If you know me, you know how I plan ahead for kids birthdays. I get so excited about them and plan everything well. But this year was completely different. It has been a very busy year and I did not plan anything till last moment. I had plans for inviting his friends from school since it is his last year at that school. But I did not book anything till last moment. Then I stumbled at last moment to get everything ready. I asked Ayaan which cake he wants, he kept changing it (I always prepared themed cakes for both my kids based on the things they liked entire year). This year the decision was a little difficult since we had a Flash cake last year and tennis cake the year before – those are the things he is currently crazy about. Then he came to rescue and said he wants Hulk cake or may be a spiderman. I combined both and made this Hulk Smash – spiderman cake which the kids thought was super cool – what is not to like about M&Ms and KitKats.
During the party, there were kids who requested a piece of either Spiderman or Hulk. I took some extra M&Ms and Kitkats and served them with cake piece – yeah, for once gave them too much sugar!!. I have to admit, this is one of the easiest birthday cakes I have ever prepared since the candies cover most of the cake and there was no need to work too much on smoothing out the cake. We ordered pizza and got some chips and dips. So it was very simple affair. We had the party at a kids gym which they loved. It was a chocolate cake with buttercream icing.
One of the queries I got over and over from my readers is a recipe/method for baking a cake in pressure cooker. I rarely have any free time to experiment these days, so although this request was always there in the back of my mind, I never tried it. But recently I got a chance to do it. I finally prepared a pressure cooker cake and then decorated it for my beautiful niece.
We were in India in December. My niece’s birthday was during our stay. I wanted to prepare a princess cake for her ever since she was born. This time I got a chance. But unfortunately due to the workload before I left for India, I just forgot to take any of my cake decorating stuff. When I reached Bangalore, I asked my sister in law if I could bake the cake and she was very excited. Then we started searching for materials. It was an ordeal since I had no clue where to find any materials. Finally when I found some cake stuff at a store in Bangalore, I was more than excited.
The birthday was at my hometown Kodkani. After reaching there, I realized the tips I had got were all wrong (I had not opened the packet and there were no pictures/details on cover to know what was inside). I had just two colors – yellow and orange. There was no way I could buy anything at that time.
I tried a small cake as experiment in my mom’s tiny cooker. The cake came out so good and kids loved it. So I decided to bake the same for the birthday.
I used my simple egg cake recipe, added two table spoons of cocoa powder to make it a chocolate cake. I used pineapple flavor instead of vanilla. I used aayi’s homemade loni(butter) for both cake and the buttercream frosting.
Pictorial: Following are the brands I used. These were the only ones I could get hold of. Add rock salt crystals at the bottom of the pressure cooker. Keep a metallic ring on top of salt. Then keep the aluminum baking pan on top such that it rests on the ring. I tried using a steel vessel and it completely became black!. So make sure to use something that you would use in an oven. Do not add the rubber gasket or the weight on top. On medium heat bake it for 25mins. Then check if it is baked, if not, put it back and bake for more time till done. Once it reaches the room temperature, remove the cake from the pan. Cool it completely and then decorate it or serve it as it is.
My friend M is expecting her first baby. She is a huge fan of Harry Potter. She always talked so passionately about Harry Potter and how she would read the book to her baby whenever she had a baby. Much before she even got pregnant, I wanted to bake and decorate a Harry Potter cake for her. Last month, I got together with some of our common friends and decided to have a baby shower for her. I immediately knew what I was going to make for her. A Harry Potter baby shower cake.
We decided to keep it simple and asked everyone to get something that she really loves. We had pani puri, kachori-chole chaat, pakodi kadi-rice, paneer subzi-naan. Every dish was so good.
I knew I would not have much time to make too many things. My weekdays have become a little overwhelming with work, kids classes, cooking and other hundred things. I was a bit stressed out that I would probably not have enough time to finish the cake. I am so glad it all worked out. M loves chocolate cake, so I baked this chocolate cake. The icing was my salted buttercream. I wanted to make all the toppers with white chocolate as I did for this cake. I made the baby with white modeling chocolate, but after that, I just could not get it into required consistency. I totally panicked as I had very less time and I did not want to keep trying it. So I got marzipan (made of almond paste) from store and made rest of the toppers. M loved the cake so much. All the hard work was paid off when I saw her totally loving the cake. Although I got stressed during the whole process, every one of my cakes make me realize how much I love working on them. I am already looking forward to my next one!.
The kids turned 6 and 2 couple of month ago(I know I am late to post this!!). We had a combined party for both of them. We decided to have it at our home this time. Last year when we moved into this house, it was one of my dreams to have some large parties. So how could I not have a birthday party for them? It was a bit challenging for me to plan everything this time, since I had a new full time job and I hardly had any free time. But we are so glad we had it at home. We hired a balloon guy, who is one of the most creative balloon guys we have seen so far. Kids had so much fun with balloons and then they played in the backyard for almost an hour. I initially thought of ordering pizzas from outside. But thanks to V’s cousin who helped us in everything, I could manage to cook the entire meal for the party.
Now the cake – This was the cake Ishaan was asking for more than a year now. He LOVES tennis. He has been playing it for 2 years now and there is nothing else that gets him excited more. Ayaan is a huge fan of Kung fu panda. They both watched the series “Kung fu panda – Legends of Awesomeness” over and over again during the last year. I thought of having two separate cakes for them, but I did not have enough time to make the figures. Then Ishaan said he wanted one combined cake. So I ordered the figures from amazon. I made all the tennis rackets (Ishaan plays with a orange racket and he used to play with green earlier), balls, net etc. The cake was carrot cake with cardamom. I used my salted-buttercream icing and white modeling chocolate for all the decorations. Read the recipes for the icing/modeling chocolate here.
We had 14 families attending the party. I made spicy paneer stuffed puffs, sev bhaji, papdi chaat, matar pulav, a simple dal to go with pulav, curd rice. Along with these, we had chips and salsa, fruits and soft drinks. We got pizzas for kids too (on demand by kids!).
Last few days have been busy. I hosted a surprise baby shower for my dear friend. This was the first big event I hosted at my home (after the house warming). We had total 13 families. I am good at hosting parties where I do everything. But here we decided to divide the task. It was a learning experience for me to coordinate between so many families. In the end, everything worked so well and we all had awesome time. I did not know most of the families that attended the party, but once we met, everybody had great time together.
Two of the friends took care of all the decorations. These were the baby shower experts, so they gave lot of ideas. We decided the menu and asked everyone else to pick a dish from the menu. We had chips and salsa, pani puri, papdi chaat, khasta kachori, pulav and pav bhaji. The food was lipsmacking good.
I baked and decorated this cake. Most of the crowd was strictly vegetarians. So it was challenging for me to make it completely vegetarian – no eggs, no gelatin. I frantically googled for many days to figure out the best recipe but then decided to go with one of my tried and tested cakes. If you know me, you also know that I like to tweak the recipes. So I took this cardamom cake recipe and changed it to chocolate cake.
Eggless Chocolate Cake
A simple eggless chocolate cake with condensed milk
Grease a baking dish with butter and flour, keep aside.
Sieve together dry ingredients - cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and keep aside.
Take condensed milk and butter and beat till well mixed.
Alternately add orange juice and dry ingredient, a little at a time and mix gently.
Bake at 350F for about 40-45mins till a tooth pick inserted in the center comes clean.
The secret behind good eggless cakes is to take time in mixing butter and sugar to incorporate as much air into it as possible. So take enough care to mix butter and condensed milk. Beat them till they are well mixed and almost frothy.I did not have cake flour. So I made it at home. Take 2 and ½ cups all purpose flour and take out 5 tbl spns from from it. Add 5 tbl spn corn starch to it.Remove the cake from the pan while it is still hot. Let it cool completely to room temperature on a wire rack.
Since I didn’t want to use fondant, I had to use buttercream frosting. I love the buttercream because it is easy to work with but I hate the taste because it is super sweet. This is one of the reasons I was using cream cheese in my previous cakes. But there it was, staring at my face! The reason why I loved the cream cheese was because the salt in it made the frosting less sweet. So the solution was easy. I used the salted butter to make the frosting!. It was the best tasting frosting ever. It gave me the finish I wanted and everyone was literally picking up the frosting and eating it.
Beat the butter together with sugar till it is well mixed.
Add vanilla essence and whip it.
How I assembled the cake – After the cake completely cooled down(I refrigerated overnight), I cut the cake horizontally. Brushed the cake couple of times with sugar syrup. I made the sugar syrup by boiling about 1 cup water with 3 tea spns sugar till sugar melted. Then added a tea spn of vanilla essence to it. Then spread a layer of chocolate ganache, followed by a layer of whipped cream (Whip the cream with a little sugar and vanilla essence) in between two layers of cake.
Then I frosted the cake with buttercream. All the animal decorations were made with white modeling chocolate (12 oz white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup light corn syrup). It is a bit challenging to work with this modeling chocolate, but the animals were very tasty.
I know I have been posting a lot of cakes. April is birthday month at home. So we had a very busy schedule with two parties. First one was for Ishaan’s school friends and teachers. Then came the other party, a bigger one, for all our close friends and family. This time we celebrated both the kids birthdays. I am glad all the birthdays for the year are done and we can relax till next year :).
First birthdays are always special. This time it was more special for us as we celebrated both the kids birthdays together. We had a swim party which Ishaan was asking for. Since Ayaan also loves water, we decided to go with it. Both the kids and their friends had a fantastic time.
Ayaan has been always curious about all his monkey toys. I call both of them my little monkeys, always curious about things, always jumping around. So when I had to decide the theme, I knew it would be monkey theme. I chose carrot cake with cardamom as the base. Swiss meringue buttercream was used to crumb coat the cake. I went with Veena’s fondant recipe again for decorating the cake. The biggest lesson I learnt was not to mess with a perfect recipe – I substituted cream with milk (just because I was too lazy to go for shopping again). It messed up the fondant quite a bit. It was too loose and I had to add lot of sugar to get it into workable condition!. Last time I had followed the recipe exactly and it made the perfect fondant.
We had about 60 guests (including 25 kids). Since it was an afternoon party, we decided to serve lunch. We kept the menu quite simple. I made masala puri, Idli-sambar-chutney, onion chicken. We ordered vegetable biryani and chicken biryani from outside. We also had fruits, cucumber, pizza, chips and soft drinks. I was little overwhelmed trying to arrange the party. I have never cooked in such a big scale (mainly because of my small apartment kitchen and lack of big utensils). Also, Ayaan is at a phase where he has become extremely clingy, it become hard to get anything done with him pulling my legs. It was a good decision to have birthday on a Sunday since V was home on Saturday and took care of kids, that gave me enough time to cook. V’s cousin, who is studying at a college here in Kansas, came home for two days and he was a huge help around the house.
Ishaan is turning 5 soon. After the spiderman craze, he moved on to Ninja Turtles sometime last year. He heard about them from his friends at school. He would come home and ask more about them and I had no clue. Then I got him a book about these mutant turtles. No looking back ever since then. He wanted ninja turtle shoes, hat, cloths etc. He knew the names of all the ninja turtles and even made up stories about them. His play time with his friends involved him becoming Leo – the leader!.
When I asked him about the cake, he didn’t think much. He wanted a ninja turtle cake. He is moving on to a new school from August. So he wanted to invite his friends and teachers from the school for his birthday party. We decided to have a Gymnastics party for him – he loves jumping around the trampoline and running around the place. It was such a big hit. Both Ishaan and Ayaan had so much fun.
Here is the cake I baked and decorated for him. It was cookies and cream cake with fondant decorations. I usually stay away from fondant but I read this post from Veena – she has become my online guru. I have learned so much from her videos and posts. I tried the fondant and it was the best tasting fondant I have ever used. I am going to use fondant more frequently from now on. The cake was a huge hit – both lookwise and tastewise. I followed this tutorial to decorate the cake.
School reopened for my preschooler in August. With that, all the invitations for birthday parties also started. So the child was pretty upset that his birthday is not coming soon enough. April is way too far and he had some meltdowns when I said he has to wait for 6 more months. When he started repeating the same question again and again, I told him I will make him something special for his 4 and 1/2 birthday. So he started counting down days for that. He wanted a big party, so to set the expectations, I told him he will get spiderman cake pops for the special day. (A friend had sent me this Spiderman Candy Apples link, I know he wouldn’t care for candy apples, so I thought of cake pops instead). He gladly agreed. He told me, “I will taste one, if I like, I will take to school and share them with my friends!!”. Lets just say I was really glad that day his school was closed, so I didn’t have to make some 20+ cake pops.
Most of the cake pops I have seen are prepared with crumbling a cake, adding some buttercream to it and then forming balls. I did not want to make that this time since I felt buttercream makes the pops very sweet. My child is not too much into sweets. He eats cakes once in a while, but not too much. He loves chocolates though. So after a lot of googling, I found out about cake pop pans which I got at Target.
I used eggless chocolate cake recipe for my pops. I used half the quantity which was perfect for the pan. The cake pop pan is greased with butter and sprinkled with flour. Unlike a muffin pan, each pop mold is filled completely (only one half of the pan) and then the other half is kept on it and locked. So when the cake bakes, it fills up the other half to get perfect rounds. I baked it for 15mins. The I let it rest till it was cooled completely and then removed the pops from pan. Then with a sharp knife, removed any round rings on the pops that were caused by oozed out cake batter.
In a cup, I melted some white chocolate chips. Each pop stick was then dipped into chocolate and inserted into pops. Then chilled in fridge till the chocolate is completely set.
Here is where the problems started!. I melted some chocolate and then colored it red. I kept mixing it and it all became mushy. Then I remembered something that I had read somewhere. Do not mix white chocolate too much!. So next batch I was lot more careful. Once the chocolate was melted, I dipped each pop into the colored chocolate. I had to be really careful here since they started falling apart, so I had to move quickly and carefully. Then I refrigerated them back till the chocolate was set.
Then I drew eyes with white buttercream and webs with black buttercream.
My friend’s beautiful daughter turned 6 years old over the weekend. I asked my friend if I could bake a small cake for her. Initially I thought of baking just a simple cake. Then last week, I thought I would decorate it into a Princess. I had seen that she enjoys Frozen movie. Then I found some Princess cakes onlines, with blue dress which looked so beautiful. So I decided to go with blue dress. The blue Princess cake, I think it came out very well. Someone asked me which princess it was based on, since it had the bindi, I really did not base it on any princess characters, it was just that I really wanted to make it a light blue cake. I added the bright yellow flowers for the extra pop of colors.
The cake was Simple egg cake. The frosting was creamcheese-buttercream frosting. The doll is plastic. It was a 4 inch doll. Since the doll was kind of small, I thought of keeping it on a oval shaped cake. It gave the much needed height to the cake. Before frosting the cake, I cut each piece horizontally and applied a thick layer of frosting in between to give extra taste to the cake. I have seen many Princess cakes where a dressed doll is used as the insert. That may be something I will keep in mind for future. For now, I really enjoyed making the whole dress.
Some of my friends surprised us on our anniversary last month with a cake. It is such a great thing to take out some time from our busy schedule and have fun with friends, at the same time making someone feel very special. One of my friends had her birthday last week. We decided to surprise her by showing up at her place with a cake and food. Since she is a vegetarian, I decided to bake an eggless cardamom cake.
I am little bit intimidated by eggless cakes. I usually bake cake with eggs, somehow I feel the eggless cakes become more dense. Whenever I have to bake an eggless cake, I usually bake date cake. I have baked this for my friends many times, so I wanted something different. When I was looking for the recipe, I came across Madhuram’s eggless vanilla cake. It looked very interesting. from there, I got to the original recipe from AllRecipes. I followed that version mostly with some minor modifications. As mentioned in many comments there, I used cake flour – all purpose flour + corn starch mixture. I replaced vanilla with freshly ground cardamom. The aroma of the cake was divine. When it was baking, my entire apartment filled with sweet cardamom aroma. The cake was not too fluffy like a cake with eggs, but it was soft and very tasty. I added a layer of strawberry jam in between two layers of cake for some extra taste.
I used cream cheese – butter frosting to decorate the cake. Instead of using the whole milk, I added cream. I also added a pinch of cardamom powder to the frosting. The frosting tasted so great and went well with the cake. I made the chocolate flowers and leaves using modeling chocolate. The recipe and method to make the modeling chocolate and roses can be found at Veena’s art of cake. (OMG, I am in love with that site, just check out all her tutorials!. I have learned so much from her in last few weeks). I mixed some of that melted modeling chocolate and mixed with frosting to write Happy Birthday on the cake.
My friends loved the cake. My efforts paid off. A big hats off to my 4 month old to let me work on the cake!.
Pictorial : Peel and powder cardamom. Sieve together all purpose flour, corn flour, baking soda and baking powder.
Take butter, orange juice, condensed milk and cardamom. Beat well to mix. (It is a good idea to beat butter first and then add other things to avoid splattering!). Then slowly add the flour mix a little at a time and mix well.
Add the batter in a greased pan. The batter is pretty thick, but it will bake beautifully. Bake in preheated oven.
Let the cake cool and then cut horizontally. Spread some strawberry jam in between(optional).
Keep the top layer. Make the icing and decorate the cake (optional step).
Eggless Cardamom Cake
A very fragrant eggless cardamom cake, that is flavored with Orange juice and freshly ground cardamom
Grease a baking dish with butter and flour, keep aside.
Sieve together dry ingredients - cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and keep aside.
Take condensed milk, orange juice, cardamom powder, butter in a bowl and beat till mixed.
Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix till combined.
Bake at 350F for about 40-45mins till a tooth pick inserted in the center comes clean.
I did not have cake flour. So I made it at home. Take 2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour and take out 5 tbl spns from from it. Add 5 tbl spn corn starch to it. I used a 8" pan which became a tad smaller. 9" pan as specified in original recipe would be perfect