Before I knew much about baking, I had trouble believing anyone baked cakes without the help of a boxed cake mix.
We always had a few options in our cupboard, and whether chocolate, yellow, or even strawberry, the cakes always came out perfectly. But as I got older, I abandoned the oil-water-egg-cake mix combo for slightly more labour intensive classic cake recipes.
I love the process of mixing together a cake batter – the fluffy butter and sugar, the alternating milk and flour, the ability to detect exactly what went wrong when it doesn’t come out quite right. So it has to be said that buying a cake mix for this recipe was, well, difficult.
I felt like a fraud. How can a ‘real’ baker buy a cake mix? But the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with a boxed mix: it’s got all the same ingredients, with half the work. And if you’re already dying and separating batter, who needs extra work?
St. Patrick’s Day Cake
YOU’RE GONNA NEED: two 8 inch round cake pans, nonstick cooking spray, a piping bag with a star tip
For the cake:
Two white or yellow boxed cake mixes
Eggs, water and oil according to package directions
Assorted food dyes*
For the frosting:
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
6-9 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp green food dye
For the decoration:
Black ready-roll fondant
Gold foil chocolate coins
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Grease the bottoms and sides of the cake tins with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Prepare your cake: mix the batter according to package directions. Separate the batter equally into six bowls. Dye each bowl of batter a different colour of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple (you’ll need about 1 tsp dye for each). In the prepared cake tins, first spread the red batter evenly, then the orange, then yellow and so on. Bake for 22-25 minutes or according to package directions.
3. While the cakes cool on wire racks, prepare your frosting: beat the butter for about 30 seconds until softened. Slowly add the powdered sugar, about 2 cups at a time, and beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla and green dye. Slowly beat in the remaining powdered sugar, gradually adding the milk as needed to reach spreading consistency (you made need more than 3 teaspoons).
4. When the cakes are cooled completely, sandwich the two layers with an even spread of the frosting. Frost top and sides, then using a star tipped piping bag, pipe a concentric pattern around the top of the cake. Shape the fondant into a pot by rolling into a ball in your hands, then pushing your thumbs into the centre to form the hollow. Make the handles using small amounts of fondant rolled into ‘logs’ and attached using a small amount of water. Place onto the cake and arrange gold coins in and around the pot. Pipe more ‘grass’ around the coins and pot.
For the love of god, use gel food colouring. Most grocery store food dyes (like mine, above) are too watery to produce bright colours. Gel dyes are more concentrated and will make it look like a rainbow, unlike mine.