Recipe for Disaster: A Birthday Cake for 2016

Birthday cake!
Birthday cake!
Photo by Matthew Niederhauser

[Meredith Graves — Perfect Pussy frontwoman, Honor Press founder, Voice festival correspondent, etc. — loves making and eating food just as much as she loves making and listening to music. With Recipe for Disaster, her weekly column, Meredith listens to music and dives into a new recipe accordingly. This week, the echoes of "Auld Lang Syne" are dying out, but hey — put off that New Year's resolution for another week, 'cause we have cake to eat.]

Welcome to 2016! New Year’s! So arbitrary! So reliant on the Gregorian calendar! So remarkable in its ability to remind us that we’re actually terrible, and very, very flawed! It really feels great, this collective societal agreement that we'll restrict in ways that will ideally make us smarter and richer and sexier, only to then be turned (turnt?) loose and encouraged to drink Champagne and do drugs until 7 a.m., or whenever surge pricing ends.

(Full disclosure: I stayed home and watched The Lego Movie, stone sober, because I'm very cool.)

Sure, you’ll start that cleanse, join that gym, read Tolstoy, stop answering texts from your ex, go vegan, make a savings account, listen to something other than Future, quit smoking. You could do that on September 3, or June 28, or Arbor Day, but no. New year, new you.

Except we’re all going to keep being our totally shitty, completely wonderful little selves, developing at the rate humans do, effecting small positive changes — yes, you should quit smoking and stay on top of your inbox and donate to charity, but you know that whether it’s January 1 or next Saturday — growing and changing bit by bit in accordance with our ever-shifting needs.

So don’t feel bad if, like me, you swore up and down you’d quit drinking on the first and found yourself toasting to your new apartment on the third. Or if you’ve already lapsed on your commitment to one of many overpriced gym chains because it’s suddenly sub-arctic (everywhere except the actual Arctic, that is). You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him lift, bro.

If you’re going to stay home where it’s warm and nobody’s sweating all over the equipment and then failing to wipe it down, you might as well have cake. Birthday cake. For the birth of that "new you," just as beautiful as the old you, but she remembers to brush her teeth before going to sleep, makes an effort to run once a week, writes a handwritten letter a month, volunteers in her neighborhood, and is nicer to herself — which should be your first, and most prioritized, resolution, on New Year’s Day and every day.

JUST LOOK AT THOSE SPRINKLES
JUST LOOK AT THOSE SPRINKLES
Photo by Matthew Niederhauser

Two major birthdays happened this week: Ali Donohue, the human embodiment of the alien head emoji, bassist of my dorky band, and one of my main mains (who just launched her own clothing company with her best friend, holy shit) and Hilary Hughes, my editor at this here very online news publication website and the reason I write you these insulin-altering love letters week after week. Friendship! Two of my most encouraging babes within days of one another. Happy birthday to you both, I made you this cake. I’m lucky to know you.

(Additional birthday trivia: Joan of Arc, supposedly born on January 6. My patron saint, subject matter for several of my larger tattoos, role model of my life. In her honor, just this once, even if it leads you into battle, listen to that little voice that tells you to do good — and always, always tell the truth. This cake's for you, too.)

Another momentous event this week: Molly Yeh tweeted back at me. This was because I made a crass joke about "tater thots," as it were — total cry for help. But you guys, one of my baking heroes tweeted at me! A total babe who lives in the middle of nowhere and raises chickens and takes gorgeous pictures and makes cakes all day; also a classically trained musician who moonlights in orchestra pits. The kind of food blogger who gets free shit from fancy companies. I love that, so I made her famous funfetti cake this week.

She really nailed it. The recipe is idiot-proof. She did sprinkle comparison tests, for chrissakes. I didn’t have whole milk because cow’s milk is gross, so I used cashew milk, and it still came out awesome.

Sometimes you just need to make a slutty joke and someone you admire will talk to you on the internet! The future is bright. It’s a whole new year, who knows what could happen?

xoxo
mg

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P.S. Her note about cake flour, linked in her blog post, is useful as hell — I had no idea that cake flour is AP flour sifted with cornstarch, just like how self-rising flour is AP flour sifted with baking powder and salt. Every 2 cups of cake flour breaks down to 1 3/4 cups AP, 1/4 cup cornstarch. Read more here.

Molly Yeh’s Funfetti Cake
(from Food52)

Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large egg whites
2 tablespoons clear imitation vanilla
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups cake flour 
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sprinkles (see headnote)

- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans. Cut out circles of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pans. Lightly spray the parchment.

- With an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Mix in the vanilla and oil.

- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With your mixer running on low, add this to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk. Once you have a smooth batter, fold in the 2/3 cup of sprinkles.

- Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sprinkles over the top and bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at around 25 minutes.

- Let the cakes cool for a few minutes in the pans and then flip them onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting
2 cups (or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, or to taste
2 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla
1 pinch salt

Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and mix to combine. Taste and add more sugar, if desired.

Frost your cake and enjoy!


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