our creations!  (don’t you just wish you could taste them?!)  We’re going to try to give away as much as possible since it would be DANGEROUS to constantly have cake in the house, we’ve already eaten way too much of this one.  If anyone has any favorite cake websites, please let me know.  I think today we’re going to use the Wilton recipes for yellow cake and buttercream icing, so we’ll see if those turn-out better.  Yay for cakes!

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12 responses to “Aces of Cakes

  1. Emily, this is awesome. I too suck at cakes but what cracks me up about this is that Myles would never do this with me. Clay is such a trooper! and think he even suggested it.

    I really think the trick to being able to bake amazing cakes is to have a convection oven. Standard ovens just have too many hot/uneven spots. But please prove me wrong!

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  2. What an awesome idea! Bry and I actually did this before we had kids and it really was fun. He was a lot better at the decorating than me. Actually, he was pretty awesome. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with next. Oh, and I would try shortening next time. Also, do you know the hot water tip for icing cakes?? If you’ll dip your knife or whatever your using in really hot water every once in a while, it helps with smoothing the icing out. Good luck!!

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  3. Emily, Great job on your first cake together. My mom took Wilton Cake Decorating classes years ago and passed along what little knowledge I have. However I have made all my husbands birthday cakes since we met and Kyleigh’s all three years. Wilton icing recipe is PERFECT for decorating. You can flavor it with butter flavoring or lemon or vanilla or whatever. The shortening DEFINITELY makes a difference in the icing. Also usually after I ice my cakes, I let them sit for about 20 minutes and then I take wax paper and “smooth” it out. (lay it on top of the cake and then run your hand or a spatula across the wax paper on top of the cake. this will remove any lumps, bumps or even lines. make sure you let it sit first though so it’s not as “tacky” as when first iced and the wax paper won’t stick.) anyway. hope that helps. the hot water tip (like above) helps also when icing.

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  4. That is so sweet that yall are doing this together! Cake decorating is really fun, I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. Unless you are gung-ho about making cakes from scratch, cake mixes are the way to go (unless it is some kind of specialty cake). I have tried SOOO many cake recipesfrom scratch and, compared to box cake mixes, they do not stay moist nearly as long.

    But who knows, you may have found the perfect recipe or one you like better than box mixes… but just from my experience and feedback from my cake eaters, they prefer the moistness provided by cake mixes (plus, they get it right every time!). But I do make all the icing from scratch, of course.

    Keep up the good work! Practice makes perfect!

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  5. This post makes me smile. 🙂 I am cracking up as I imagine you and Clay in the kitchen in the middle of the night talking about the “1” being off centered! HAH!!

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  6. another way Robert and Clay are alike (besides sharing a womb) – I would probably never take the time to do piping but Robert would be all over it. This is why Robert is in charge of any “skill” cooking – pancakes, grilling, and the like. 🙂 I want to hear more about your trip! I’m jealous!

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  7. Great Job!!! I need to email you the pics I took of different cakes at this shop in Vegas! It makes me want to start baking again… I used to do it a lot but it is so time consuming! Anyways, keep up the good work and feel free to share with your neighbors! James LOVES cake! Oh, and don’t worry, you aren’t the only ones with the bad cabinets, I hate ours! I think I could even live with the cabinets if the yellow counters could get replaced, we were hoping to win a million in Vegas, but that didn’t happen, oh well, back to clipping coupons! See you outside later probably!

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  8. How much fun!! I love that you and Clay are doing this together. Do you remember my sister, Rachel? Anyways, she has started doing cakes on the side from her apartment. You should check out her blog http://www.rachelnoblecakes.blogspot.com
    Good luck and have fun!!!
    Michelle

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  9. This is such a hoot! Mike and I are always trying to find things to do TOGETHER and have never come up with something this creative.
    I took a cake decorating class a few years ago with a friend. I totally dropped out after level 1. I am not detailed oriented. I have all the cake gear you will ever need so you guys are welcome to borrow it. It even comes in a nifty carrying case. Let me know!
    Also, the cake decorater instructer said you should never bother to make the cake from scratch. Always go with Betty C. (She said the best mix) Focus on the icing because that makes the cake. Just a thought!

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  10. Hey girl. Way to go. I can’t wait to see your creations! Someone told me something recently and I’ve done it a couple of times and it was very helpful. They said to bake the cake a day or so before you need it and after you’ve removed it from the pan, wrap it up in aluminum foil and put it in the freezer. Then after it’s frozen, pull it out and ice it and then let it sit on the counter to thaw. It makes it a ton easier to ice because you don’t have all that fresh cake crumbs coming off into your icing. I’ve done it twice and it worked and once the cake thaws it still is very fresh and moist. Hope this info helps! =)

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  11. I made a cake for Shea’s birthday party this year. It took me over six hours just to decorate the stupid thing. I love to bake, but unless I have some condition that causes me to forget what a pain it was to decorate that cake, I will never be attempting it again. Now that I’ve said that, I will probably get roped into making another one sometime. Argh! Here’s a pic of my last one: http://picasaweb.google.com/jon.owings/January1720#5293591574885363202

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  12. BTW, very impressed with your cake! I love butter in the frosting instead of shortening!

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