Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Double birthday cake

It's my birthday today. More excitingly, however, since I like to keep my birthday quite quiet, it's my little Birthday Buddy in California's birthday too! One day I hope to celebrate a birthday with him in person, but in the meantime, I made this cake for us to share in spirit (I realise that BB may take issue with the fact that only I actually get to eat it, but I'm sure that his parents will be organising him a cake of his own).

My ideal birthday is a nice quiet day and a romantic and tasty meal out for the two of us. I have a work deadline coming up soon so I couldn't take the day off, but I did skip out for a few hours for a potter in town, and to make myself and BB a little cake. I had been drawn to red velvet cakes when I was choosing what to make for the last round of my cooking challenge with Lisa, which had featured birthday cakes. I decided against it because the recipes all used so much red food colouring, but then I found one which used beetroot instead. I think we may have established by now that I am strangely drawn to unusual ingredients in baked goods, and this one lurked in my mind. Lurking turned to downright jumping up and down with a flag that said 'bake me!' when I found a low-fat version from Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious that didn't use any artificial colour at all on Not Quite Nigella. I wasn't sure how The Scientist would feel about it, but it's my birthday cake and if I want odd vegetables in it, then that's my prerogative, I believe. It's his birthday in a month and he can have all the lemon meringue pie he wants then with nary a beetroot, courgette or sneaky squash in sight.

That's not the crest of my old college hiding on the edge of the plate, oh no
I forgot to say the first time round: the clock is pointing to 3 o'clock because that's how old BB is today!

As seems to be my wont, I halved the recipe since it was just for two of us, and baked it in a brand new 6 inch round tin (thank you Vet Dad's parents - The Scientist's surrogate second family since childhood :)). I just used one egg rather than halving a full egg and two egg whites, and I did the milk and vinegar trick instead of buttermilk as I never have that regularly on hand. I followed the oil rather than butter option and it didn't get at all creamy, but it seemed to work fine, and the batter was gratifyingly crimson. The baked cake smelt absolutely gorgeous, too (and no repeat failing to bake problems this time).

The decoration of this cake was also fated long ago. Several months ago now I was chatting to a colleague about the cakes she used to make for her children when they were at school. One of their favourites was a Hickory Dickory Dock cake from an old Reader's Digest book. I had a look on ebay for it so I could surprise her with a replica, but to no avail. Then, however, Johanna wrote about her magnificent green giraffe cake, which was based on a pattern in an Australian Women's Weekly cake book (not sure if that link is actually to the right edition - the picture's too small to tell!). Someone left a comment for her linking to a facebook group devoted to childhood cakes from this book, and in an idle moment I went and looked it at (I'm not commenting on what this implies about either my work rate or my character). To my great amazement, one of the other cakes in the book was a hickory dickory dock one. I found it on ebay and it was mine. I've been saving it all this time, and it seems like an appropriate cake to share with my young birthday buddy in California.

I'm not very experienced with decorating cakes and have so far shown no original talent on that front at all. I was hoping this one would be easy, what with a picture to follow and all. I will let the photos stand as testament to my success or otherwise. I used cream cheese frosting as that's traditional on a red velvet cake apparently, although I didn't flavour it with cocoa as the cake recipe suggested as I wanted a white clock face. The decorations are sweets, and the mouse, rather endearingly, is made out of a prune, which isn't something I would have thought of for a children's cake. I have to admit, I was rather proud of it. It also tasted very good indeed. You couldn't taste the beetroot, and I was a little disappointed that it wasn't pinker - Not Quite Nigella's was much more colourful. The beets lent it moistness though, and the icing set it off beautifully. I enticed The Scientist into trying a bit and he liked it too, and was relieved about the lack of beetroot flavour. He was full of chocolate biscuit cake though, which was the product of an idle twenty minutes before my potter into town to use up some biscuits, so he probably wasn't the most discerning taster.

I've had a very happy birthday, not least because of the lovely gift I opened first thing this morning from a certain family in New Zealand - a framed picture of the Munchkin and Munchkinette relaxing on the quilt I sent them. The Munchkin looks like a proper little boy, not the baby who left here 8 months ago, and he's looking so sweetly at his sister, who is holding his hand. That was a very nice start to the day, and we've just ended it with a lovely meal at an Arabic restaurant in Coventry called Habibi. It was recommended to me before we moved here and it was a really good experience. We sat at low tables in an outdoor (heated) tent, and ate babaganoush and fatoush salad with pitta, a veggie tagine for me, and a mixed grill for The Scientist. The staff were really friendly, and they even do belly dancing classes for ladies during the week! It's also five years to the day since I met the little mewling scraps of fluff who became our cats, so they have had some tuna as their treat (I picked out the piggle cat that day - Scooty was a bonus extra when we went to pick her up a month or so later, but a most welcome bonus :)). And it's 32 years since Munchkin Granny and Munchkin Gramps became parents, which I think is the biggest thing of all :)


Johanna said...

happy birthday lysy! sounds like a good one. The cake looks excellent - I once tried making this cake and got overambitious and tried to do roman numerals out of liquorice on a small cake - not a good idea - I like your jubes (sweeties) much more

Red velvet cake is something i would like to make sometime - although the food dye does scare me a little too, but a cream cheese topping sounds good to me

Lysy said...

Thank you! (And thank you for making me aware of the cake book, too :) The picture in the book did have roman numerals but I decided my little clock face was just too small. It sounds as though it was the best choice!

My beetroot didn't form as soft a puree as I had planned so perhaps getting it more pureed would make it redder without any dye. The cream cheese icing was very nice indeed!

Ilana said...

oooh, i want to see that present :)

hope you had a lovely day xxxxxx

LisaRene said...

Happy 32nd birthday! I loved my 30's but sadly I passed to 40 last year :(

I was wondering if you would make your own cake or if the Scientist was going to make one for you.

Making a cake is much easier then decorating one. I have NO artistic ability and wouldn't even attempt to decorate a cake in a fancy way. I enjoy watching Ace Of Cakes on Food Network and am completely amazed and impressed by their creative abilities. The little prune mouse is cute and a nice compliment to the beets in the cake :)

Arfi Binsted said...

Happy birthday Lysy! A bit late, but hey I am here hehehe...

Lysy said...

Thank you everyone! I'm very touched. I think I might ask The Scientist to make me a cake next time - I'm intrigued as to what he'd do!

Lorraine E said...

Happy Birthday! Glad that you tried the cake :) I wonder why yours wasn't as pink as mine? I actually would have preferred it to be less pink than it was as I was trying to see if my eaters could tell what was in it :lol:

Mandy said...

Happy Belated Birthday! Your cake looks absolutely adorable!

Lysy said...

Thank you, Lorraine and Mandy! I wonder why my cake was less vibrant than yours though, Lorraine? I whizzed my beetroot up in my mini blender so perhaps it wasn't as pureed as yours? My mum didn't guess it had beetroot in it at all so it certanly succeeded in hiding itself!