The Kitchen Prep: Birthday Cake with a Tropical Twist

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Birthday Cake with a Tropical Twist

Few things say a heartfelt "Happy Birthday" better than a homemade birthday cake. So, when my big sister {who is shorter than I am, ironically enough} celebrated her birthday last week, I volunteered to bake a cake of her choice from scratch. While many would've opted for a classic chocolate cake, vanilla cake, or even a Red Velvet cake {which I still can't understand the obession with. We're talking copious amounts of artificial coloring, folks. Not my idea of mmm, mmm good.}, my sister requested a Guava Cake. Hmm. Unique, but definitely requiring some research on my part.

Lucky for me, we live in South Florida and are in no shortage of guava products at most grocery stores thanks to the high volume of Cuban customers {such as my family}. That still didn't help in deciding how to incorporate guava into a birthday cake. Should I use guava nectar in the batter? Guava paste in the filling? Guava jelly in the frosting? Where to begin?

Naturally, I did what I always do when I'm not sure about something... I summoned the Google gods, and found a vast array of guava recipes and ideas, most of which were Hawaiian, which I thought was pretty interesting as I had no idea guava was a Hawaiian thing. You learn something new every day.

I decided to take the Guava Gel part of a recipe for Guava Cake from the blog Kuki's Kookbook, and a cake recipe from the back of a box of Swan's Down Cake Flour, and finish it off with a non-recipe from my brain for Cream Cheese Frosting to create the Ultimate Triple Layer Guava Birthday Cake. Done, and done.

But not quite done yet. First, I had to master this whole Guava Gel thing, which was completely new to me. It didn't look too difficult. Wanna see?

(Found at Kuki's Kookbook blog)
Guava Gel:
  • 2 cups guava juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • red food coloring
In a medium saucepan, bring guava juice and sugar to a boil. In the meantime, make a paste out of the cornstarch and a small amount of water. Remove guava juice mixture from heat and whisk in cornstarch paste. Return to heat and bring back to a boil. Boil for one minute stirring frequently. Cool in refrigerator. Once cooled, stir in red food coloring until gel is the color you desire.

Easy, right? Perhaps. If you're the sort that follows recipes word for word. Which I, apparently, am not. Especially when I am a bit antsy to see the finished product. But I digress.

So I followed the recipe almost exactly, omitting the red food coloring because I find it silly to make the guava anymore pink than it is naturally. {And besides, this isn't Red Velvet cake.} Except instead of ending up with a smooth guava gel, I ended up with smooth guava gel with unsightly floating cornstarch chunks bobbing througout.* Not good, but easily fixable, thanks to a handy dandy little mesh strainer. Now we're in business.

I set off to make the 1-2-3-4 Cake on the Swan's Down box. It's a good, basic, delightfully fluffy cake recipe and I most definitely recommend it.

The last element to execute was the Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 blocks of 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
Approx 4 cups confectioners sugar (Though I'm not sure because I didn't actually measure)

Cream together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. (Could I say "cream" anymore in this sentence??) Gradually add in confectioners sugar until desired consistency is reached.

A word of advice if you decide to use this frosting recipe: It tasted heavenly, but I couldn't reach the right consistency no matter how much sugar I added (it was not as thick as I wanted) and I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I used the low fat cream cheese. But at this point I thought, "What's done is done.", and I moved forward with putting the cake together.

Assembly went something like this: Layer of cake, cream cheese frosting, guava gel. Layer of cake, cream cheese frosting, guava gel. Layer of cake, cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese frosting, cream cheese frosting. Why-is-this-damn-cake-so-hard-to-cover-in-frosting-on-the-sides, OH-because-of-the-slippery-guava-gel-oozing-down-the-sides, cream cheese frosting. Rest. Refrigerate. Cream cheese frosting. Curse at cake. Cream cheese frosting. Clean up cream cheese frosting from cake plate and surrounding work space. Refrigerate. Epiphany. Trip to grocery store, buy package of lady fingers. Cream cheese frosting as spackle, adhere lady fingers to sides of cake. Spread remaining guava gel ever-so-carefully on the top. Pipe birthday message in what looks like 2nd grader's handwriting because it is time to be at the party. Nearly pass out from exhaustion. DONE!

The moral: I have baked a lot of cakes in my 29 years of life thus far, and I am still learning as I go. While this cake definitely put up a fight along the way, I would gladly do it all over again for my big sister. :)

So excited to sample a slice of that Guava Cake! :)
*As I posted this, I realized that I never removed the boiling guava syrup from the stove before adding the cornstarch paste, as the recipe stated. Don't make my mistake or you, too will end up with cornstarch chunks. Bleh.


marilyn said...

It was quite yummy!!!!!!!

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