One of the best things about grad school so far has been the camaraderie amongst all of my classmates. We’re a class of 25 students, relatively large for our department. But somehow, nearly all 25 of us have managed to be friends and hang out with each other at least once a month. One of the main reasons why we hang out with such regularity is that we have created a tradition to celebrate each person’s birthday together with a homemade cake baked by my friend Rachel.
For every birthday since mine in October, Rachel has made a birthday cake. Somehow, she became the designated cake baker for our class. She’s made some pretty amazing cakes, including a banana chocolate chip cake (for yours truly), a peanut butter chocolate monkey cake (from smitten kitchen), a red wine chocolate cake, a super red velvet cake, and many more.
My birthday cake (aka the inaugural cake)
Peanut Butter Chocolate Monkey Cake!
So, when it was Rachel’s birthday last weekend, I knew I had to return the favor and bake her an amazing cake. Obviously, it couldn’t be just any old cake. It had to be beautiful, delicious, and most important, memorable. If you’re active on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ve seen this gorgeous purple ombre cake from rasberri cupcakes. The minute I saw it, I knew I wanted to make it. And Rachel’s birthday was the perfect occasion! Especially because she loves the color purple. 😀
4 shades of purple (instead of 50 shades of grey…bad joke i know)
I enlisted the help of my friend Lin because there was no way I could have done all the work myself. Steph’s recipe was actually very simple and straightforward. One of the more difficult steps was coloring the batter. Making darkest and lightest layers were fairly easy, but making the other two colors were a bit trickier since they were harder to distinguish from each other. We started with the darkest batter; however, we should have started with the lightest batter since it’s easier to make the batter darker rather than lighter. 😛 Another minor difficult we encountered was removing the parchment paper from the cakes. I allowed them to cool on cooling racks, but when I peeled off the paper, a substantial amount of cake came off with it. Luckily, the layers were fine and I got to taste test the cake from the bits of cake left on the paper.
Since Rachel actually likes currants, we followed Steph’s recipe to a T, using the blackcurrant jam as the filling between the cakes. However, I’m sure this cake would taste delicious with blackberry or raspberry jam. Or to make it a bit more colorful, you could use lemon curd or even mango curd (to make it more exotic). We also decided to make a blackcurrant buttercream from another of Steph’s cake recipes. The buttercream was a beautiful pink color and chockful of currants.
Topping the cake with frosting
The funnest part was decorating the cake. I let my creative self come out, which doesn’t happen very much when you work in a technical field :P. First, I spread on a thin crumb coat first and then covered that layer with more frosting. With lots of frosting leftover and a box of blackberries in the fridge, I decided to place dollops of jam along the outer edge of the cake, pipe dots of frosting on top, and top them with blackberries. The only trouble I ran into was that the frosting melted a bit on top of the jam. I also added a few raspberries to the center to add another pop of color.
The finished product! Looks a bit professional, right?
The most satisfying part about making this cake was seeing everyone’s reaction, especially Rachel’s, when she cut into it. I was worried about how the inside would look, since I had no idea until the cake was cut. Luckily, it was a major success!
The cake layers were gorgeous shades of purple and the cake itself was pretty delicious. However, if I were to be extremely critical, I would say the cake was a bit dry. That was probably because we had made the cake the night before so Rachel wouldn’t see it. I’d suggest if you can schedule it right, make the cake the day you’re planning on serving it. As I assembled the cake, I scraped up the bits that were stuck to the parchment paper for the sake of taste testing and thought the cake was pretty moist.
This cake is quite a bit of work, but it’s so worth it. I received many compliments and Rachel absolutely loved the cake, which was the sweetest reward. I’ve found that the most enjoyable things in life aren’t given to you as gifts or presents. Instead, you receive the most satisfaction and joy in making others happy.