Birthday cakes are always special. These are memories in guise of cakes. Memories of maybe, friends showing up at midnight with a cake in hand to bring in your special day; or of your parents bringing you your favourite chocolate cake to celebrate your day or maybe a memory where you end up making your own birthday cake because you simply cannot find the cake you want in the market.
I belong to the last category. For years, I have had cakes being bought from a particular patisserie in town famous for their chocolate truffle cakes. They were divine but for the past couple of years, I have been making my own birthday cake.
No, the quality or service of the patisserie hasn’t undergone any changes nor has the variant been unavailable. I have just come to realise that birthday cakes should be personal. They should always have a personal touch – whether it is making your own birthday cake or baking one for friends and family. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect to look at. It is the thought that matters more when you make it with all you have.
Take last year; I made a cake for my own birthday because I couldn’t really find a cake around that was “Me” in terms of its story. I am a plant person at heart and I really wanted a cake with edible flowers on. This was the kind of cake that depicted what I was all about. Since I couldn’t find anything like that, I made my own. I also threw in a fondant cat in there because my life revolves around cats too. This was essentially “Me on a plate” – the flowers, the cat, the classic Victoria cake with Strawberry and cream cheese. The cake brought together everything that I loved and that is where the emotional connect was strong for me. The personal touch was what mattered and made memories for me.
Then on, I have been making cakes for other friends and family on their birthdays or occasions and believe me, the personal touch works wonders. The memories are stronger and the cakes get even more special. Not to mention, the complete control you get over maintaining the quality of the ingredients being used in the cake.
I don’t usually have large birthday celebrations but the cake is a ritual I follow every year. Last week, I brought in my birthday with another cake that sort of was “Me” again on the plate. Soft pastel pink shades for an Ombre shade effect, fresh berries with a tang, creamy Mascarpone and the purest Vanilla extract made up my cake this year. Free from preservatives and other synthetic flavourings – this was what I wanted (I did use some red colouring but if I had a natural alternative, I would have hunted it down). I had been meaning to test my Ombre cake making skills. Turns out, I couldn’t really give it the perfection it deserved but then, it was a good cake. Made me happy, at least 🙂
Nothing beats adding a personal touch to birthday cakes. Try it sometime and experience the joy it gives you – whether it is your own cake or for someone else you cherish.
MY OMBRE BIRTHDAY CAKE
- Flour – 150GM
- Butter – 75GM
- Caster sugar – 75GM
- Eggs – 2 medium ones
- Baking powder – ¼ teaspoon
- Natural Vanilla extract – ½ teaspoon
- Water – About 75-100ML [depending]
- 2 x 5 inch cake moulds [making a cake stack here and hence 2 moulds]
For the Frosting and décor
- Mascarpone cheese – 200GM
- Powdered sugar: 100GM
- Blueberries – ½ cup
- Blackberries / any other berries you prefer
- Red food colouring [I used red since I had berries here]
For the Cake:
- Add the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat them together till they form a fluffy mass.
- Add in the Vanilla extract to this mixture.
- Whip again.
- Break in the eggs and whisk again to make a homogenous mixture.
- Sift in the flour, baking powder to this mix and beat again adding a little water gradually until a smooth batter is formed. You may not need all the water or conversely, may need a little more water depending on your flour quality. Use your instinct.
- The batter should fall freely but shouldn’t be watery.
- Grease the cake moulds and dust them with a tablespoon of flour all around.
- Add in the batter and settle the mixture by tapping the mould gently.
- Bake the cake in a pre-heated oven at about 170-180 degrees centigrade for about 15-20 minutes.
- To check if done, insert a toothpick or knife into the cake. They should basically come out clean once inserted. This indicates the cake is cooked. If there is a trial of batter left on the knife, then bake the cake for another few minutes until done. This changes from oven to oven. Use instinct here to judge the time.
- Once done, pull out the cake and leave to cool for a few minutes.
- Unmould the cake after that and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, gently slice the cake into 2 layers from the centre using a sharp knife.
- I made 2 small cakes (5 inch mould) and had 4 layers, as I wanted a cake stack.
For the Frosting:
- Mix in 100GM of the mascarpone cheese with 30GM of powdered sugar and whisk well. You can adjust the sugar as per your taste here.
- Once well whisked, add in a handful of blueberries and gently crush them.
- Leave this mix aside.
For the Décor:
- Mix in 100GM of the mascarpone cheese with 30GM of powdered sugar and whisk well. Adjust the sugar as per your taste here.
- Now, divide the mix into 3 or 4 bowls.
- In the 1st bowl, add a few drops of the red colour to get a deep pink colour.
- In the 2nd bowl, add the colouring again but lesser than the 1st bowl to get a pink shade that is lighter than in bowl 1.
- In the 3rd bowl, add a trace of the red colour just to get a hint of light pink shade.
- The 4th bowl, I suggest leaving it plain white and not adding any colour.
- Fill the 4 fillings into 4 different piping bags. You don’t really need a nozzle here, as the piping isn’t really going to be visible on the cake.
- Leave aside until assembly.
For the Final Assembly:
- Place the bottom layer of the cake on a flat surface.
- Ice the cake using the crushed blueberry mascarpone mix to form a medium thick layer.
- Place the 2nd layer of the cake on this and press gently.
- Spread another layer of this frosting.
- Place the 3rd layer of the cake and repeat the frosting part.
- Lastly, place the 4th layer on top. You might need to slice off a bit of the top part of the cake to get an even finish and smooth surface.
- Now begins the ombre cake frosting.
- Use the darkest shade of pink on the bottom and the lightest shade on top.
- Using the piping bag, pipe a thick line of the dark pink shade of the frosting near the bottom layer of the cake. Leave it as it is.
- Nest, about a few centimetres above that, pipe the slightly lighter shade of pink (bowl 2 icing) in a thick line round the cake.
- A few centimetres above that, pipe line three (bowl 3 icing)
- Finally, cover the top later with white icing from bowl 4.
- Now using a flat spatula knife, place it vertical outside the wall of the cake stretching the length from the bottom-most layer to the top of the cake. Drag it in exactly that position round the circumference of the cake so as to get the piped lines to merge with each other and form a shaded effect. This needs a bit of practice (as you can see, mine isn’t perfect either). A little smoothening will be required to get it really smooth.
- A special note here – we aren’t using buttercream for frosting and hence, the effect of smoothness may probably be missed. Buttercream allows for a really smooth finish for these kind of cakes.
- Lastly, smooth the white icing on the top of the cake as well.
- Place a handful of the fresh berries on the centre part of the cake.
- Dust with a bit of icing sugar for effect if you like and serve immediately.