Friday, April 15, 2011

Birthday SMASH!!!

So I spent a few years as a commercial baker awhile back. It sucked. The hours sucked (3am-11am anyone?). The lack of creativity sucked. The people, well... sucked. However, before that job if you'd said to me "let's bake some muffins" I'd be on my way to the store for a pre-measured mix with high fructose corn syrup, tons of oils (sometimes even lard) and god knows what else in it. Now I'm on my way to the kitchen for flour and sugar. That job taught me one very valuable lesson, aside from 'you're not a morning person', baking is easy and fun and once you have your basic recipes down the possibilities are limitless. Yes, it's more science than cooking. It's chemistry, plain and simple, but pushing the limits of that science is probably my favorite part.
I've dabbled in muffins and pies, cupcakes and cookies... you name it, I've tried it. When I was pregnant my kitchen became a bakery, blame nesting or cravings or boredom but I came up with some pretty impressive stuff!
One thing I hadn't tried, but was intrigued by, was 'smash cakes'. Mini birthday cakes for your little one to dig into and destroy on their birthdays. Awesome in theory... poor in execution. Most of the ones I've seen look like glorified cupcakes and are no doubt 100% sugar and vegetable oil. They all look like flavorless processed cake mix with 'fun' frosting. Gross. Is that really the way you want to spend your kids birthday? Peeling them off the walls during their sugar high and dealing with the inevitable crash and crankiness? Do we really want the message to be "Here, shove this block of fatty sugar into your mouth while I take pictures?"
Don't get me wrong... I'm not one of those sugar-nazis. I won't deny my kid a birthday cake because I think it's unhealthy to celebrate with food. I don't. Food is amazing and vital and should be a celebration! However I DO think it's pointless and a bad message to celebrate with just any food. If you are using food to emphasize a great event... make it great food!! Aurora will have a smash cake. The plans are in my head as I write this, but the main difference is that I will know exactly what is in hers and where it came from and it'll be a REAL cake.
THIS is how I want to do "smash cakes". In my head this is an opportunity to make big beautiful artisanal cakes that look and taste amazing... only tiny:
So this is my first smash-cake experiment:

That's a standard sized cocoa can that I used for a decorating stand... should give you a pretty good idea of the scale.
This is a recipe that I've wanted to toy with for a little while. It's pretty simple and relies heavily on a chemical reaction for it to come out correctly. That being said, it's also loaded with sugar and butter. My goal was to cut both by 1/3 without destroying the end product. Now I frosted it pretty simply for two reasons... One, this little guy is for no one but me so why go nuts with decorations?

But the second and most important reason is because underneath all of that awesome (low-fat) cream cheese frosting there are not two but FOUR layers of red velvet cake!

I regret taking this picture on a red plate. It was late and I wasn't thinking properly. It matches the plate!

Here's one I took the next morning on a white plate.
The best part? I succeeded! It's 1/3 less fat and sugar than traditional red velvet but still came out red and still has that awesome cocoa and butter flavor! Win-win-win. This also opens up possibilities for red and pink cakes or even red and blue superhero cakes!
All in all a pretty big success and a pretty great dessert for the next two days!