Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Birthday Cake of Epic Proportions

My little boy just turned four years old and we had his birthday party over the weekend.  I gave him his choice of party themes and, surprise, he chose Buzz Lightyear.  So, I love to make a decorate his birthday cake every year and I wanted this year's to just be amazing.  I searched online for inspiration and, not finding what I was looking for, ended up just kind of winging it.

What I didn't wing, was the cake recipe itself. Like many other things that I cook and/or bake, I have go-to cake recipes.  I am a self professed chocolate fiend.  My son (weirdo) prefers yellow cake.  So this one had a little of both.  My go-to chocolate cake is actually part of another recipe .  I have been making it for years.  It is the BEST chocolate cake and whenever I make it, I always get requests for the recipe.  The birthday party was no exception.

Rich Cocoa Squares
2/3 plus 1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups cold water

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pour into a 9"x13" pan.  On top of raw batter, sprinkle 1 cup of chocolate bits and 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Bake 30 minutes at 350.

So, that's the whole recipe.  But I use the basic cake recipe whenever I want to make chocolate cake for anything else.  I use it for cupcakes and two layer cakes.  It is moist and chocolatey and like I said, it always gets compliments.  It's also a "dump all the ingredients in the bowl and mix" cake.  For this cake, I used a 9 inch contoured Wilton pan because I wanted the top rounded and I didn't want to have to carve a two layer cake down.

Then I made a topper for the cake and a dozen cupcakes with a yellow cake recipe.  I'm not a huge fan of yellow cake, but this is the one I use when I have a cake to make.  And my son loves yellow cake and requested it.  It is moist and has a nice vanilla flavor to it.

Basic Yellow Cake from Better Homes and Gardens ( I love this cookbook!)
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease and flour pans.  Allow butter and eggs to come to room temperature.  In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.  Beat butter with an electric mixer on high for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, beating until well combined, then beat two minutes more.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.  Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating on low speed until just combined.  Spread batter into prepared pans.

For two 9 inch pans, bake 20-25 minutes.  I baked 12 cupcakes and put about 1/2 of the batter in my small Pampered Chef glass mixing bowl.  The cupcakes baked for about 18 minutes.  The bowl cake took much longer, over 30 minutes.  I used a melon baller to make some craters in the bowl cake, since it would become a moon later on.

So, then it was on to the icing.  I always use the basic buttercream icing recipe from Wilton.  

Wilton Buttercream Icing
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract (use clear if you will need white icing)
4 cups confectioner's sugar (ideally, it should be sifted, but I hardly ever do it)
2 Tbsp milk

Thick icing

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.  Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. 
For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 Tbsp water or milk; for medium, add 1 Tbsp.  Thick icing is used for decorations like leaves, thin is used for icing the cake.  I use medium for everything else.  I used 1 recipe for this entire cake and had a little left over.

First I iced the chocolate cake blue and the yellow cake gray, to look like the moon:

Then I added green, purple and orange to the borders:

Buzz hanging out on top

Next, I did the yellow cupcakes.  I blended the different colors with white and added blue sprinkles.  And on top of each one I put a yellow chocolate star that I made with yellow chocolate melts and a star shaped mold:

And finally, the finished cake (minus Buzz, because he kept falling off):

It was a great hit and everyone loved it, most of all my son, whose opinion is the only one that really mattered, anyway.


  1. So awesome!! Looks delicious too!