Trio of layer cakes: Carrot cake, “hot chocolate” cake, and lemon-berry cake
Sources: Fine Cooking #63 (also at FineCooking.com); Fine Cooking #102 (also at FineCooking.com); Fine Cooking #78 (also at FineCooking.com)
I used Keith’s birthday as an excuse for a baking marathon. By having about 25 people over for a Sunday afternoon cake party, I was able to make some crazy cake recipes that I’d been eying for a while.
The theme of the recipes was layers. All three cakes were layer cakes.
The carrot cake recipe is not a layer cake recipe, but I adapted it to be one. The carrot cake is the only cake I’d made before, and it is too delicious to not have been included in the cake party. I simply made 2 cakes and multiplied the icing recipe by 2.5, effectively turning the recipe into a layer cake recipe. But whether you’re making my layered version, or the basic version, everyone gives this cake rave reviews. (Note: I omit the nuts, and replace the walnut oil with vegetable oil, and replace the currants with raisins.)
Despite the continued success of the carrot cake, the “hot chocolate” cake was the star of the show. Unlike so many other chocolate cakes, this cake (which uses a very generous amount of chocolate and cocoa) has a very intense chocolate flavour. The icing is a whipped semisweet chocolate ganache. The homemade marshmallows that top the cake make it as visually appealing as it is tastefully delicious. (The marshmallows can seem daunting, but as long as you have a good candy thermometer and follow the instructions closely, they’ll come out perfectly. And much more flavourful than the packaged version.)
The final cake of the afternoon was a vanilla layer cake with lemon whipped cream and mixed berries. (The Fine Cooking recipe gives various flavour options for the whipped cream. I made the lemon whipped cream.) The combination of berries and lemon made this a very refreshing cake. So while it was lighter and perhaps less intense than the other cakes, it’s visible 4 layers made it one of the more stunning cakes. It was the perfect finale for the cake party.
How to pull off a cake party
The key to pulling off a cake party (and keeping your sanity) is planning. Many of the cake components can be made ahead of time, so you just have to do the final assembly on the day of the party.
Bake and freeze the cakes layers. This can be safely done up to a month before the party without sacrificing the quality or texture of the cake layers. Let the layers cool completely to room temperature, then wrap very well in plastic wrap, then freeze. Take the cakes out of the freezer the night before you plan on frosting them (keep then in the plastic to thaw).
I frosted the carrot cake the day before the party. I know from experience this cake stays very fresh for several days once assembled.
The chocolate frosting needs to be chilled or frozen for a couple hours, so I made it the day before the party, chilled it overnight, and whipped it the day of the party just before assembling the cake.
Finally, the whipped cream cake needs to be prepared just before serving, so I whipped the cream and assembled it a couple hours before the party. Since you’re simply spreading the whipped cream between the layers, it comes together quickly and easily.
And there you have it. Whether you need just a single cake, or a couple cakes for a party, give one of these a try. They’re guaranteed to make lasting impressions!