This year will be marked in our memories for many reasons, including the fact that we had an uncomfortably hot summer and that was followed by monsoon where it hardly rained all June, and July doesn’t seem very promising so far. What we will surely remember is that 2014was the year when our daughter turned 18 and that she left for college to stay away from home for the first time.
She still has a couple of weeks before she has to leave for college, and rather than dwell on that, I shall move onto happier thoughts like she turned 18 last weekend. It wasn’t quite like the birthday of past years because most of her friends have moved away to college, and the remaining few are in the process of doing so, like her. So we had a quiet day but enjoyable day at home.
When our daughter was younger, we used to order her birthday cakes from a local bakery that makes the tastiest birthday cakes I’ve had. They don’t do over the top cakes with fondant decorations and fancy themes, just the good old fashioned kind of buttery cakes which didn’t stretch beyond shapes of cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, or maybe a Pink Panther! The cakes would be covered with buttercream and piped decorations with a “Happy Birthday” spelt out in swirling and pretty alphabets. The birthday girl would pick out the shape and flavours she wanted which were invariably chocolate or vanilla.
Then somewhere around the time she turned9 or 10, I started becoming a little adventurous and started baking her birthday cake at home and it’s become a tradition now. Of course, it has helped that I have been steadily improving with my skills as a “layered-birthday-cake- with-buttercream” maker even though my piping/ decoration skills are pretty basic.
I learnt the hard way that it was better not to surprise the birthday girl with the cake, at least in terms of flavour. Of course, I must admit that I used to have a tendency to go a bit overboard with my birthday cake ideas and executions initially. I would end up spending a lot of effort on them given my then very basic skills with multiple layer cakes and decorating, drive myself and my husband up the wall only to find the cake or the frosting wouldn’t turn out quite the way I wanted them to. I would then have to find ways and means to make adjustments so everything turned out right. I would also have the rest of the birthday party cooking to do too.
So somewhere a couple of years in to birthday cake making, I wised up and figured the way to go was to bake simple cakes that took the least effort, but had the best taste and texture, and the maximum “wow” factor. To keep an element of surprise in the whole birthday cake baking thing, I always ask my daughter what sort of cake she wants. I’d then find a recipe that would accommodate those wishes and tweak them to suit my needs. The birthday girl would have no idea what her cake would look like and the final unveiling would invariably elicit reactions that were music to my ears.
This year was pretty much the same. The birthday girl’s demand was pretty simple and what she wanted was a cake with buttercream! Those of you who are veterans at making frosted cakes, or even at eating them every now and then without giving it a second thought must be wondering what’ the big deal is about buttercream on cake. It just so happens that I don’ make buttercream very often, just like maybe just twice a year so a home-made cake with buttercream on it is a bit of a rare treat for our daughter. I personally dislike the stuff, and to be honest, a lot of butter and sugar is something you don’t want to see too often especially when you are on the wrong side of forty!
So the birthday girl demanded a cake frosted with buttercream, and it was her 18thbirthday so I wanted to bake something special and bit different my my usual cakes, but also stay well within my decorating skills. I had decided that this birthday we would not go down the chocolate-y road for a change, so that pretty much left me to choose between vanilla and butterscotch which are the birthday girl’s two favouritest flavours!
After much thought about the cake (a two layer cake as I have two same size cake tins and wouldn’t have to slice through one cake and have it fall apart on me) and searching around, I picked this cake. It can’t get much better than a one bowl cake (no creaming till soft and fluffy, looking for ingredients I don’t have, and just the bowl, a spoon or two, and the beaters to wash!) with another favourite of the daughter’s – Oreo cookies.
Just in case the thought of a one-bowl cake doesn’t seem right for a birthday cake, let me assure that this one turned so good that my daughter and her bunch of teenage friends thought it was so good that I was getting compliments on my cake days after they ate it. It wasn’t just attractive look from the piped roses on the top and the Oreo speckled cake on the inside, but how good the cake tasted. If you don’t like Oreos ( I don’t, and cannot understand what it is that people love about them), you will hardly taste them in the cake but they do something good for it.
Be warned that this is American style buttercream, it is very sweet and not really my thing at all. I chose to use this because it’s easy to make, kids seem to like it and it has no eggs in it. I always use salted butter for this buttercream because I feel it cuts through the sweetness abit. Make sure that the butter is not very salty or it will come through in the buttercream and taste weird). So if you’d prefer a less sweet buttercream, please use your own regular recipe for it.
You might notice that my cake has an “unfinished” look when viewd from the side. Ideally the whole cake, top and sides, should have been covered with rosettes. However, when I started working on the sides, for some reason, the rosettes I piped along the side just wouldn’t stay there but kept sliding down. I was almost in tears seeing a vision of my beautiful cake turning out to be a colossal disaster. It might have been the humid heat of a monsoon morning that just wasn’t right for buttercream.
I ended up leaving the sides plain and just piped a layer of stars along the bottom of the edge of the cake and decided to call it a day as far as cake decorating went. My daughter and her friends and everyone else who saw the cake thought it looked good and tasted even better, so that’s all that mattered in the end.
Cookies Cream Rosette Cake With Classic Vanilla Buttercream
(Cake adapted from Betty Crocker)