I have never wanted to be The Cake Lady. Wait. I take that back. I used to want to be The Cake Lady until I made a couple of wedding cakes and realized that it turns me into a snarling, cursing mess for the duration of the project. But, when friend Thomas calls and asks for a cake or other dessert, I have learned to say Yes. Because sometimes my creations end up on a buffet along with braised nutria. Sometimes I get to make a cake for a dude named Webby. And this time, rather than writing Happy Birthday insert-name-here, Thomas wanted me to write the Birthday Girl’s employee number. (The other folks at work wanted it to say, “Have a Good One, Slave Driver,” but Thomas voted them down because he’s the dude with the cake connection).
Anyway, I got to thinking that it would be the kind of cake that the folks who worked at Skynet would make. You know, before the Rise of the Machines. They’d nudge each other and say, “Hey, let’s make a birthday cake for our Robot Floor Sweeper. We dreamed that thing up four years ago next Tuesday. We can have the bakery write a message like a dot matrix printer, and we’ll all eat cake and sing Happy Birthday to RuFuS. (Because that’s what they’d call it. Obviously).” So, maybe they didn’t realize that old RuFuS would Harbor Resentment on account of he didn’t have a mouth or stomach and couldn’t eat the cake. All he could do was sweep up the crumbs. And before you know it, you’ve got a HAL malfunction—Open the pod bay doors, HAL. I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that—that snowballs into machines inserting cyborgs into rebel barracks. And it all started with a cake. I hope you’re happy, Thomas.
But, if you are Dead Set on making a cake decorated with M&Ms and you are OCD enough to pick out only the orange, blue and brown ones, and you also decide that upside-down mini chocolate chips make a reasonable facsimile of a dot matrix printer readout, by all means, go for it. I won’t stop you. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t blame me when your whole house automation system locks you out in the yard and starts your sprinkler system. And then laughs at you. Because this is how it starts. Again, you’ve been warned.
- I made the layers in 9″x2″ cake pans using RLB’s formula for Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake in The Cake Bible (p 54 in my edition). Yes, I boiled the water and “steeped” the cocoa powder in it, cooling it to room temperature before mixing the batter. Rose suggests (and I used) The Two-Stage Method of mixing. The cake bakes up richly chocolatey, buttery and moist. You will dig it for sure.
Buy here and help feed the kittens.
- I made a standard 2 parts cream:1 part chocolate ganache for frosting. 16 oz. heavy cream to 8 oz bittersweet chocolate along with a pinch or two of salt and some vanilla. Chill until cold and then whip by hand. I know, but it doesn’t take too long, and this stuff will break if you whisk even 1 second too long. If you look at mine, you can see that I almost crossed the line, and I knew what to expect. So, do yourself a favor and whip by hand. Once it is thick and holds its shape, stop whisking, or you’ll have grainy ganache. This amount of ganache was enough to generously fill and frost just the top of my cake. I chose not to frost the sides because I thought it would just be too much of a good thing.
- It’s almost impossible to get the filling to “stick out” enough all the way around to attach the M&Ms (or whatever else you want to attach). Just fill in with a piping bag. Ditto around the base.
- Try to line up all your candy so that you can slice cleanly between them without smooshing your cake.
- I highly recommend learning to pipe. If you don’t know how and think it will be easier to spell stuff with mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, Pez or licorice whips, you’re wrong. Learn to pipe; you’ll save yourself a ton of time.
- If your name is Sarah Connor (or Dave, for that matter), change it. Now.
- 2.25 oz Dutch process cocoa powder (the best you can find. I used Pernigotti)
- 8.25 oz boiling water
- 3 large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- 8.25 oz sifted cake flour
- 10.5 oz granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft but not greasy