Last month, my friend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
Yesterday, another friend and I held a shower in his honour. I quickly volunteered to bring the dessert.
It had been a while since my last cake decorating adventure (unless you count R's birthday cake) and I was itching to get my piping bags out again.
I already knew I wanted to make the Barefoot Contessa's chocolate cake and the theme colours were blue and white. I scoured the internet for baby shower cake designs and found a really cute and easy-looking option for making caked topped with baby booties.
Ultimate Chocolate Cake
from The Barefoot Contessa at Home 2006
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and/or line 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
The above instructions are different from what I did. I used an 8x3 round cake pan, so I only had one cake. I didn't line it, I just used Wilton's Cake Release.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (because I used one three inch, I had the cake in for closer to 50-55minutes), until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
I the meantime, I worked on making some muffins to complete the cake design (this will all become clearer further down in the post).
After the cake had cooled, I added a layer of banana pudding in the middle. I didn't know it ahead of time, but it turns out that banana and chocolate combinations are the father's favourite.
To make the muffins, I followed a recipe from the Joy of Baking.
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon (optional)
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and lightly butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
To complete the cake, I only needed three muffins.
The tip I got was to make the baby booties before putting them on the cake for ease of icing. You take one of your cupcakes and slice it down the middle (in a vertical position). With the other two muffins, you slice a layer off of the "original top" of the muffin and flip them upside down. This allows the muffins to extend outwards to create the bottom of the shoe. By flattening the top, the cupcake will be much sturdier. The rest, is pretty straightforward from the picture, below. Only other detail is that I trimmed off a bit of the sides of the muffins that were joined with icing, so that the two parts would sit closely together.
After icing the cake and the booties (I used the Wilton buttercream recipe), I placed the booties on the cake and completed the decorations. I'm still working on my lettering skills. Overall, I was very happy with the final product. I wanted the parents to feel loved and connected with their friends at a time when they probably felt disconnected from most of the outside world. I probably shouldn't associate food with love (talk to Giz and Babba about that) But I hope that with this cake (and the event as a whole), they got that message.
I also took my first (and maybe last) step into decorating cookies. I'll tell you about that adventure in my next post.