Upon returning to good ol’ New England after my trip to the Bahamas a few weeks ago, I had two things on my mind: 1) ugh I want to be back there under the palm trees and swimming in the deep blue sea and eating guava cheesecake ice cream, and 2) it is my brother’s birthday tomorrow and GOOD GOD I’VE GOT TO MAKE A CAKE!
|Beaches on my mind and my mind on my beaches.|
So I eventually decided on making a cake—a plain vanilla one, yes, but structured in such a way that it would be conducive to extensive amounts of decorating (i.e. I made a big square cake)—modeled after a tropical beach.
No, not a tropical beech.
|Those are BOORRRRRING. source|
This was pretty exciting for me, since I got to try making modeling chocolate for the first time. I made a large batch of the recipe from the Sprinkle Bakes cookbook and used a bit to sculpt some adorable palm trees, wrapping up the rest for later purposes (watch out for more modeling chocolate sculptures in the future!). Using brown sugar as sand was a no-brainer. For the blue waves, I opted to scatter some fresh berries on top instead of tinting frosting with food coloring. The frosting on the actual cake itself is also naturally-colored, with a little beet puree (I keep some on hand in the freezer and thaw it when I need it) and turmeric.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a huge fan of food coloring. Nothing against those who do use it, but I’d rather not use it myself. Feels like cheating. Even though I know it’s not.
BUT I DIGRESS. The most important part is that the cake is beautiful and fabulous and FUN, because that is what I am aiming for here.
|Yes. Palm trees. Oceans. Ahhh.|
And like most homemade cakes, this one is delicious. So I think spending the little extra time—okay, a lot of extra time to make this special birthday cake at home instead of buying one from, like, Stop & Shop, is worthwhile.
|Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.|
Anyway. I’m done talking for today, so here’s the recipe.
Tropical beach birthday cake
Makes one double-layer 10-inch square cake
Serves about 16
Adapted from Lomelino’s Cakes by Linda Lomelino
126 grams • vegan butter (such as this), softened • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon
312 grams • granulated sugar • 1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon
442 grams • all-purpose flour • 3 ¼ cups
12 grams • baking powder • 1 tablespoon
1 gram • ground turmeric • ½ teaspoon
12 grams • vanilla extract • 1 tablespoon
244 grams • nondairy milk • 1 cup
20 grams • Ener-g egg replacer • 2 ½ tablespoons
122 grams • water • ½ cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 10-inch square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment; set aside.
Place vegan butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and turmeric; in a measuring cup, combine vanilla and milk. With mixer on low speed, add flour, alternating with milk until the batter is just combined. Carefully transfer batter to a large bowl and clean the stand mixer bowl thoroughly.
Combine egg replacer and water in the clean stand mixer, fit it with the whisk attachment, and beat on high speed until light and fluffy. The egg “whites” should reach stiff peaks.
A little at a time, gently fold the mixture into the cake batter, being sure not to deflate the whipped egg replacer, until no streaks of white remain. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
224 grams • vegan butter, softened • 1 cup
360 grams • powdered sugar • 3 cups
45 grams • coconut milk, full-fat • 3 tablespoons
2 grams • vanilla extract • ½ teaspoon
Salt, to taste
Beet puree, to taste
Turmeric, to taste
Place vegan butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until combined. Pour in coconut and vanilla and whip until light and fluffy. Salt to taste.
Divide the frosting into three bowls, with one bowl having slightly less the others. Leave this smaller quantity of frosting white, and color the others with turmeric and beet puree, respectively. You will need just a pinch of turmeric and just a spoonful of beet puree to get the needed color. Stir until thoroughly combined.
Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes by Heather Baird
284 grams • semisweet chocolate, finely chopped • 10 ounces
112 grams • light corn syrup • 1/3 cup
Melt the chocolate in a large bowl in a microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring thoroughly after each. Once the chocolate is completely melted, add corn syrup and stir until thick and no longer shiny.
Place mixture on a large sheet of wax paper and top with another sheet; roll out until about ½-inch thick. Let dry for 2 to 3 hours.
Once dried, remove the wax paper and knead gently until pliable and putty-like. Store modeling chocolate in an airtight container, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. To make sculptures, just remove the chocolate you need and mold into fun shapes. The sculptures will harden as they sit at room temperature.
Sprinkling of brown sugar
Handful of fresh blueberries
A few pinches of matcha powder
Place yellow cake on a work surface and level off the top with a large serrated knife. Carefully divide the cake in half lengthwise so you have two thinner layers. Fill cake with pink and yellow frosting and stack so you have a frosted two-layer cake. Frost the exterior with additional pink and yellow frosting. To get a nice swirly border, add both colors of frosting to a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe swirls all around the edge of the cake.
Use your homemade modeling chocolate to make little palm trees and other decorations for your beach. Brush the “leaves” with matcha powder for some more color. Set sculptures aside to dry.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip with white frosting. Working from one corner of the cake, pipe lines of frosting outward, stopping about 2/3 of the way across the square surface. Top the white frosting with fresh blueberries to represent the “ocean”. Stick your palm trees and other adornments on the uncovered surface of the cake. Sprinkle the “beach” with brown sugar to represent sand. Ta-da—you have a tropical beach, in cake form!
|I used a cutting board because I don't have any other large, square serving trays...so there you go.|
Using the modeling chocolate was a lot of fun, so you can expect I will be sticking some more chocolate sculptures on cakes in the future. Especially since I have a big hunk of it hanging around in the pantry. Wouldn’t want that to go to waste.
|Trying to work my piping skillz.|
For some other good birthday cake ideas, check out these recipes.
Vegan “better than sex” cake (rich chocolate cake with vanilla pudding, caramel, and whipped cream). Is it really better than sex? Only one way to find out...hehe...
Chocolate hazelnut cake with praline chocolate crunch. The praline chocolate crunch alone is worth making.
Gluten-free chocolate layer cake. For the gluten-free person in your life.
Frito cheesecake layer cake. For the stoner in your life. Um. Junk food aficionado.