I cook and bake all the time. I would even say more times that not it goes seamlessly. Often I can alter recipes on the fly and it works even better than I thought it might. However, when it’s something I am “trying” to do thats when it’s full of mistakes and errors. You see, my birthday was coming up. I wanted to make a cake. No big deal right? Wrong! This was for my 40th birthday so I wanted it to be perfect… and that’s when it all went wrong.
So fo as long as I can remember when I was a kid living at home my mom every year would asked me what food I wanted for my birthday. In the early years I wanted silly cakes but as I got older I got hooked on German Chocolate Cake. So that’s what I have every year for my birthday. This birthday being the big 4-oh I knew I wanted to take it to the next level. After all I just spent a year making a new cake every 3 weeks! I was getting pretty good at it. I learned tons! This should have been doable.
It started with the cake. I got it in my head that German Chocolate Cake needed a lighter color brown for the chocolate cake than a standard chocolate cake. This sent me down a rabbit hole of trying to find a recipe or technique for making a “milk chocolate” cake. All the cakes called for cocoa powder but that wasn’t the flavor I wanted. I wanted milk chocolate to be added. After a bit of digging around and the fact that I was running out of time I made my chocolate cake recipe, omitted the cocoa powder and added melted milk chocolate instead. Doesn’t sound too bad right? Well the recipe and technique that I use had you add hot water into the batter at the very end. My idea was to melt the chocolate in the water and add it together at the very end. This all went fine but in my haste to add the mixture I poured it in too quickly and I am thinking something might have curdled or cooked or something cause I ended up with this little white floaty bits.
Once the cake when in the oven it looked like it was going to bake fine. It was rising. Then about half way through it began sinking. It took longer to cook thank expected and it didn’t “look” right. When I turned them out they were very oily. I went ahead and trimmed them flat and tasted the scraps. They tasted fine enough so I decided to push forward. I was worried that the cake would be disappointing from a texture perspective so I pulled some standard chocolate cakes layers I had in the freezer from a previous cake that were extra. I thought maybe doing alternating layers of my less than great milk chocolate cake with traditional chocolate cake might make it not so obvious. What I didn’t realize was how thick those other layers were. Putting all that aside I pushed on to making the frosting.
Let me tell you now I think I am cursed when it comes to anything involving a candy thermometer. I had an amazing recipe from Bravetart for fudge frosting. This had me so excited because I have yet to make a chocolate frosting I am happy with…ever… I am very picky about frosting. This one had tons of promise. I set out on the task of making the frosting. Everything was looking ok even as it was cooling. The next step was once it hit a particular temperature I was to put it into my mixer and beat it till the temp dropped dramatically then add the butter. As it was beating it looked beautiful. Then it turned. I am not sure what happened but it looked more like nougat than fudge. I started adding the butter and it was just melting and not incorporating. I put it in the fridge to chill it and re-beat it. It ended up being fluffy, smooth on the tongue, and milk chocolatey but it was nothing that would be spreadable. It reminded me a lot of the inside of a three musketeers bar. Not wanting to just toss this I decided to try to make it a filling.
I also make a double batch of the coconut pecan filling I had made in the past. The issue with this was I used yolks from duck eggs which are much darker in color so I didn’t know what color I was trying to cook it to so I ended up over cooking it making it almost unspreadable.
So at this point I had a cake I wasn’t thrilled with, a cake that was much bigger than I planned, and two fillings that were not spreadable as well as no frosting. As a last ditch effort to save this cake I made my Italian buttercream and added coconut flavoring. This flavoring was thick and I am guessing it was more of an oil. Once I added it to the frosting the texture change a little and was setting firm too quickly.
As quick as I could I I started amassing my layers. I put down a milk chocolate cake and then covered it in the coconut pecan filling. Getting it on was a challenge but I managed. I then added a thin layer of chocolate cake and tried to cover it with my “nougat” substance. Not only would it not spread but it was tearing up my rather fragile chocolate cake later. I resorted to putting on small pieces with my hands and basically molding into the shape I wanted. I then repeated these steps. Once I placed the last and thickest layer on the cake I suddenly became aware of how big this cake really would be! As I worked my way around the cake smearing the coconut buttercream onto this beast of a cake I couldn’t stop laughing. This whole cake was such a disaster, a huge sugar and chocolate bomb of a disaster!
With the cake frosted I was like, well I have come this far why not go all the way… so how I could I add decoration? I keep thinking about how my fillings were easier to mold than to spread so I got a small scoop and made little balls of filling to top the cake.
In the end the cake was/is perfectly edible. It’s over the top sweet and rich. This wouldn’t be a problem but with the sheer size even my normal small servings aren’t so small. All I know is one things for sure I will never forget my 40th birthday cake!