Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Christina's Dad

It's been a while since I featured a guest post, but it was worth the wait. This one is a sweet doozy (yes, more cake) from an old friend and one of my most faithful readers and troubleshooters, Christina.

Hello Second Dinner readers!  Katya lived across the hall from me way back during our freshman year of college . . . and I have lots of fond memories of Katya that involve food.  She baked cookies in the grimy dorm lounge, hosted latke parties every Hanukkah, and spent lots of time talking with me about Vidalia onions and pomegranates.  So I’ve been following her adventures here with interest.

I just entered a period of "funemployment" after three years of long hours at work, and so I’m making up for lost time in the kitchen.  Now, I’m a pretty good cook and an okay amateur baker.  But even though my cakes always taste fine, they look like they were beaten with the ugly stick.  Uneven layers, cracks, crumbs in the frosting – can you say "hot mess"?

Imagine my surprise when I was able to produce the following for my dad’s birthday.

For the first time ever, I managed to bake a cake with a lovely shiny coat of frosting and no messy crumbs poking through!  I was so ecstatic that I had to share my good news with Katya, who kindly offered to display my efforts here. 

I followed the chocolate layer cake recipe featured at Smitten Kitchen (using the adaptations for 9-inch cake pans) and it baked up like a dream.  The layers were nice and even, and super-moist.  I made sure to thunk the pans on the counter a few times before baking as per the tips over at SK.

Things always go awry for me once it comes time to frost, probably due to my lack of patience.  I’m bad at crumb coats and always have trouble spreading buttercream without ripping off layers of crumbs and getting them scattered all over the place.  So, this time, I made sure to bake the cake the day before my dad’s birthday in hopes that the layers would be easier to work with at frosting time.  I cooled the layers completely before wrapping them in plastic wrap and then left them in the fridge for 24 hours.  I also decided to try a chocolate sour cream frosting (again featured at Smitten Kitchen) in hopes that I would find it more amenable to spreading. Well, it worked like a charm.  Frosting this cake was practically effortless since the frosting was so light and easy to work with.  Nary a crumb peeked through AND it was absolutely delicious.

My dad loved the cake and thought it tasted even better on day two than on the day it was cut.  I think the taste of the sour cream kind of mellowed out a little and melded better with the cake layers.  But the best thing about this cake is that it has magical properties.  We were able to keep this cake under a dome in the fridge for TWO weeks with no signs of it going bad or getting a stale taste.  (My mom can’t eat chocolate and I am limiting my consumption of sweets, so there was a lot of cake left for my dad to tackle.)  This is the everlasting gobstopper of birthday cakes!

Many thanks to Katya for letting me guest blog and share my cake-baking excitement.  At her urging, and with some trepidation, I will attempt pane genzanese next!


Miriam said...

Christina, I love your post! It sounds like the perfect Dad birthday cake. Love, Miriam

Anonymous said...

Great guest blog! The cake looks yummy.