Birthday cakes are my favourite way of saying "wow! I think you're an awesome human being!!".
It's a really interesting way to personalize something for someone else's specific tastes.
It's even more fun when it's a really close friend's birthday, because you get to put even more love and effort into the process... baking a cake now actually means more than just throwing flour up and down and spinning around in circles covered in frosting. (<< That's how I bake, by the way...)
It means understanding their favourite flavours and colours and using all your brain power to put something together that's totally them! Plus, who doesn't love cake? Especially when it's for a birthday!
For this fella's birthday he wanted a tie-dye cake. He showed me a photo of a cake that his friend made, and umm, obviously I had to one-up this cake - cause that's how I do - and I saw this idea... and well, TA DA!
This person must be extra important, because I'm breaking my cardinal rule of baking for them. Yup. I'm using FOOD COLOURING. Okay, okay... there are definitely ways around food colouring. You can make natural food colouring. I'm sure it's totally perfect like this! But - after forcing a kale salad on this person for the first time a few weeks ago, I'm not sure if they're ready to dig into a green-coloured-by-kale cake. Not just yet, anyway. Let's chat next year.
I had some hiccups with this cake when I tried the trial version. And now from these failures... I mean, setbacks? I now have some helpful hints for putting together a checkered board cake! So, let's get going!!
White Chocolate Checkered Board Birthday Cake - What you need:
For a 6 layer cake using 16 cm (~6 inch) cake pan you will need TWO of these cake recipes. Heads up!
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 grams agar agar powder
- 1/4 cup apple sauce
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 100 grams white chocolate, roughly chopped (ps: if this is for a vegan, double check the ingredients in the white chocolate!)
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1 tonka bean, grated OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 16 centimetre (~6 inch) cake pans
- parchment paper to line the cake pans
- food colouring
- biscuit/cookie cutters OR a bowls of varying small sizes and a serrated knife
White Chocolate Checkered Board Birthday Cake - What you do:
This recipe is for THREE 16cm cakes. For the entire cake that I made, I used two of these recipes... for SIX 16cm cakes!
First, grease the cake pan. Line with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper, too. Dust the cake pan with flour.
Start off the cake by stirring together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a small bowl, melt the chocolate by pouring the boiling water over the white chocolate and the grated tonka bean. Allow this to sit while preparing the wet part of the cake batter...
In a large bowl, beat together the agar agar powder and apple sauce. Beat in the sugar, and mix well. Next, beat in the oil. Blend all the wet ingredients until they are totally incorporated.
Stir the water, chocolate, and tonka. By this time the white chocolate should be melted. Blend everything so no more white chocolate lumps remain.
Add the chocolate mixture into the wet mixture and combine well. Next, in two additions, add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Stir until combined.
Finally separate the cake batter evenly into 3 bowls.
Colour each bowl with your choice of colouring.
For the first three I used blue, green, and yellow.
When I made the second batch for the next three cakes I used purple, orange, and red.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (350F) and bake the cakes for 18 to 22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely.
... When I say cool completely, I mean throw these bad boys in a fridge for a few hours. They should be chilled for easy preparation.
While one batch is cooling, you can prepare the second batch of cakes if you're making the 6-layer checkered board cake.
(I used this tutorial from Sprinkle Bakes. It is really amazing, so follow it along if you get lost...)
But first I'm going to share what I've learned that's REALLY important for making a checkered board cake.
1. Thin cake layers are much, MUCH easier to work with than thick cake layers.
2. REFRIGERATE all the cake layers before cutting them. Do it. I promise. You'll thank me later. Let them chill out for a good 3 hours.
3. B e p a t i e n t.
So - after the cakes are completely cooled, you can start to arrange them!
I didn't level my cakes, because they were already pretty much the same size. But if you're really getting involved here, with a cake leveller or a serrated knife, level the cakes so that they are all the same size.
After, take the bigger cookie cutter/biscuit cutter/bowl+knife combo and press it into each cake to remove a (approximate) 4 inch (10 cm) circle. Next, take the smaller cookie cutter, press it into the newly cut circle, and remove a (approximate) 2 inch (5cm) circle.
After you cut out the circles, arrange the cakes like in the photo below... it's much easier than using words to describe how to do this!
Since I made a white chocolate cake, I decided to continue the idea with a white chocolate frosting.
The frosting is sweet, but it's a great compliment to the cake, which has a moderate to low sweetness level.
White Chocolate Frosting - What you need:
- 325 grams of vegan margarine or butter, softened
- 3 cups of powdered sugar (=icing sugar, confectioner's sugar, or my new favourite term: FLUFFY SUGAR!!!)
- 150 grams of white chocolate, chopped
What Chocolate Frosting - What you do:
Over a double boiler, melt the white chocolate.
Allow the chocolate to cool slightly while you start the rest of the frosting...
Beat the margarine/butter with an electric beater for a few minutes - it should be lighter in colour and fluffy.
Beat the powdered sugar into the butter one cup at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Finally, pour the melted white chocolate into the frosting mix. Beat well until everything is totally combined.
I set mine in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up a bit.
This frosting is really awesome. It melts in your mouth because of the chocolate. Plus, it does a really great job of holding the cake together.
To assemble the cake, start with the purple outsider layer.
Top it off with a thin layer of frosting, and then repeat with the:
red outsider layers.
(Half way there!)
Once all the layers are finished, do a "crumb coat" around the cake. This is basically a really thin layer of frosting that smooths everything out around the cake. It makes it much easier to frost for the final product!
After you've applied a crumb coat, allow the cake to sit in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. I left it in there overnight. The first frosting layer becomes hard so after the icing sticks really well for the final layer!
(I mayyyy have added some sprinkles to the frosting before putting on the final layer.)
I complained for a good hour about how disappointed I was that I had no natural light for cake photography taking. But, eventually, I got over it... once cake was in my mouth...
This cake was really delightful (ahem, if I do say so myself)...
The layers were quite dense, but (again) due to the white chocolate, it kinda melted in your mouth to become soft and texturally pleasant.
The tonka presence was definitely appreciated... and I heard from a few cake tasters that there was a slight marzipan vibe going on. Even though I'm riding hard on the tonka train, I'm sure vanilla would be great too!
And - like I said before - the cake isn't too sweet, but the frosting balances everything out pretty darn well.
MOST importantly: I think the birthday boy was pleased. Hip hip hooray for birthdays!
OH! And the inside is pretty neat ...
This shot (below) is from my instagram feed.