Birthday-palooza: 30 days, 4 birthdays, 6 cakes, 3 parties.
Of the five people in our family, four of us have birthdays within the same 30 day period. John Amos starts us off on February 4th and Abram closes out birthday season on March 6th. My birthday is one day after John Amos’ (I made my goal of having three kids before my thirtieth birthday with only 12 hours to spare!), and Ellie’s is on Valentine’s Day.
I am an introvert, and so it has taken me almost an entire month to recover from all the celebrations and merry making. I believe I’m finally ready to blog about it all.
I am not a big fancy awesome cake decorator. Fondant scares me. In some ways I think things have gotten a bit out of hand with kids’ birthday cakes these days. I have seen birthday cakes for a three-year-old’s birthday party that are fancier than my wedding cake. Whatever happened to the sheet cake with “Happy Birthday So-and-so!” written on it??
The theme for this year was melted chocolate. So simple. So easy. So semi-fancy-awesome.
Knowing Ellie would choose a pink cake and Abram would choose green and blue, I picked my own favorite colors for John Amos’ cake: yellow and orange. It was my birthday, too, after all. A lion’s face seemed to make sense on a yellow and orange cake.
It was so cold the night I made this cake that I couldn’t get the butter to soften. There were tiny pieces of butter in the icing. I got the idea here, it’s pretty much a cheater’s way to do an ombre cake. Any recipe that has “easy” and “real people” and I’m all in. It turned out very, very nice although I wish I had done three layers. The cake is carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
I also made vegan chocolate cupcakes using my go-to chocolate cake recipe. This is my go-to cake recipe because: (1) it’s cheap…no eggs or butter, (2) it’s easy…takes about 5 minutes to mix up, and (3) it’s delicious. Why would I make any other kind sof cake? It’s called Crazy Cake, you can find it here except you want to cut that sugar in half.
This next section could be titled, “How I failed to meet my daughter’s birthday cake expectations.”
Ellie wanted a strawberry cake with a princess on it and a candle in the shape of a 5. Her birthday was on a Tuesday with a party planned for the following Saturday. It seems, to a five-year-old’s thinking, that you are required to blow out your candles before you can actually turn five. And so, on Ellie’s birthday we had cake and candles and the Happy Birthday song with just the five of us.
Given Ellie’s zeal for all things pink, I figured pink was more important than strawberry-flavored. So I whipped up a Crazy Cake and added some food coloring to our favorite cream cheese frosting. Whoops. The next day Ellie explained that she wanted her cake to be pink AND taste like strawberries.
Isn’t it beautiful. I was so proud. Three layers looks much nicer.
Just one problem. No princess, and omission that did not go unnoticed. I was decorating this thing 10 minutes before a party that was not being held at my house. As in, I had to finish it up and haul it over to the party location. I was in a rush and I wasn’t sure an entire princess was going to fit on the round cake. I improvised with flowers, hearts and dots. It’s girly. It’s cute. I had already done one princess, right?? It seems girly, cute flowers, hearts and dots do not make up for a princess.
The strawberry buttercream was finicky and wanted to separate. In the end I decided I couldn’t risk saran wrap and—for the 1000th time wishing I had a fancy cake carrier—just hand carried it unwrapped over to the party. What a picture I must have been. Have I mentioned that there is a wet market just outside my apartment building? Imagine me, with John Amos in the Ergo on my back, balancing three layers of strawberry cake goodness while gingerly wending my way through the Saturday shopping crowd praying every. single. step. that no one jostles me. I feel stressed out just thinking about it. But we made it and it was delicious.
Moving on. Abram wanted a monster AND a dinosaur. I tried. And tried. And tried. To get him to narrow it down to a monster OR a dinosaur. But no. It had to be both.
Oh my. Oh. My.
Once again it’s the Crazy Cake with cream cheese frosting. Except this time the only cream cheese we could find was the ‘spreadable’ kind. What on earth? Who has trouble spreading cream cheese? It’s ALREADY spreadable. What they should call it is ‘impossible-to-incorporate-into-frosting’ cream cheese.
Unlike the day I made John Amos’ cake, it was 80 degrees inside our apartment on this day. I checked. My butter melted just fine. What I ended up with was drippy butter emulsified with the ‘spreadable’ cream cheese. It’s a good thing it was a monster cake.
With my other cakes I practiced the design on paper first. It seems I was feeling a bit sure of my self by this time. This was a mistake. Despite the fact that I read dinosaur books to my sons multiple times daily, it seems I still don’t have a very good grasp on what T-rex’s legs look like.
I believe I was trying to perk the cake up with the blue border. I started at the lower left corner and worked clockwise. You can see that by the time I was nearly finished I had just given up and smudged out the rest.
Abram is such a dear, he loved his Angry Fry Kid vs. Handicapped T-Rex cake.
We all scraped off our frosting. ‘Spreadable’ cream cheese, I hate you.
For Abram’s big birthday party I didn’t even make a cake. I made pudding. Vegan pudding at that. The idea was to dig in the “mud” to find the surprise hidden in your pudding. I don’t have a picture of the finished product. (It was 1am) Imagine more pudding covering the treats and then some Oreo crumbs on top.
I spent a LOT of time searching the internets for a vegan pudding recipe. But they were all too dern fancy. I like foodies, I’m glad with have foodies, maybe I would be a foodie if I had more time and money. But seriously, rein it in. Is it really necessary to specify in your ingredient list that I must use “good quality chocolate (please NO Hershey’s)”. No thank you. Where’s the “easy” recipe for “real people”?
In the end I used the Quick Chocolate Pudding recipe from my trusty More With Less cookbook and substituted coconut milk so it would be vegan. (One of my best friends is vegan, and so vegan cake and vegan chocolate pudding are important.) Here’s the recipe:
Real People Vegan Chocolate Pudding (serves 4-6)
Combine in heavy saucepan or double boiler:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups coconut milk
A tiny bit of salt…a few grains to half a pinch
Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly (or, in my case, often).
1 teaspoon vanilla
Serve warm or cold.
So, so, so good.