There was a time--when I had more time--when I would spend all day making a cake. Sometimes it was for a special occasion, other times for fun or at times simply to practice. The process of making a cake from the icing to the layers to the decorating takes time. If I was on one of those Master Chef type shows and had to make an entire cake in an hour or less, I don't think I could do it. Luckily I had a day off last week and it was my husband's birthday, so I made him a cake. Maybe it sounds ultra domestic of me to spend a whole day in the kitchen, but I enjoy creating something from nothing and admiring small details. I do it for myself as much as I do it for other people.
Pardon the obvious clique: sometimes you need to "stop and smell the roses." Like making a cake from scratch, it is nice to admire the beautiful details of things, especially in nature. This weekend in Ottawa was the start of the Canadian Tulip Festival. The festival celebrates Canada's role in liberating The Netherlands during World War II and the gift of thousands of tulips The Netherlands gave to the capital city afterwards. Only a few weeks ago, we were freezing cold covered in snow and now the flowers are in full bloom for the start of spring.
When you think about each individual petal on each flower, you start to see how each one builds a bigger picture. I love the photo above of one tulip standing out from the crowd. There were seas of different colours of tulips along with massive crowds hovering around to get a good look. Taking a few minutes to admire nature is another way to relax and enjoy the moment.
It is funny how during a celebration, you often gift someone with either flowers, cake or balloons. They are required things for every celebration whether it is momentous or small. Like the tulips sent to Canada, they signify a tradition to uphold. In the case of birthday cake, well, it isn't a birthday without cake. You also need the right tools if you are going to get everything right. My Mother-in-law got me the deluxe Wilton decorating kit for Christmas last year which has everything I need to pipe icing, make icing flowers, cake designs and much more. I used the carrot cake recipe from my favourite baking cookbook: The Happy Baker.
"You can kiss my triple decker carrot cake goodbye" by The Happy Baker2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup coconut
Directions:Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add sugar, oil and eggs; mix together for 3 minutes with a hand mixer. Stir in carrots, pineapple, chopped nuts and coconut. Pour into prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes.
Cream Cheese Icing:1/2 cup butter, softened
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
500 g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup toasted coconut for decorating. Bake at 300F for about 5 minutes until coconut is light golden brown; stir often.
Directions:Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla. Stir in the icing sugar. Spread evenly on the top of the first layer, add the second layer, spread evenly on that layer. Add third layer spread icing evenly all over cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.
I kept this cake simple with the design. It would have been fitting to make icing flowers to coincide with the spring flowers around town right? As lovely as they are, icing flowers are a blessing and a curse. The inspiration for this cake came from a sprinkle birthday cake I saw on Pinterest. You use cut out numbers and place them on the cake and then sprinkle the sprinkles around the numbers.
For my cake, I printed out numbers and then cut them out and placed them on the cake after it was iced. Then I sprinkled the coconut around the numbers. Make sure to press down on the numbers and brush away any coconut that gets on the numbers. The only problem is that the paper numbers then lift off any icing that is underneath. You could either re-ice the number area or add a different colour of sprinkle to the area.
I added chocolate sprinkles to make the cake look a little less naked. The sprinkles also looked more uniform instead of trying to make sprinkled numbers by hand. I also piped some stars at the bottom of the cake to make it look nicer. I am not the best at the crumb coat icing part. As much as icing can fix mistakes with cake, fiddling with the icing too much can ruin a good thing. With baking each layer individually, making the icing, assembling the layers, icing the cake and decorating the cake, the whole process took a few hours. Making a cake is only something I do once in awhile. Maybe we all need to spend some time to do something nice--for someone else or ourselves--more often.