It’s funny how culinary ideas inspire me. I attended a baby shower last week and I noticed the hosts had used the local big box supermarket bakery for the cake–you know the kind, with pudding in the batter, dense, and with an oily frosting. My mind wandered to my mom’s hobby. Well, actually, first hobby. Her second hobby was playing bingo in a grungy parlor filled with the smoke and choking cough of a hundred sixty-something-year-olds. In 1989, she took cake decorating classes offered by a local bakery and party shop and became certified in using the Wilton line of products.
You name it, she could create it–wedding cakes, layer cakes, round cakes. Once, I had a cake shaped like Captain Picard’s duty uniform for my birthday. But, I always liked cake squares. I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Poe, who seemed a hundred years old at the time, received birthday cake squares with apples (for the teacher, duh) on them and a balloon full of gifts. Yes, my mom bought into the cliche of the ’80s and found someone with one of those machines that negatively inflated a balloon so that gifs could be put inside. Google “balloon stuffing” if you think I’m joking.
When she passed away, I went into her closet and took the hot pink cake decorating duffel bag containing all of her treasures home with me, including two notebooks of hand-written notes and specifications for cakes and cake squares. So, as I sat at the shower looking at the cake, I decided I’d try to recreate a sheet of cake squares to see if I could duplicate her talents. The results were average, but not spectacular.
First, I baked a box of butter recipe cake mix in a 13×9 pan. I have no problem using this for cake squares. It’s a small bite, and Duncan Hines is a good brand. I wouldn’t use a store brand. I also used high-quality butter. If I were making a sheet cake or rounds, I would make a 1-2-3-4 cake from scratch.
Then, I created 2 lbs of American buttercream icing. Is it frosting? Icing? I prefer icing. Yes, I know I used frosting to describe the baby shower cake. Call me dyslexic. Or crazy.
from Unique Cake and Party, Florence SC
yields 2 lbs
2 lbs confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla or creme bouquet flavoring*
Combine ingredients in a mixer on low speed until combined. Whip on high speed for five minutes. This creates a thick consistency. For spreading, add a tablespoon of water at a time until medium consistency has been achieved.
Then, I scooped out a cup each from the main bowl to create my banana colors–yellow and brown, with powdered coloring. I was going to make a familiar company logo since I am a huge geek, but I discovered that the shoebox was out of royal blue.
I cooled the cake on the rack, then crumb coated it, put it in the refrigerator to crust the icing, and then put on the base coat.
Aint the base coat pretty?
I eliminated the crusty bits, just like mom did. Although, I didn’t have a little boy waiting under my feet to feed them to, and my cats didn’t seem to want any. So, we discard.
Then, I used the special cake ruler to measure out the cake squares and make a mark on the frosting. Only a true teacher of math like me would mis-measure and end up with a nib at the end. Oh well. I’m not a rocket scientist. Next, I transferred it to a foiled board without breaking it and made some hideous looking shapes that didn’t resemble bananas.
Then, I used several wicked looking knives to cut along the prepared lines. I discovered that a long bread knife warmed in hot water worked best. The cake squares in the center were extremely tall and started drooping. C’est la vie, eh?