Or something like that. I thought it turned out pretty cool — in a slightly off-kilter sort of way. The whole idea was saved from imminent disaster when I had an early-morning epiphany of SPRINKLES! — I had until that moment been trying to figure out how long it would take me to tint, pipe, wash out piping bag, and repeat, seven or more times for each color of the rainbow (plus borders). Once I had that magical morning revelation, I knew I could just tint a couple colors, treat the cake like a stained-glass window, and make life much easier. After an emergency morning trip to Walmart for said sprinkles (you must know how desperate I was, to take all three of my children to Walmart), we came home, put the Wee One to bed, and got to work. Truth be told, the kids did a lot of watching — it was just too hard to keep the sprinkles in the appropriate places. But they did the Jelly Belly border all by themselves.
The biggest disappointment was the cake itself. I used this recipe from Cooks Illustrated online — one originally published in the magazine 10 years ago. I’m not sure what happened. I have had good success with other CI cakes and baked goods (case in point: the scones pictured below). Everything seemed fine with the batter, right up until they went in the oven. But the cakes baked lopsided, and seemed pretty thin. It wasn’t until we cut into the cake that we saw they were indeed pretty dense layers, with a line of concentrated batter through the middle of each layer. The texture was dense and a little dry. Not the light, fluffy, tender yellow cake I was going for. It could have been a fault as simple as old baking powder — I go through a can relatively fast, but we were at the end of one, scraping the bottom, getting every last caked-up bit. I didn’t test it beforehand (I’ve actually never tested my baking powder, though this experience might change that stat for the future), and it’s in the trash now, so there’s no way to know for sure.
The icing, however, was fantastic. The best buttercream recipe I’ve ever worked with or tasted. Also from CI online, the recipe has variations for several flavors; we used orange. It was delightful, and made the disappointing cake edible. It was whipped to a good volume, and made for very easing spreading and smoothing while icing the cake. It will be my new go-to recipe for cake icing, for sure.
The birthday girl was happy with her cake, which we enjoyed at her small party on Friday night. Since her actual birthday is today, we decided on a secondary celebration via her choice of breakfast. She chose scones (always her favorite, and unfortunately the breakfast we bake the least). I had recently viewed yet another CI recipe for blueberry scones, and upon a second sleepy look this morning realized with joy that we had all the ingredients (the blueberries were frozen). I’d never tried this recipe because it’s an odd way to go about making scones. It calls for grating frozen butter, which I decided not to do, since my butter was not frozen. So I skipped that step, opting instead for the old-fashioned method of cutting chilled butter into my dry ingredients using a pastry blender. Although I didn’t do a blind taste test comparing the two methods, I would confidently say that my scones lacked nothing by going the conventional route. Several other steps in the recipe, however, also seemed unconventional, but I stuck with them. It called for folding the dough several times after rolling, freezing it for a few minutes, and re-rolling it before adding the blueberries. This, I did. It was a little awkward and messy, though, and I wondered aloud to Tim as I put the pan in the oven whether it would be worth it in the end.
They might have been the best blueberry scones I’ve ever tasted. So delicate, so buttery, such an amazing and light texture — it totally made up for what was lacking in the birthday cake. They are indeed rich, but aren’t heavy at all. It’s definitely a special-occasion scone; I can’t do breakfast of all that white flour and sugar without crashing an hour later — but for a birthday it was a worthy treat: