Monday, February 21, 2011

Cute Owl Birthday Cake

by Darla

My birthday was this past Saturday. I love birthdays. I love anyone’s birthday, but I’m not gonna lie…I love mine the most! Who doesn’t love their own birthday best?! ;)

I had planned to have a very laid back birthday this year, i.e. no cake. I thought a few simple, but delicious cupcakes would suit me fine. But my sister had other plans. As sisters, especially older sisters, often do, she coerced me, in her own loving, but big sisterly way, into making a cake this year after all. She knew I’d be disappointed if I didn’t have one. She knows me oh so well. :) She did the right thing. She even helped me find inspiration by having a little Q&A session via Yahoo Messenger (since we live thousands of miles from each other :(), then bombarded me with pictures of beautiful cakes in the colors I had chosen (turquoise and yellow). That did it. I was hooked…my brain going a million miles an hour about what I could do. As our little chat came to an end, with an idea firmly entrenched in my mind, it struck me that I wanted an owl on my cake this year. I must have an owl. I would have an owl. And so I did.

And my favorite birthday cake ever was born. Much as it pains me to admit it, I even love it more than my Harry Potter cake. *gasp* I feel like a traitor…but that’s just my deep seated HP love. As far as cakes, not subjects, go, this is definitely my favorite one so far. Although it doesn’t look like it, the cake is actually quite small. The bottom tier was only seven inches square, the middle five inches, and the itty bitty top tier was only two and a half inches square! Of course that little tier was my own piece of the cake. Of course.

The fat, happy little fondant owl is my favorite part (find my tutorial for making this owl here). He took up the majority of work, but this cake was relatively simple, and even he came together in no time. I love him. Truly. I do. He’s just so sweet (no pun intended) and fat! I love a cute, fat little owl! I perched him slightly off center on my tiny top tier, so that I could add a single tall, white candle to the cake. I didn’t take any pictures, but it was quite pretty.

On a whim, I added sweet flowers to the owl’s back. I love the end result. He’s so much more interesting sprinkled with tiny blossoms, and he ties in with the rest of the cake beautifully! I want this owl as a doll. I must find him…he’s out there and he needs a good home!

Here’s a shot of the inside of the cake. I’ve been seeing vertical cake layers all over the place lately and just had to try my hand at them. To be honest, I didn’t see what the big deal was…until I cut into my own cake. It really is beautiful and surprising! Hearing all the ooh-ing and ahh-ing made the extra (yet surprisingly still easy) work worth it! Want to make your own vertical layer cake? I’ll show you how in my next post! :) I stuck with a basic, but the best ever, yellow cake (recipe below) and tinted half of the batter turquoise for the layers. This is my favorite yellow cake recipe and is absolutely perfect for birthdays!

I love everything about this cake. Everything from the tip of the little owl ears to the very bottom trim! The colors were absolutely exactly what I wanted, and it was simple and clean looking, while still achieving a girly, pretty look. By using the cutters from my sugar flowers kit, I was able to create a more modern, minimalistic look with very little effort. Plus, keeping things predominantly fondant-free also streamlined the workload. I hope everyone’s weekend was as wonderful as mine, and if you make this cake…be sure to have a slice for breakfast! ;) Enjoy!

Yellow Layer Cake
Makes 2 8- or 9-inch round layers (I used 2 8-inch square cake pans)
Ingredients

4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature (soy, almond, or rice milk work well too)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces (margarine can be substituted)

FOR THE (the best ever) FROSTING
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lb. (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8- or 9-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and set aside.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract; set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the butter one piece at a time, mixing until the dough comes together and looks sandy.

Add about 1 cup of the egg mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add the remaining egg mixture, with the mixer on low speed, until incorporated. Scrape the bowl, if necessary, then increase speed to medium-high and beat for about 20 seconds. The batter will just barely look a little curdled.

Divide that batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter for about 30 seconds. Beat in the sugar and salt until combined. Add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and whisk on high for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add more cream, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Stir in the vanilla and food coloring.

Cake adapted from Baking Illustrated, Frosting by Darla

P.S. Check out these absolutely GORGEOUS cupcake stands that the hubster had custom made for me…he did GREAT! :) [UPDATE: The cupcake stands are from Whitney Smith Pottery, she has tons of gorgeous stuff in her etsy store, including full size cake stands.]

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Fiona February 21, 2011 at 8:20 am

Oh, he’s adorable!!!! I love this cake, Darla. (the HP one’s gorgeous too) I’m inspired to go & make a happy-getting-your-first-exam-out-of-the-way cake for my daughter…with an owl for wisdom, obviously.

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2 Fiona February 21, 2011 at 8:27 am

p.s the cupcake stands are scrumptious.x

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3 rachel February 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

looove the cakestands!! what a good hubby! think you’ve picked a winner there hehe, gorgeous cake btw, egarly awaiting your next post to see how to make the layers!

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4 Dori February 21, 2011 at 8:41 am

Oh my goodness…the owl! Can’t stand the cuteness! The cake is gorgeous.

Happy Birthday, Darla! Your big sister sounds a lot like my big sister…all these years and she’s still looking out for me. :)

Very much looking forward to the vertical layers instructions…

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5 Mary Anne February 21, 2011 at 9:09 am

Happy Birthday!!
I love your cake, the owl is just so perfect!
And those cupcake stands… what can I say about the cupcake stands? I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of them in the future!

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6 linda February 21, 2011 at 10:11 am

kudos on the cake…simply beautiful! love it!
h a p p y b i r t h d a y !!
could you please share where your h had the stands custom made…would love to know…thanks!

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7 Darla February 21, 2011 at 10:43 am

Hi Linda, He got them from Whitney Smith Pottery (http://www.etsy.com/shop/whitneysmith). She has lots of beautiful stuff!

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8 linda February 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm

THANKS :) !!!!!!!

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9 Sarah February 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

Happy Birthday! Your cake is GORGEOUS!!! The owl is adorable! Now I wonder what I was going to do for MY birthday… (it’s the same day as Harry Potter’s! :D)

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10 Blog is the New Black February 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

OMG- amazing! SOOOO COOL! And where did he get those stands?! NEED ONE!

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11 Darla February 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

He ordered them from Whitney Smith Pottery (http://www.etsy.com/shop/whitneysmith). Beware! She has so much lovely stuff…I want it all!

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12 kita February 21, 2011 at 11:09 am

Oh! I have a friend who loves owls and would just go gaga over this. Loving the vertical layers on the inside! Those cupcake stands are great too!

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13 Stephanie February 21, 2011 at 11:40 am

Happy birthday! What a great way to celebrate and you must have been VERY happy with those cake stands!

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14 Alvina February 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Oh what a cute cake!! I really love the vertical slices! :] And your cupcake stand is super cute!

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15 Amanda February 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

That is the most adorable cake I have seen in ages!

To help you on the quest of finding the owl… http://ashbyfamilyblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/easy-owl-pattern-and-tutorial-win-one.html

I’ve made one from the pattern and it really is simple. The hardest part is figuring out what fabric to use. :D

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16 Darla March 1, 2011 at 10:21 am

OMGosh!! That owl is pretty perfect, isn’t it?! Thank you so much!! I’ll definitely have to give that pattern a try! :)

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17 Cindy February 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

My older girls asked me last night how I was doing. Since I’d just be looking at http://www.cakewrecks.com, my answer was, “I want some cake!!!” and Now you’ve given me the recipe :) I LOVE yellow cake. Yours sounds delish and your birthday cake is sooo sweet. Happy birthday.

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18 Emily February 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

This is just too dang cute!! I love how your creativity can make just about anything in fondant! I live in a high altitude area and all my cakes are coming out dry and crumbly :( Do you know how to fix this?

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19 Darla February 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Hi Emily, there’s a couple of fixes for dry cakes. One easy fix is to brush the entire cake with simple syrup. Not only does the syrup add moisture to the cake, but it also helps lock moisture in. Another fix is to try adding a little more butter or sugar, not eggs. Butter and sugar both add liquid to the cake, while eggs provide structure (along with flour). You could try adding about 1/4 cup more sugar or butter and see if that helps. Also, if you aren’t going to frost your cake right away, i recommend wrapping them in plastic wrap and freezing them, rather than refrigerating them. Freezing cake quickly locks moisture in. One more solution might be to try replacing 1 or 2 of the eggs with apple sauce. Apple sauce still provides some structure to cake, while also providing moisture. 1/4 cup of applesauce is equal to 1 egg. I hope this is helpful!

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20 chanette February 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm

cool the swedish color.. he he he
yes im a girl from sweden

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21 Lacey @ dishfolio.com February 21, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Great work — such beautiful colors. Your cake turned out perfect! We’d love for you to share your recipe at dishfolio.com!

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22 Esz February 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Oh hey you have the same birthday as me! I dont meet many people born on the same day – seems to be a rare one.

Such a cute cake – that owl is gorgeous :-D

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23 Britney February 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Happy birthday! I hope you had a wonderful day.
I love owls and the inside of your cake is so amazing looking. Lovely. Brought big smiles to my face.
I’ve seen those cake stands on Etsy. They are super cool.

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24 lora February 22, 2011 at 2:02 am

This cake is fantastic. I love the colors, the vertical layers and the flowers on the owl are perfect.

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25 Jessica February 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm

My birthday was Saturday as well!!! Happy Birthday! I LOVE the owl!!! So cute!

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26 Nourhan @ Miss Anthropist's Kitchen February 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm

This really did make me smile! Thank you so much for sharing, it is absolutely GORGEOUS!

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27 Alice February 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Happy birthday! Could you possibly post an explanation of how you made the owl? I must have one, he’s so gorgeous!

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28 Darla March 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

Hi Alice, Sorry for the late reply, I missed your comment until just now. :( For my little owl, I shaped the light turquoise fondant (looks almost white) into a smooth egg shape. Next, I shaped a piece of darker turquoise fondant into a sort of hooded cape with the pointed ears on top and draped it over the egg shape. I hope the makes sense…it’s sometimes very hard to put into words how to do something. The eyes are simply two small white rounds of fondant, slightly flattened and “glued” on with tiny daps of water. Similarly, the beak is just a small piece of yellow fondant that I shaped into a raindrop shape then slightly flattened before “gluing” it on.

I hope this is helpful. I was kicking myself after I made him that I hadn’t photographed the process. but sometimes you get so caught up in what your doing that you forget! I may post an owl tutorial in a few weeks. i’ll keep you posted! :)

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29 Julia February 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Oh my god – cutest owl ever!! And gorgeous cake overall : )

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30 nadège February 25, 2011 at 6:53 am

wonderful !

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31 Heather February 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm

What an awesome hubby! I have to admit, until I saw the pic of the cupcake stands, I kept thinking the little yellow bird was some kind of sauce you had to serve with the cake! lol

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32 Romance In A Glance April 20, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Hey there! Just came across your blog. I am a wedding blogger and this cake was too darling and just what I was looking for. I used your image {hope you don’t mind} and I put a link of your site with the image for the source. I am looking forward to seeing more of your work!

It’s amazing!!!
Have A great night!

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33 sandrina.sanda June 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

I love this cake ! Absolutely gorgeous !

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34 jacqueline January 14, 2014 at 4:18 am

Hello Darla,
Love love your website, thanks for sharing. I made this cake a bunch of times and the flavor is super yummy but is always dry. Your pictures of the inside look super moist. What can I be doing wrong? Please help, I want to my this cake for my daughter birthday in a few weeks.
Thanks :-)

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