So I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but my life so far is pretty much just a big ol’ bag of excuses.
“How come you’re late, Meleyna?”
“Uh, I don’t set an alarm since Parker wakes up so early and he slept late today and so did I!” (Really, “I drank a bottle of wine for dinner last night, and really couldn’t get myself moving this morning. And really, do you need to be talking so loud? My head is pounding. Yeah, thanks.”)
“Where’s this week’s lesson plan, Meleyna?”
“I totally have it right here (waves last week’s lesson plan around) I just haven’t had time to copy it yet!” (Really, “I just can’t seem to ever get my shit together.”)
“Why didn’t you finish college, Meleyna?”
“Uh, I got knocked up.”
So you see, my dear friends, while I may not have been around sharing fantastical recipes, what I do have for you is a big ol’ bag of baloney in the form of an excuse of being just plain busy. But, here I am, and with cake. Twelve layers of cake. You still love me, right?
Dear Deb over at Smitten Kitchen has always been a celebration cake inspiration, and this year was no different, as indirect as it may have been. For Parker’s first birthday last year, it was the peanut butter chocolate cake. And this year, while she may not have made a 12 layer cake herself, she linked to it. And despite the extensive cake research I had done up to that point, I really had to look no further. 12 pancake thin layers sanwiched with cocoa and swathed in sour cream chocolate frosting? Yes, please. (Yes, I do cake research. Don’t look at me like that, okay? I’m actually really cool. Or some sort of approximation of that word…)
The cake itself, despite it’s 12 layers, really isn’t that big of a deal to make. It just takes some planning. I made it two weeks ahead of time, double wrapped each layer in plastic wrap, and froze them. To make your life easier, buy disposable aluminum cake pans. Because really, no one is going to wash their two pans six times. I’m just sayin’.
Teacher Tip! Rather than cut out 12 rounds of parchment individually, tear off 12 sheets, stack them, staple them together, trace your circle, then cut. Sometimes your job comes in handy in real life. (Because I tell you, not only do I not want to cut out 12 rounds of parchment, I also do not care to cut out the 19 different parts of the crab we made last week 11 different times for each kid in my class. What can I say, I am lazy.)
Not only am I lazy, but I am also completely human, and make dumb human mistakes. Like forgetting to put the eggs in the batter. Because God still loves me for some reason, I caught it right before I started spooning the batter out. But just to be sure it still tasted good, I made a mini cake in a mini loaf pan, which you can see up there. You know, just to make sure I didn’t poison my guests.
I didn’t really get a good shot of the final cake cut, but I dare you to laugh. Have you ever thrown a two year old’s birthday party? People don’t care about your pictures or your blog, they just want cake. And rightly so.
The Smith Family’s 12-Layer Cake
adapted from Art Smith (you know, Oprah’s main man)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks room temp butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder , preferably Dutch process
1 cup butter , cut up
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375. Butter your pans and line the bottoms with parchment rounds. Butter the parchment, then sprinkle in some flour, and tap out the excess.
Sift together the (already once sifted) flour, salt, and baking powder. Then sift it again. (Really, I’m not kidding about this. I wouldn’t joke about something so annoyingly necessary.) Dump the vanilla into your milk. Either in the bowl of a mixer or with electric beaters (or by hand if crazy), cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffly. Add the eggs one at a time. On low speed, add a third of the dry ingredients, then half of the wet. Repeat, ending with the last addition of flour.
Scoop a scant cup of batter into each pan, and smooth with a spatula. (I used a small offset one.) If you’re smart and bought the disposable pans, you can bake off four layers at a time. Just be sure that when you put them in the oven, none of them are directly on top of the other, just to ensure even baking. Bake each batch of layers until they just start to pull away from the sides of the pans. (Art says 12 minutes, it took me closer to 16. Just keep an eye on them.) Pull the cakes out, and repeat. (If you have to stop and wash pans out at this point, I am pointing and laughing at you.)
After the cakes have cooled five minutes or so on a cooling rack, invert them, and peel off the parchment. This is where I froze mine, or you can continue on to the assembly.
To make the icing, put all the ingredients but the vanilla in a large-ish pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low, and cook for about three minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Cool until thick but still spreadable. Now it’s time to get messy.
If possibly, set a cooling rack across your sink. If it doesn’t fit, sucks to be you! You have to dirty another dish. Anyway, just set your cooling rack over a sheet pan. I highly suggest you start with a cake boardtrimmed down to 8.5 inches, or you will have a very tricky time moving the cake when done. Place your board on the rack, then place your first layer of cake, and spoon some of the icing on top, smoothing it out to the edge. Continue with the rest of the layers, keeping things as even as you can as you go. It will drip. A lot. Leave the top of the cake icing free. Using a big spatula, slide it carefully under the cake, steady the top of the cake with your (clean!) fingertips, and transfer the cake to the serving stand/plate of your choice. Ice the top layer.
At this point you can just let it set up and serve it, but noooo, I like to make my life complicated. I frosted the whole thing again with sour cream chocolate frosting, simply because I wanted the 12 layers to be a Surprise! Plus it looked neater. That is, until my crappy wobbly piping job.