Posted by: Jason Wood | October 14, 2010

Birthday Cakes!

Where did the summer go? I cannot believe how long it has been since I have had the time to write something up. Since my last post I have had to make a bunch of birthday cakes – some good and fun, others good and horrific!

The first cake was one that a friend asked me to make for her husband’s 40th birthday. As this was one of the first cakes that I did not make for my own enjoyment, or just for the fun of it, I was so stressed throughout the whole process that the last thing in my mind was taking pictures of the process, but I did get pictures of the finished product.

The cake was an iPad. There was a digital photo frame in the cake that played a slideshow of the birthday boy over the years. As stressful as this one was to get done by the deadline and delivered, it was pretty fun overall to do.

Next birthday cake was for my son and while it turned out OK, I have to say it was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever had making a cake (sorry Z-man!). Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong – rice krispie treats were too soft, I could not roll the fondant for the life of me, butter cream was runny, pillars were too high for the cake. Sheesh (and that is saying it VERY politely. There were a number of dark blue words said during the process of making this cake).

This cake was stressful in a different way than the iPad cake in that NOTHING was working right. So again… no pictures of the process. I think you should feel lucky there are pictures of the final product the way this one went!

Finally, a cake for my mother and the head nurse of the care facility where she stays (they share the same birthday). This one turned out great and was fun to make so I actually managed to get pictures of the process!

First step (and I hope this will be obvious) is to make the cakes! I used a recipe from a book that I have had forever, I purchased it as a teen in the Hershey chocolate factory that used to be in Smith Falls, ON, Canada (which has since been shut down). Awesome memories of touring a chocolate factory with an awesome gift shop at the end of the tour. This is the recipe from that book

3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter

1 1/4 cups suger

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup milk

Combine cocoa and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan; add water and shortening. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until shortening is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; cool. While chocolate micture is cooling cream butter with 1 1/4 cups sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl; add alternatively with milk to creamed mixture. Blend in chocolate mixture. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch pans. Bake at 350 F for 35 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan, remove from pans and cool on wire rack completely.

and here is what one of those layers look like after it is cooked, cooled and taken out of the pan

if you are like me and are a true chocolate lover then you should be drooling already, just from this picture alone. Well.. get a towel because it only gets better from here!

There are four layers all told in this cake and now we move on to the filling. First step is to pipe a layer of chocolate butter cream around the rim of the cake

this will serve to keep the filling from spilling out. Now for the filling! Strawberry whipped cream icing with fresh strawberries.

The whipped cream is made with 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of icing sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of strawberry oil.  Beat the cream until it starts to hold its shape and then gradually add in the icing sugar and oil. Scoop some of the cream out and put it in the centre of the cake

Spread it out and throw some chopped strawberries on.

Now, there are two more layers that need to be done like this so exercise some self-control and DO NOT eat all the icing, cream or strawberries! After it is done you should (hopefully) have something like this

The slightly bent nature of the tower is really not reflective of my personality, honest, I did straighten it out as best I could. OK, next step is to dirty ice the cake and let it cool in the fridge for a while to set the butter cream

This layer is a pretty thick layer of icing for a dirty icing layer, but I was going for a thicker layer of chocolate butter cream here. You will see it smoothed out later. A tip to smooth out butter cream is to run your spatula under hot water and then run it over the icing, this will make it much easier to smooth out and the icing will not stick to the spatula. You can use a large flat putty knife (from Home Depot), works well and is cheaper than a “specialty” cake spatula! You can see the difference on the sides here after another layer of icing has been added and it has been smoothed

This picture kind of leads into the next step, decorating it! I dipped some strawberries in chocolate and placed them off-centre (to leave room for the text) and then cut some strawberries in half and stuck them to the bottom using small dabs of melted chocolate (edible glue when it cools)

Once all the strawberries were placed around the bottom I did my best to pipe some icing to make it look like the strawberry leaves. Piping leaves is going to take a lot more practice!

I forgot to take a close-up picture of all the hard work I did on the piping of the leaves so tried to blow-up a picture of the leaves, still a little hard to see, but trust me, I worked darn hard on this!

Finally, and this is the important part, and important to get it correct or you end up on, (the nightmare of anyone that puts their cakes out there for public consumption! Worth a look if you have never visited the site, some truly awful things that make you cringe while laughing.) the message.

For those who know me and have received handwritten notes from me take note that my cursive piping skills are oh so much better than my actual handwriting. Impressive, eh? And please no comments from the peanut gallery!

Happy Birthday Mom and Carol, hope you enjoyed the cake!



  1. Yum yum yum – I want to try your mom’s cake!!

    But is there a photo of the first cake for the friend’s husband?

  2. Jeff’s cake, the iPad

  3. Oooooohhhhh!

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