Hello, Epic Portions readers! My name is Megan, and I’m new around here. I’ve joined up to talk about baking.
See, I believe in baking creatively. It’s not really enough for me for something to just taste good. I think it needs to be creative, either in concept (I like to make up my own recipes based on inspiration), or execution (I like to bake things in the shape of other, more ridiculous things.) I mean, think about the idea behind baking: take some sugar, and some butter, and some other stuff that tastes good (chocolate, fruit, peanut butter, whatever…) and mix it all together, and try not to burn it too much. It’s generally difficult to manage to bake something that tastes bad. The challenge, for me, is not only making it taste good, but making it interesting.
So, I submit for your consideration my latest creation, a birthday cake for my friend Jeff, who (at 27, mind you) is kind of obsessed with gerbils.
Last year, Jeff (a physicist) got a Periodic Table of Cake for his birthday. That was made of two different kinds of cake (lemon-creme and chocolate-covered-strawberry) cut into individual square cupcakes, frosted in a rainbow of colors, then assembled and decorated to look like a mini periodic table. (Extra effort: the frosting on “arsenic” was laced with well over 1/4cup of cayenne pepper. Spicy!)
Jeff really enjoyed the lemon-creme from last year and asked for it again this year, so the gerbil cake started as a four-layer 9″x13″ lemon-creme cake with fresh lemon frosting. My lemon cake is so easy it’s very nearly cheating: boxed lemon cake mix, lemon pie filling, and fresh lemon juice. Too easy, and so delicious! The fresh juice tempers the over-sweetness of boxed mix, and gives it a bright, tart lemon flavor. For frosting, when using lemons I like to keep it simple to let the flavor shine: butter, confectioner’s sugar, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. For this cake, it was four 9″x13″ layers of cake and three layers of frosting holding it all together.
Once baked and layered, I carved the assembled cake (admittedly, with a little bit of help from my roommate, who was better at achieving the curves) into the shape of an adorable little gerbil. I frosted it with more lemon icing, (tinted a light kraft-brown with icing dye), and added a lemon-end nose, lemon-slice ears, and a lemon-garnish tail. I used black decorator’s icing to add details – nose, eyes, stripes and claws – and, voila! Gerbil cake!