And It Was All Yellow
My youngest daughter turned four on April 3rd and when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday she said she wanted to be there, and have a yellow cake. I assured her she would certainly be invited to her own birthday and I would happily make her a yellow cake!
I know Grey’s Anatomy fans love the idea of me being a baker like my character Izzie Stevens, but it’s never really been my forte. I’ve struggled to get the consistency of my batters right, my cakes baked to a nice golden brown, or my breads to rise, and all that struggle was at sea level in Los Angeles. Once I moved to Utah, the altitude proved too hard for me to conquer! I gave up completely after making a birthday cake for Josh that came out as dense and heavy as a rock! So though I assured my baby girl I’d make her a cake, I couldn’t help but think I better purchase a back up from the store just in case!
Adalaide’s birthday dawned sunny and warm, a nice break from the snow and hail we’d recently had, and my hopes were high that I would finally conquer a birthday cake! I sat in the kitchen for an hour debating weather or not to make the batter from scratch and finally decided to let myself off the hook with that one. Though I thought about buying a back up cake, I didn’t out of a foolish sense of cake confidence, so I really didn’t have any room or time to fail. I used two boxes of Betty Crocker lemon cake mix and once I had the batter all mixed up, divided between three 8 inch cake pans and in the oven, I set about making the frosting.
Last fall I started playing around with my Williams-Sonoma Mechanical Pastry Bag (which sadly is no longer available) and had so much fun decorating cupcakes (again I used Betty Crocker for the actual cupcakes, I cannot tell a lie) that I decided to break it out for Adalaide’s cake. Having experimented with different frosting consistencies with cupcakes I had learned the thicker the better when it comes to piping anything out of a pastry bag.
I chose a Swiss Meringue Butter Cream Frosting I found on the Food Network and though it looked simple at first it was a little bit tricky. As I was whisking the crap out of the egg whites and sugar over a simmering pot of water hoping the egg whites wouldn’t curdle I kept putting out "perfect frosting" intentions into the universe and it worked! The frosting turned out better than I imagined and was so insanely good I couldn’t stop tasting it. I added ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract for a hint of flavor and about 30 drops of yellow food coloring gel to achieve a pale yellow hue for the base of the cake. After I got the right color down, I put the mixing bowl of frosting in the fridge to chill while I dealt with the cake.
Once I pulled the cakes out of the oven I let them cool in their pans and then cool some more on a wire rack. I then had Josh help me level the tops of them with a large serrated knife. I didn’t trust myself not to ruin them at the leveling stage! I then wrapped the cakes individually in two layers of plastic wrap and stuck them in the freezer for an hour to cool them off completely. When the hour was up I pulled the cakes and frosting out and did a quick crumb layer. I then put everything back in the refrigerator for another hour. Once that hour was up the cakes and I were ready to start decorating!
I don’t have all the right tools to achieve a perfectly smooth frosting finish but I did my best with the flat metal frosting spatula I do have. It took a while and my OCD was raging but I finally got it to a point where I was happy with it.
I decided to pipe tiny flowers on the cake and wanted them to be several shades darker than the frosting base so I added the rest of the food coloring gel to the remaining frosting and got lovely bright canary yellow. I had planned to just do a smattering of flowers across the top and down one side of the cake but I got carried away! I kept thinking the cake needed more, and then more, and then more until finally the whole thing was pretty much covered in tiny yellow blossoms.
I was running out of frosting by this point and still had a couple blank spaces on the top and sides so I threw in a couple of big roses and used Williams-Sonoma Luster Pearl candies to fill in the rest. Yes, I was crazy enough to put each pearl on individually with tweezers, insane, I know. It turned out pretty cool if I do say so myself, though next time I’ll try to keep it a bit simpler!
The best part about the cake was that Adalaide loved it so much she ate a piece for breakfast the next day and even wanted a piece for dessert the following night. Finally! Cake success! Maybe there’s a little Izzie in me after all!