What happens when my toddler wants to bake me a cake? I baked myself a bake.
My kiddo helped more than I expected so that was a sweet surprise.
Bonus: Refrigerator Art for Mommy
(AKA How I know she really really loves me)
Except when she excitedly showed me the hand prints she proudly made for me. I suppose I should be thankful the sentiments are there, and glad that she didn’t protest too much when I had to removed her lovely creation. I showed her the picture I took of it and said I would treasure it forever so I could clean the refrigerator. She said “forever is a long time Mommy”. That cheeky little monkey. I will treasure her sass too.
Sweet, but not too Sweet, Please
I wanted to find a recipe that didn’t have too much sugar. I suppose too and much are subjective, but I went in search of a sponge cake recipe for cakes like those often sold in Chinese bakeries because they’re usually not too sweet (IMO). I found one on the Nancy Baked blog which had only one cup of sugar. That’s not too much right? And most importantly, I loved how she had detailed process pictures, very important (did I say that already?) for a baking-noob like myself. Sigh, the things I get myself into for my toddler.
Chinese Bakery Cake Recipe
for 2 9″ round cakes, adapted from Nancy Baked
6 eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar, separated into 1/3 and 2/3 cup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Tips: This sponge cake is light and fluffy because meringue is gently folded into the batter. This is easier if you have two separate mixing bowls, one for the batter and one for the meringue. Or if you only have one mixing bowl, divide and pour batter into the two cake pans and then wash the mixing bowl before making the meringue and fold it into the batter directly in the cake pan.
Nancy Bakes’ directions were to line the bottoms only, and not the sides of the baking pans, but I didn’t have parchment paper on hand so I didn’t line at all. Instead I had rubbed a little bit of butter onto the bottom of the pans and felt the cakes came out okay.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (~176 degrees C)
1. Separate Eggs
(with a Funny Egg Egg Yolk Separator)
I saw this egg separator at Walmart years and years ago and I *had* to get it even though I didn’t really bake because it was so fun looking. I had it for over 10 years and this was the first time I used it for real. Everyone who sees it in my kitchen comments on it but I was never able to say honestly if it worked or not.
And (this feels like a big reveal, ta-da), it actually worked well!
I We separated 8 eggs without any mishap so this funny egg egg yolk separator was a good $5 investment. The recipe only called for 6 eggs, but it was so fun we did all 8 we had. I just looked for it on Amazon and it’s still $5. Not much inflation for egg yolk separators huh? (Affiliate link to buy your own funny egg egg yolk separator here)
2. Beat egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric beater on high for approximately one minute or until it turns pale yellow.
3. Sift cake flour and baking powder over the pale yellow egg yolk mixture and mix at low speed until just incorporated.
4. Add water, oil, and vanilla extract and beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
My daughter performed the above steps but I took over for the following steps:
5. Make meringue by whipping room temperature egg whites with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until slightly foamy. Then add cream of tartar and beat on high for approximately 3 minutes or until stiff peaks have just formed. Then decrease speed to low and while the mixer is still on, add in the 1/3 cup of sugar. Then beat at high for another 30 seconds or so until all the sugar is incorporated. You should be able to turn the meringue upside down and it won’t move, but how risky you live your life is entirely up to you.
6. Gentle fold meringue into batter until just incorporated. The less mixing, the fluffier the cake. Then transfer quickly to baking pans (if not mixing directly in pans) for baking. The longer the batter rests, the less fluffy the cake.
7. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F (~176 degrees C) for approximately 20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Every oven seems a little different – it took 25 minutes in my current oven (probably because, looking around sheepishly, ummm, the vents in the back of my oven are covered with cat hair).
8. Let cool until warm, approximately 8 minutes, before moving from pans to cooling racks to cool further. The cake will shrink and your house will smell wonderful. I had to guard the cooling cakes from my daughter because she kept pulling up the chair to try to sample them. I don’t mind her sampling but didn’t want her to burn her cute little fingers.
9. Decorate as desired when completely cooled. I also used whipped cream and strawberries like Nancy Bakes did. I try to always have heavy cream on hand for our family’s favorite creamy chicken recipe and since I often buy my strawberries from Costco, we usually have a little too many so this was a great way to use them up. Whipped cream frosting is also nice when you want something lighter.
Whipped Cream Recipe
For a 2 layer cake, adapted from Nancy Baked
4 cup heavy cream
2 cup powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)
Optional: Food coloring
This whipped cream frosting is very light and the sweetness can be adjusted easily with more or less powder sugar. You can also adjust the flavor with different extracts or additions.
Tip: It works best to use very cold equipment – leave heavy cream in refrigerator until ready to use and store whisk and metal bowl in freezer for at least 30 minutes prior to mixing.
1. Whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, starting at a low speed and gradually working up to high to minimize splattering.
2. When the cream starts to thicken, gradually add powder sugar and vanilla extract. We stopped intermittently to taste and determine if we needed more sugar. Try not to eat all the whipped cream and save enough to decorate the cake. That is very hard to do.
3. Scoop whipped cream into a coriander to drain excess liquid. Maybe we
didn’t couldn’t wait long enough but nothing seeped out.
Nancy Bakes provides additional directions on adding optional gelatin to add structure and stiffness to the whipping cream.
My daughter alternated a spoon of whipped cream for the cake and one for her mouth until we ran out of clean spoons. For the astute, yes, my daughter is now in blue instead of yellow. Baking a cake can be a messy job for a 3 year old and may require a change of clothing, or two, to get the job done.
Mother’s Day is coming up. While I had said I no longer expect any gifts as experiencing motherhood was the ultimate gift itself, I am not above using it as an excuse to order a big Baskin Robbin’s fudge crunch ice cream cake. I mean cake is the answer to everything right? And everyone gets to enjoy the treat so it’s not just for me right? Cake is love right?
I haven’t told the kiddo about Mother’s Day yet but if she wants to bake me another cake, maybe I would do it (sniff ice cream cake, I’ll miss you) since this time didn’t turn out a complete disaster thanks to Nancy Bake’s detailed pictures and to my kiddo for all the help. How about you? Would you bake yourself a cake?