not quite blackout cake

Dear Jackson,

Happy belated birthday!

Your dearest mom asked me to make you a birthday cake, since I did the same for your sister when she turned two. Between you and me, I think your cake turned out way better. That’s a win for being the second child, trust me. And it’s all due to the face that I didn’t have to work with fondant – yay! Your godmother is a bit rusty working with fondant now since the cake trend moved away from that sugary dough.

When your mom showed me the image of Blaze and the Monster Machines, I was like hmmm why couldn’t you be into something simple like Pac-Man? That I can easily make. Luckily your mom came to the rescue and bought two Blaze toys and candied rocks for me. All I had to do was repay her kindness by making her favourite cake combination – chocolate and peanut butter. I then pitched the idea of making the outer later a blackout with crumbs to continue with our outdoor soil and rocks theme. She was all for it.

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So that is how I ended up baking the night before your birthday party. Three delicious chocolate cake layers cooling on the rack. The next morning, I whipped up some peanut butter buttercream (and perhaps did lots of taste tests with a spoon) and assembled your cake.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes three 9-inch layers)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have your three cake pans ready, line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. This creates a lot of batter, so make sure your bowl is big enough or use an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour in the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually add in the water. Then mix in the vinegar and vanilla extract. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely on a rack. These cakes are very soft, so use extra care!

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Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes enough to frost a two 9-inch layered cake)

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups icing sugar
⅔ cup smooth peanut butter

  1. Make sure your cream cheese and unsalted butter are at room temperature. Leaving it out for 1-2 hours will work too.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until combined.
  3. Add in 2 cups of icing sugar, mix well. Add the remaining 2 cups of icing sugar and mix until combined. Add in the last cup of icing sugar and mix. Doing this in portions helps prevent the icing sugar from flying everywhere.
  4. Finally, add in the peanut butter and mix until the frosting is smooth.

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Jackson, when you’re older, you should make this for you mom. Just take the first layer of the cake and place it on a plate. Add a layer of peanut butter frosting on top, about 1-2 centimetres thick. Carefully place the second layer of cake on top to sandwich it. Again, top it off with frosting. Then add frosting on the sides of the cake and frost until the entire cake has been covered. The best part is that it doesn’t have to look perfectly smooth because it’ll be crusted with crumbs after.

To make the blackout crumb, take that third cake layer and put it in a bowl and use an electric whisk to break it apart. Stop when it looks like soil and gently pat it onto the sides and top of the cake.

Totally worth it. You were so thrilled with the toys on top of the cake. And you seemed to enjoy the cake, but I know your first love is JELL-O. Just like your godfather!

Sincerely,
Syl

banana-fana fo-fegan

Dear Megan,

Happy birthday!

I know you don’t like celebrating this day with attention and festivities, but I feel like you should get some recognition for another year of awesomeness. You are an awesome friend, mother, wife, daughter, colleague, coach, and many other things to so many people. You should know that you actually gave me the push to start baking. You lent me all those equipment’s for my Wilton cake decorating classes at Michael’s. You gave me my first set of mixing bowls, measuring spoons, kitchen towels, and cupcake accessories. I still have all those things and often marvel at how many things in my kitchen are from you. Plus, you make these awesome caramel cookies, oh and those peanut butter cookies, and those scones that I still dream about from my bridal shower.

I love how talented you are in charades – it is truly a handy (maybe even lifesaving) skill to have. How is it that you know every song lyric? You are the best teammate to have in Cranium and Head’s Up because you have lines memorized from films and television shows. Or you know every actor and singer’s names. Oh and best of all, I admire your dance skillz (yeah, with a z). You’re also a whiz at crafting and party planning – it’s no wonder we’re friends!

And since you’re the first person to ever feed me homemade ice cream, I thought this would be a good way to celebrate your birthday. That delicious chocolate ice cream you made brought me back to childhood memories of chocolate milk in a carton. Then there was that creamy and rich peanut butter ice cream, in which you took the time to make even though you couldn’t have some.

I saw this cool video featuring ice cream using just bananas and different flavourings. It should be dairy, egg, and soy free as long as you ditch the cones.

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Neapolitan Banana Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from Food Network

Notes: The ripe bananas will require some freezing time, so plan for this a day ahead. After that, the ice cream itself will need some chill time in the freezer before serving as well, well you could also just eat it right away if you don’t mind it melting. You’ll also need a good strong food processor for this to work.

6 ripe bananas, frozen
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup berries, frozen
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 medium loaf pan (8½” x 4½” x 2½”)

  1. Remove the peels from the banana and chop them into even chunks. About 1-inches long and put them in a freezer bag. Freeze overnight.
  2. Using your food processor equipped with the knife blade, put 2 bananas in with the vanilla extract. Turn the machine on and watch the bananas go from gooey and mushy to creamy. When it looks like a delicious milkshake, it’s ready to be scooped out with a spatula and placed into one end of the loaf pan.
  3. Next, put in 2 bananas with some frozen berries. Go with strawberry, raspberries, red cherries, or even pomegranates. Same thing, turn the machine on and scoop it out when it becomes nice and creamy. Portion this into the middle section of your loaf pan.
  4. Put the final 2 bananas into the food processor along with the cocoa powder. Have the machine churn until it’s smooth and scoop it out to fill up the final spot in the loaf pan.
  5. Cover and place the loaf pan in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

Megan, Megan, bo-began,
Banana-fana fo-fegan
Fee-fy-mo-megan
Megan!

Wait, I’m singing the wrong song aren’t I?

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Happy birthday, Megan!
Megan, it’s your birthday!

Sincerely,
Syl

PS: Megan, I can’t wait to bestow this ice cream garland on you. I made it while watching the Olympics, your favourite bi-annual event!

Paper Ice Cream Cones

Making an Ice Cream Cone Garland

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I have a PDF of the ice cream graphics I made here. Just download it, print it, and cut it out. I attached the cutouts to some string with tape and squealed at how cute it looked hung up.

celebrate with cake

Dear Howard,

If you’re wondering why I made your favourite cake, it’s because I am so grateful that you’re supporting my new beginning – and a fresh start should always include cake.

I know that it’s difficult to try again. Occasionally, I ask myself unanswerable questions and I know that I am too comfortable where I am. I played it safe. You know that I rarely take big risks, I tend to keep things the way they are. But now, I am finally fixing something that’s been bugging me for years. Just a little something that’s been bubbling in my thoughts.

And it’s not actually a huge deal. Not if you really think about it. I am only starting a new blog. Lots of people start new blogs every day. Yes, I splurged a little with this reboot, but here’s why:

The Blogger platform, which has some great features, was no longer feeding my needs. I felt that the layout theme was dated, I couldn’t customize it (mainly because I’m no website designer), and I was getting a lot of spam. So much spam.

I wanted our photos to be larger. I wanted the blog to look good on the computer monitor, tablet, or phone. I wanted to talk about other things! The name, A Baked Creation, felt too restricting. When I first started, I thought I was going to make custom cupcake creations forever, but in the past eight years, I’ve grown past that. I’m out of the fondant game and I like sharing things that don’t require the oven. Plus there’s A Baked Creation & Supplies in Hesperia, California that probably doesn’t need the confusion with a blogger from Canada.

So here we are on a WordPress run platform and I changed my blog name. I got to choose from lots of great layout designs, this Karuna theme caught my eye (so did some premium themes, but maybe I’ll wait a bit until shelling out more of our hard earned money). I splurged on a premium account so I could customize things to my liking, secure a domain name, and not have pop up ads. I can share larger photos now and the website is compatible on various devices. Best of all, I can write about anything I want without having a blog name that says otherwise.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t simply transfer everything over (because I could), it’s because . . . well I’m a bit embarrassed of the small, grainy photos that I use to take on our point-and-shoot camera. All the photos were sized to a width of 550, which means they would look terrible – absolutely terrible – here. There was no way I was going to resize and replace every photo I ever posted.

Plus I like the idea of a lifestyle blog. I like letter writing. And I managed to get this new name on a few other social platforms – Instagram (yes, there’s a period in between. If only we could add commas), Twitter, and Facebook. Not sure how I want to rename Pinterest yet as SincerelySyl is already taken. I know you’re not happy about that and I’m actually touched that you worried about the username inconsistency. But I think it’ll be fine, it happens to a lot of people!

You see things my way, right? Just in case you’re still on the fence, here’s another slice of cake.

Sincerely,
Syl

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PS: In case you ever wanted to surprise me with cake (or try to convince me to see things your way), here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Mille Crêpe Cake
Crêpe recipe from the New York Times
Peanut butter pastry cream recipe from Sugar Rush
Strawberry jam from Smucker’s (No, this isn’t a sponsored post.)

Notes: Both the crêpe batter and pastry cream should be made a day ahead, so plan accordingly. Stock up on milk and eggs!

Crêpe Batter:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
A pinch of salt

  1. In a small saucepan, cook the butter until brown. It’s going to smell SO GOOD in the kitchen. It will be difficult, but set it aside to cool.
  2. In another small saucepan, heat the milk until it starts to steam. Remove from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the beater attachment, beat the eggs, flour, sugar, and salt on low.
  4. Slowly and carefully, pour in the hot milk and browned butter.
  5. Pour the batter into a container, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Peanut Butter Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
½ cup creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup honey
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks

  1. Take out your blender and pour the milk and peanut butter in it and blend until smooth. You might be tempted to drink it right then and there, but stay strong. Move on to step 2.
  2. Next, take out your medium-sized saucepan and pour in the milk and peanut butter mixture. Add in the honey and salt. Warm slowly over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Stir frequently until it’s steaming but not boiling.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks until combined. Add in the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and continue whisking until the mixture is light and fluffy. It should turn a nice pale yellow.
  4. While the stand mixer is whisking, pour in a third of the hot milk and whisk until combined. Add in another third and whisk in. Again, pour in the remaining third of hot milk and wait until combined before pouring everything back into the saucepan. Be careful! It’s best to use bowls and sauce pans that have spouts for this recipe.
  5. Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat and whisk until the mixture begins to boil. Whisk for a full 2 minutes when it is bubbling. It’ll get tougher to whisk, but you need to work that arm! The more calories you burn off here, the more cake you can have later.
  6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pass the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any small cooked egg bits.
  7. Spread the pastry cream into a thin layer on a tray to help it cool. I use a small rimmed baking sheet and then cover it with plastic wrap. Press down so that there aren’t any air bubbles. Cool the pastry cream in the refrigerator overnight.

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Assemble:

  1. The next day, bring the batter and pastry cream to room temperature.
  2. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat, the flatter the pan, the better. Swab the surface with cooking oil, then add about 2-3 tablespoons of batter (I use a small soup ladle) and swirl to cover the surface of the pan.
  3. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5-10 seconds. Carefully transfer the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a clean kitchen towel. Repeat until you have 20-25 perfect crêpes.
  4. Transfer the pastry cream from the tray to a bowl. Give it a good stir.
  5. If you want a clean edge for your cake, trim the edges of the crêpe by tracing a 6-inch bowl or cake pan with a sharp knife. Or you can keep the ruffled edges for a more natural look. Place the first crêpe on a cake board or plate.
  6. Using a spoon, scoop some pastry cream to place on top of the crêpe. Use a spatula to smooth out a thin layer all over the crêpe. Cover with another layer of crêpe.
  7. Scoop out some strawberry jam and use a second spatula to create a thin even layer of the crêpe. Cover with another layer of crêpe. Be gentle, the jam makes everything slippery. You can also cover a piece of crêpe with jam/pastry cream first and then add it to the stack. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until there’s no more crêpes, making sure you end with a crêpe on top. Put in two skewers to help keep the crêpes in place. Don’t worry if it’s domed, this is natural as the jam’s fruit might increase the thickness and the middle usually gets filled with more pastry cream than the edges.
  8. Store in the refrigerate for at least an hour to firm everything up before serving.

03_PBJcrepecakeMake celebratory bunting:

  1. Just don’t mind my jammy and crumbly mess! Ok, so you stabbed two long bamboo skewers into the cake right? Unlike other crêpe cakes that are only filled with pastry cream, the jam is slippery! Long-distance travel with this cake is not recommended as the crêpes can easily slide off.
  2. Tie one of the skewers with either string or thread. Take the piece still attached to the spool over to the next skewer and tie another knot. Snip the ends off and trim to the length you prefer.
  3. For the bunting flags, I like to use stickers! I make them from blank label sheets (blank mailing labels or full sheets) by folding them in half and then cutting out the shape I want with a pair of scissors. Then I peel the paper backing off and drape it over the string and have the two sticky sides attach.

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