Monday, November 24, 2014

Life Doesn't Truly Begin until That First Taste of Cake

Is there anything greater than your very first taste of cake? I mean, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and venture a yes, because before that occurs, most of us are eating flavorless mush for the majority of our existence. But then, something magical happens. A first birthday, full of presents and a whole bunch of other stuff you won't remember until you're old enough for your parents to embarrass you with the video of said party. But I can guarantee the look on your face when you're given that first bite of cake is spectacular. So when my sister asked me to bake and decorate my niece's first birthday cake, I couldn't deny her that moment. I saw Aurie get to try a lot of firsts over the weekend, like eggs, cow milk, and ham. She was not a fan of ham. I think if she had been offered ham's gateway drug--bacon--things would've gone down a little differently. I'm happy to report that she was, however, a fan of her red velvet sock monkey birthday cake.
Oh the places you'll go..wait..that's not right. I was looking for a Curious George reference.
Aurie's party was a sock monkey party. Somewhere along the way, my mom started associating sock monkeys with my sister, Sarah. No one is really sure why, so, in turn, Sarah decided sock monkeys were going to start being Aurie's thing. The perks of motherhood, right? I, for one, find monkeys absolutely terrifying, so I had to remind myself a few times that I was completely in control of this sock monkey, and at no point was it going to come to life and try to chew my face off. Maybe its just the Great Ape family I'm scared of...I would totally keep a Lemur on my shoulder at all times if it was 1. Appropriate and 2. Cost effective. Instead, let me show you how to bake a sock monkey red velvet cake this actually is 1. Appropriate and 2.Cost effective.
I was cooking in someone else's kitchen, and forgot to take pictures before this while I was looking for stuff.
Since I was driving in from Clovis to Dallas, I did not have enough days to make a red velvet from scratch, which is a shame, because my mother has a sinfully delish recipe. So this is just from the box, but I used milk instead of water, an extra egg, and butter instead of oil, with the amount doubled. This yields an absolutely radiant red color that water and oil simply could not.  I baked- at sea level, thankyouverymuch- at 350 for about 35 minutes. Other people's ovens...I've mastered my own oven's temper tantrums, so cooking in another kitchen is always both a little exciting and terrifying. If the cake had sucked, I totally could've just blamed it on this conundrum.
I never claimed to be a master drawer, but a plan of attack is always helpful.
For most of my cakes, I draw a really simple sketch of what's bouncing around in my head. I tell my students never to start an essay without doing prewriting to figure out what's going where, so I think this is life imitating art. I actually bough map pencils for this sketch. Map pencils were arguably my favorite school supply of all time, aside from the super fat crayons you had in kindergarten.  I made my classic white frosting with almond extract while the cakes cooled. 
So red. So slightly overcooked. So not my oven.
Make sure to put a thick layer of frosting between your rounds, and do a heavier crumb coat. This is a red cake, and red will show through layer upon layer of white frosting. I forgot to take a picture of my crumb coat because I was distracted by gift opening in the other room. When I hear the sound of rustling wrapping paper, its like a moth to a flame.
Get back in the kitchen and make my cake, Aunt Kate.
While my crumb coat was freezing for a half an hour (or longer would be even better to settle the red crumbs), I made my dyed decorator frostings. I used open-star tips for the decoration- Wilton 18 and 21 tips. For the writing, I used a Wilton 6, which is just a large, open round tip.
Mixing dyed frosting is the bane of my existence.
Once my crumb coat was done, I slathered on a hearty amount of frosting to try to cover all the red crumbs. I wish I could tell you this was a complete success, but there were still a few crumbs here and there. Thankfully one year olds aren't the world's toughest critics. I mean, everything she eats gets pureed and looks like cat puke. I froze my cake again for thirty minutes. Then I used the paper towel trick to smooth out my frosting. I brought my trusty Viva paper towels all the way from home. I can't live without the paper towel trick. I finally got to show my mom the witchcraft that is the paper towel trick. It is so easy, I'm pretty sure I will always refuse to learn fondant. Smooth and it tastes like a dream? Done and done! Now, let's get to that funky monkey. Sock monkey. Whatever.
I started by drawing my monkey's face and Aurie's name into the top with a toothpick. Be sure to clean it after each line so things don't get boogered've got plenty of time to ruin things later.
I started on the outside, and worked on outlining the monkey. Open star tips are so easy to use, just place straight up and down and pipe little stars onto the cake in your monkey outline. Make monkey noises where appropriate.
At this point, the face, mouth, and hat have been outlined...daily observations by Kate Fox.
Then I just tried not to let my left-handedness screw everything up. My brother-in-law mentioned that my cakes are even more impressive considering my physical handicap. Right-handed people...
At this point, he kinda looks like someone in Daft Punk.
The beauty about this type of tip is that you can go back in and fill in any white space by burying the tip in it and making another star. This really helps make the monkey look more like a sock/cloth anyway.
I missed a couple photos in here because my hand was close to falling off. Chocolate decorator frosting is a real a-hole. I used the #6 tip, buried it in his face, and made eye balls. Then I wrote Aurie's name using the same tip. I added "button pupils" to his eyes to make them pop, as the black was hard to see against the dark brown. I just put the cleaned 6 tip on my bag of cream frosting.
I took a snack break and finished my Chick-fil-a lemonade (product plug- they should pay me with all the free advertising I give them) before I worked on my border. This was surprisingly not because of my wimpy, dainty girl hand, but because my red frosting had gotten so warm thanks to the Dallas humidity that it would not pipe correctly. So if you happen to live in a tropical jungle, too, just stick it in the fridge for ten to fifteen minutes and try again. I have no advice for how to tame your hair in that jungle though..sorry.
I used the number 21 tip to create my rope border, and a number 18 tip to create small shells on top. I thought about doing rope on top, too, but didn't want the focus to pull from the sock monkey himself. I would've named him, if I knew I wasn't going to be eating him later. Never name the things you plan on eating.
Looking back on this, he looks like he knows he's going to be eaten.
I'm pretty proud of this cute little guy, as he fit in delightfully with the rest of the decorations:
Like a circus tent! Complete with sock monkey centerpiece!
And kick ass, grammatically incorrect banner! Get it together, Party need a comma!!
Hank was clearly on the move in that photo trying to find the next person to drop food on the floor while preparing for the party. He never leaves Aurie's side for that reason. He absolutely loves the way that baby's face tastes...always food on her somewhere! I am happy to report that my tiny namesake Aurie Kate found cake to be as delightful as I do. 
What form of pure magic is this? Is it..solid?
I'm fairly certain she would've eaten that whole piece if her father hadn't saved her from herself. Cake addiction is a slippery slope, after all. I knew she would like the frosting since she was my official taste tester, but the cake itself was anyone's guess. About thirty seconds after this photo was taken, she went from being a clean baby to a cake baby. I honestly wish I could go at a cake with that much fervor and have it be socially acceptable, but alas.
Even the dog had a party hangover.
Hank looks like we all felt after that party, full, tired, and in need of a long sugar coma. I was quite  honored by everyone's matter how many cakes I make, I am always super critical of my work, so being reminded that I don't suck at this is always nice! That's what happens when you're the Cake Kate Boss. I am happy to report that I get to go see my husband for Thanksgiving, so this concludes blogging for the MONTH of NOVEMBER, as I will be spending time enjoying civilization and not baking because his lodging has no oven. Its an honest to God vacation! Thank you all for continuing to believe in November and Thanksgiving like I do. I can only imagine how unbelievably obnoxious TV commercials are going to be once it is officially December and the Christmas monster is breathing down everyone's neck like an IRS auditor or, well, a Yeti. If I hear "Frosty the Snowman" ONE TIME....'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

1 comment:

  1. It was the BEST birthday cake- EVER!!! Grandmary says so.


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