Sunday, September 19, 2010

Softball Cake

This recipe was not in my original cook books, nor was it in any of my Grandmother's however the time and effort it took me to make this cake, makes it worthy of a post on my blog, with some of the photos of what I went through, getting from point A (an empty pan) to point B the cake you see before you. Also, I realize that Martha Stewart can make a cake, but I'm still giving this recipe the most difficult of ratings, because it's not for the faint of heart, but can be done, if you are a good instruction follower and have heaps of patience.

My original inspiration for the cake. The Chief Commentator's daughter plays softball and loves everything softball... so for her 10th (double digits!) birthday, we decided to do a softball themed cake to celebrate.

I am so proud of myself, I read all the instructions on the cake pan, before starting (i.e. cover pan in shortening, and then flour but NEVER butter then flour before adding batter...) etc etc etc. The instructions also said to use dense cake like a pound cake for the recipe.

Since the kiddo loves lemon, I chose the Barefoot Contessa Lemon Pound Cake by Ina Garten as my base, and then "kidded" it up a bit by adding a cupful of confetti candy to the mix.


(makes 2 8" loaves)

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature

1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method (note this is the method per Ina Garten with my changes due to pans in (parenthesis)

preheat oven to 350 (325) grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2x 2 1/2 loaf pans (grease pan with shortening and then 2 teaspoons flour rolled around until all surfaces are covered)

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 5 minutes, or until ight and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest


**note - if you can find an easier way to zest 8 lemons, by all means go for it. My hands hurt so much after the zesting, I took a 10 minute break and had to stretch them. I used a microplane to zest, but by all means, if you can find a quicker method go for it.

Sift together the flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the butterminlk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evently between the pans, smooth the tops and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until cake tester comes out clean.

(This is where I folded the confetti candy into the mix, to make it more 'kid friendly'.

** I don't normally believe in keeping everything separate and then slowly mixing them in steps, but out of pure fear and supersticion that the cake would come out poorly, I followed along exactly. Also, I followed the baking instructions at 325 per the pan, which is more than an hour, it's more like, a hell of a long time.. I think closer to an hour and a half or so.

I skipped this next step completely, because I was going to frost the cakes, but here you go if you want to know how to finish off the recipe. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small sauce pan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. When the cakes are done, let them cook for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

While the cake was baking, I decided I needed something for the softball to sit in, and because I wasn't about to self teach how to make a fondant or gum paste glove, I opted to make the ball sit in some grass. Now what is edible and looks like grass? coconut. Mixing a cup of coconut in a sandwhich baggie with about a teaspoon or so of green food coloring yields a nice looking grass effect. But it's sticky at this point and needs to be dried a little, so I spread it out on some parchment paper and stuck that in the oven (when the cake finally came out) watching it toast slowly. Which means, sitting infront of the oven because the difference between dry, and scorched is about 47 seconds. To make my cake, I used aprox 2 cups of coconut. Granted I did it 3 times before it came out correctly.. but the final product was 2 cups.
Now it's time for the cake to sit and rest. But before it's cooled (consulting my instructions again) I have to trim off the tops of both of the cakes and then flip them onto the racks to cool completely. (this translates to me, as 'done for the day' start again tomorrow with the rest of the project.
Before going to the frosting phase I have to trim one of the cakes, so that it sits flat. I don't want my finshed product rolling all over the table now do I?
So now it's time to make a whole bunch of frosting. In the interest of not having to make a second batch if I ran out and worrying about matching colors, I made a double batch of buttercream frosting (wiltons - basic buttercream) however for this size cake, one batch would have been pleanty with enough to spare the recipe said 1 batch, but erring on the side of caution and trying to skip the "I told you so's"
I pulled out a small amount to turn red, and then made the rest of it "neon nuclear green" then after I got the correct color, I pulled out 3/4 of it, and thinned the remaining 1/4 for smoothing icing (i.e. mix corn syrup into frosting until thinned)
First you flip the bottom half, and smooth it all with flat smoothing icing, then you start to decorate it. Prior to flipping it, I decided I wanted to make sure that the frosting was hard enough incase I touched it, so I shoved it in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
At this point I could have filled the center, and thought about doing a lemon filling, however I was a little worried about it staying together, so instead I used a big glop of the regular butter cream and put the top on, frosting the entire rest of the outside in the smooth frosting.
Next I finished dotting the entire cake with the #16 tip (just like the instructions said!) and whipped up the red (it looks a little pink in the photo, but trust me it's red in person) and attached the #3 tip and went on to making the stitches.
Then I stuck the entire cake back in the fridge to harden again.
finally I added the green coconut around the base of the cake to make it look like grass.
There will be comments (hopefully tomorrow) on what the cake actually tasted like, but the little chunks I cut off the top when leveling were pretty darn tasty.
Here is the finished cake:
and here is the cake sitting in the middle of the set Dinner table for Daughter's "Japanese Themed" party. She requested Sushi, and all the fixin's.

The cake was certainly a learning experience, and now that I've done it, I'm sure I could recreate it faster next time. I was panicked about the cake consistency turning out the way I was hoping it to, and also learned (from reading the directions!) that it's important when frosting a cake like this with so many strange shapes and having to hold it together, that you use a dense cake (packaged cake mix doesn't work well unless you cut the oil down)

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