Sunday, December 11, 2011

6 [layers] x 4 [hungry people] - 3 [feet tall] = 21 [years old]

Ah, birthday season.

It has begun.

Naturally, the start of birthday season always coincides splendidly with finals, which is both hideously inconvenient and a wonderful break from studying.

But since it's Noosh's birthday, the break is always, always welcome.

Though, I suppose that after spending the vast majority of our Saturday night writing and editing term papers along with Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother breaks every thirty or so minutes, but it's okay since I started and finished a rather decently executed 8-page political theory essay in a grand total of 6 hours, I think today's lunch and subsequent sugar coma were well-deserved.

Noosh's rents came up today and took us out for a fantastic lunch at Outback, which was quite literally the first time in weeks that she and I had a meal that didn't involve items of questionable edibleness haphazardly thrown together in an attempt to fashion what few would call any semblance of a plate of food, so I was pretty damn pleased. I mean, salmon on rice pilaf with broccoli? It was like a holiday miracle, I kid you not. 

I feel unbelievably rejuvenated now and have this delusion that I possess the strength necessary to stare down my metaphysics term paper with the utmost confidence. By that I mean I may not actually pass out from sheer terror anymore.

Anyway, lunch was great [the whole 'real food' thing], and then we came back to the apartment for merriment and cake.

And so we ate. And ate. And ate some more.

And I'm still reeling from all the sugar. [What else is new.]

Fall Hummingbird Cake
Adapted from Sweetapolita and For the Love of Food.
Makes one three-layer 9-inch cake.

For the cake, you'll need:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, with juice
For the maple cream cheese frosting, you'll need:
  • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

To prepare the hummingbird cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat eggs and oil on medium speed until frothy, about a minute. Add in pumpkin, bananas, and pineapple and mix until well-blended, 3-4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand. In a separate bowl, sift flour, sugar, spices, salt, and baking soda. Dump flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until barely incorporated. Stir in pecans and mix until just combined.

Divide batter among the three pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

To prepare the maple cream cheese frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, maple syrup, and vanilla on medium speed until well-mixed. Reduce speed to low and gradually add in powdered sugar. Beat until the frosting fluffs up a bit, about 3 minutes. Add in the cream cheese all at once, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Refrigerate frosting until using.

To assemble the cake:
Place one of the three layers on the serving plate. Frost top of the layer with a generous amount of frosting. Repeat with the second and third layers, and use remaining frosting to frost the sides of the cake. Refrigerate cake until serving. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired.

Alright, so my cake was the approximate size of a small child. And was also 6 layers tall. And it could probably feed a small country. With leftovers remaining.

What I did was bake the cake twice over - used the same three pans for the second round of batter, and I was left with six, rather sizable, layers of hummingbird cake. I let them cool completely, and then got to frosting, the recipe for which I increased by 50% [I'll let you do the math on this one].

Now, a word of caution: if you're going to make a 6-layer cake, you can not assemble the entire thing all at once. I initially did all 6 layers, and the mess was teetering over worse than the tower of Pisa. I almost had a mental breakdown, and then decided to just remove two layers. Instead of throwing them away, I stuck them on a plate and figured I'd just have two cakes [of two awkwardly-different heights]. The cake with four layers was pretty stable, so I went ahead and frosted it completely. Then I decided that, no, I am not going to sit here and allow physics to destroy all of my dreams and happiness, so I stuck the four-layered cake in the freezer for about an hour and a half [stuck the other two in the fridge during this time], then placed the two refrigerated layers on top, refrosted the top two layers, and stuck it back into the freezer to firm up completely.

So, if you, dear reader, hope to make a 6-layered cake, I would do the following:
  1. assemble and frost four layers, sides and all 
  2. wrap remaining two layers in clingwrap and allow them to mellow out on the counter
  3. place frosted cake in freezer for 1.5 hours
  4. frost and add final two layers to frozen cake [note that frosting blends seamlessly with what has been done prior]
  5. place 6-layer, frosted cake in freezer for another 2 hours
  6. transfer frozen cake to the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving, so that it has a chance to thaw and isn't an unpleasant experience to eat
Yes, it is a time-consuming process, as all layer cakes are loathe to be, so make sure to keep in mind the time you'll need to set aside to make it happen.

You could also always just go with the three-layer, but the six-layer is far more enjoyable to slice.

As for decoration, I just purchased some fake flowers from Michaels, trimmed them off of the stalk, and arranged them on top. Chopped up some walnuts for some sort of aesthetic flair - rocks maybe? I'm really not quite sure - and it ended up looking more like a wedding cake than a birthday cake. But the addition of candles toned down the exuberant amounts of class radiating off of the cake, so it was all good.


Anyway, Noosh and her famfam loved it, so I figured it was a success in the end.

And finally, my darling Farnoosh, most amazing roommate and best friend one could wish for in the most epic bromance that ever was, I hope you had an absolutely wonderful 21st birthday [despite the fact that you are sitting next to me working on an ethics term paper], and I'm warning you now that once you turn it in, we are in for a night of a How I Met Your Mother marathon. Prepare yourself.

As for later this week, I'll be at the apartment until Friday when I'm finally off for break. I have this vague notion that the cousins and I are heading to NYC next week, but I'm fuzzy on some all of the details. But at least I have a few weeks to spend with the family before I'm back here for intercession.

And sometime in between there are about 3 more birthdays needing to be celebrated, so at least there's weight-gain to look forward to.



    I'm clearly also in the midst of a sugar rush so I profusely apologize. #loljk

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