Sunday, January 8, 2017

Twenty-Nine for the Second Time!

Imagine my surprise when I awoke the morning of my thirtieth birthday to find my hair had not turned completely gray, my girls were not sagging slightly above my navel, and my retinol creams were still working at keeping evil wrinkles at bay. After several brief once overs in the mirror (a typical morning for my level of narcissism) and a realization that it was definitely time to touch up my roots, I accepted that I'm okay with turning 30 as long as I still look 29. Much like a child who finally succumbs to taking a nap after spending an awkward and annoying amount of time resisting, I too have have stopped fighting the fear of turning 30. I spent my early twenties being a total hot mess of blonde hair and really poor fashion choices (ugh, mid 2000's trends--looking at you body glitter), and my mid-twenties cultivating who I wanted to be when (or if) I finally grew up. So now I actually get to be that adult. Or adult adjacent. I still laugh at fart jokes and wear ridiculously fuzzy and usually unmatching socks, so some parts of me will always maintain a youthful jubilance. But once you've been regularly filing your own taxes and held a mortgage payment and non food service related employment, it's simply time to realize age is not really the number itself, but how you feel. Kind of like mileage on a car--there's city miles versus highway miles, and while my city miles may be racking up, my highway miles are barely registering. And even though I had this enlightening epiphany about age and life, I'm still insanely self-deprecating and needed to make a birthday cake to poke fun at the moratorium on my 20s. I've literally been planning this cake since the moment I turned 29, and now that I've done it, I can clearly say I put up a damn good fight while finding the most morbidly original way to deal with the death of my youth:
Buried in this cake is a ridiculous amount of booze. Because the best way to deal with turning a new decade involves both cake AND alcohol.
Only I could ensure my youth's final resting place is made of cake. See, I told you, I lack the ability to become a serious, credentialed member of adulthood (although still looking into AARP...). Even though this was a monumental (see what I did there) cake and birthday, I still wasn't willing to throw caution to the wind and invite all the calories to slumber beneath this tombstone. I created a yellow creme soda cake with amaretto buttercream frosting that clocks in at only 293 calories per slice (15 slices total). I know, a slice of cake for under 300 calories almost seems too good to be true, like all those wrinkle creams resting in the bottom of my bathroom drawer, mocking me, but it really does taste like cake. More importantly, it tastes like Disaronno...because classy 30 year old's drink things like Disaronno on the rocks. And less classy 30 year old's eat things like Disaronno buttercream frosting because childlike joie de vie simply can't allow them to not eat all the cake. But thanks to my recipe tweaking, I'm at least attempting to wrangle that exultation for dessert into a mere mild excitement regarding baked goods. Thirty year old's should know how to compromise, I suppose.
Ah yes, Shasta and eggs, a traditional Southern combination.
Y'all, I haven't made an actual cake since Halloween. HALLOWEEN. It has been MONTHS. I've made cookies, cupcakes, assorted desserts, but no full-fledged caking has taken place since we left Albuquerque. Perhaps I was protesting my ability to accept I was homesick for a state that usually smells like cattle, and I was expressing this by my refusal to really get creative. I mean, they say with age comes wisdom, but damn, I am really firing on all cylinders since hitting the big 3-0. I have always been (a) wise (ass). It felt good to throw together a cake and prepare for decoration, so if you're in a funk might I recommend scooping up a box of yellow cake mix, a slightly chilled can of diet creme soda (measure out 10 ounces), and two egg whites at room temp. Throw all of these together and mix for 2 minutes while you preheat your oven according to box instructions and grease a pan of your choosing.
There will be bubbles thanks to the soda's effervescence, so don't break your counter top slamming the pan to try to get the bubbles out.
 For a tombstone cake, use a 9x13 pan, greased very well. The soda will help everything bake faster, and the egg whites will help the cake remain springy. I ended up baking this cake for 20 minutes until a toothpick came out clean, so start testing your cake about 5 minutes before the box instructions say it should be done. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Be gentle, as these cakes seem to crack quite easily compared to a dense, dairy-heavy cake. But when you're done frosting, this cake won't weigh sixteen pounds, so that's nice.
Prepare a cake board while your cake is cooling on the rack, and the place the board on top of the cooling cake bottom and flip the rack over so you have the top of the cake now facing you. Place into the freezer so trimming it into tombstone shape is easier. While it is cooling, prepare for a crappy photo montage and gather up:
Three piping bags, small round tips (I used a 3 and a 5), leaf tips (I used a 352), black gel dye, green gel dye, and edible rose decorations. No one makes these in black, and I wasn't going to do it myself because I do, sort of, have a life outside of cake decorating.

Oh Disaronno, you are simply my favorite.
Once you've got your materials ready, you can start making your frosting. This frosting is SWEET with the addition of amaretto, so while I made a full recipe, I probably barely used 2/3 of it, if even that much, so this is reflected in the calorie count. If you use it all, you'll have a 4-inch layer of frosting on your cake, making it a double decker of awesome, but also, calories. Boo. Feel free to adjust as needed, but throw together:
  • 1/2 cup room temp butter
  • 1/2 cup of Crisco 
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-5 TBS Disaronno
You could cut this recipe by a third and probably still have a little leftover. But blend the butter and Crisco until well mixed and then add in the vanilla, half the sugar, and half the Disaronno. Blend well and add in the rest of the sugar and Disaronno until you get a smooth consistency.
Such an appetizing color.
 At this point, get out two small bowls and add about a heaping 1/4 cup of plain white frosting to one of them. Now, dye the remaining frosting still in the stand mixer gray by adding a dollop of black gel dye until you get the shade of gray you like. I didn't use much at all. Then take another heaping 1/4 cup of the gray dye and plop it into the other bowl. Add another smidgen of black dye to this to make it a shade or two darker than the base frosting. This will be for the tombstone's engraved message. Cover these two bowls with dampened paper towels, and get ready to be slapped in the face with another montage!
Note to self, use thicker towel on cooling rack to avoid dreaded cake lines. Take your cooled cake and trim the edges to achieve a tombstone shape.

Then add a very thin crumb coat. Take an angled spatula and run it under HOT water. Like, steaming hot sauna water. Wipe it dry, but use the heated spatula to spread frosting easily on those crummy areas that resulted from shaping the cake like a tombstone. This will save you a lot of time if you spread using a heated spatula, so reheat it after you finish crumb coating section by section. You can also use the steam to open your sinuses! Bonus! Place your cake back into the freezer for 15 minutes/the amount of time it takes to do a load of laundry. That's my scientific measurement, anyway.

Using the heated spatula trick, add a final thin layer of frosting. Let set in the freezer for 15 minutes, and then use the Viva paper towel trick to smooth out your frosting. But honestly, keep it a little messy. It's a tombstone, so you want it to look a little rough. I mean, if your cake looks like a tombstone from the Middle Ages, keep smoothing. Think Roaring 20s gangster tombstone--slightly riddle with holes but not entirely dilapidated.
Using a toothpick, scrawl your message out on your cake to act as a guide.
Then load up a piping bag with a #5 tip and the darker gray dye you set aside earlier. Slowly and carefully trace the outline and write out your message.
You can leave it plain, or get creative and add scrolling or a cross to your tombstone in any blank space.
Then take another piping bag and add the leftover gray frosting you used to frost the actual cake with. Fit it with a #3 tip. Now you can add "cracks" to your tombstone by taking the #3 tip and burying it in your frosting layer. While keeping it buried in the frosting layer, squeeze frosting out of the bag while slowly wiggling and drawing lines/cracks of various length and shapes into your cake. I focused on creating most of my cracks at the edges where they would occur on an actual tombstone. Trust me, as a Halloween expert, I know what I'm talking about.

Now, take a few roses and pipe a small glob of frosting on the bottom. Press them gently into the cake to adhere.
Take that bowl of plain frosting we forgot about years ago and hopefully didn't eat. Dye it green--tip, add in a little brown dye if you have it so the green is duller. Take this frosting and place into a piping bag with the #352 tip. Now, to pipe leaves, hold the tip sideways and let a mound of frosting continue to pipe out. It will pretty much automatically make a leaf shape, but for further instruction, check this video out.
Add in the remaining roses on the bottom of the cake and finish piping leaves as you like around them. You could stop here, but if you want to, follow my instructions below for further tips.
Use the rest of your green frosting to create blades of grass and leaves on the sides of your tombstone. Use the same technique, just pipe UP the side of the cake instead of out.

Take the bag of regular gray frosting and continue the cracks you started down the sides of your cake as well to really finish the look of decay and macabre to truly mirror how you feel about turning 30.

Additional photo of leaves because they turned out so fantastically. I'm a leaf tip idiot, so finding this 352 tip to make foolproof leaves has been a lifesaver. 
I am honestly not sure there has ever been a time when I was happier with how a cake turned out. In true OCD, Type-A fashion, I sketch out every cake before I make it. This cake turned out even better than the sketch, so on some level, it gave me the will to turn 30 simply so that I could post this tutorial (and so that I could dazzle you with my wit and creativity. Narcissism is a real diva. The Mariah Carey of flaws.). But as happy as I am with the decoration, I am truly slapping myself upside the head every time I take a bite--WHY did I never think to add amaretto to cakes?!? This is the true hidden gem and best birthday present I could ever give myself. I love Disaronno so much that simply drinking it isn't enough. I must find all ways possible to ingest amaretto. This frosting is so delectably sweet that a little really does go a long way, but it pairs perfectly with a creme soda cake (ahem, and also in liquid form with creme soda. I had to taste test, you know). I'm thinking a naked cake made of Disaronno is going to happen really, obnoxiously, I-can't-believe-I'm-already-making-another-cake soon. If this is what turning 30 involves, bring it on new decade because I got a head full of crazy cake ideas, and I'm only getting started. Thanks to all of you that reached out to me yesterday to wish me a happy birthday (if you didn't, you get a pass for reading my blog). I had a wonderful day filled with love, laughter, bitchin' presents, and tons of joy (and sequins. Thanks, Rent the Runway!). 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Just wait til you see what I have planned for my fortieth birthday cake...

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