Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mr. Brown Can Moo Cake (and a 1st Birthday Too!)

Mr. Brown Can Moo
1st Birthday Cake
My son's favorite book is 'Mr. Brown Can Moo' by Dr. Seuss.  We read that thing about 5x/day.  So it was obvious that we should have a Dr. Seuss / Mr. Brown 1st Birthday theme party.  I came up with a few silly games & made some funny hats out of felt and our friend Missy brought green deviled eggs, and of course we had roast beast, and a funny cake.

The cake recipe was the hardest decision because JR can't eat dairy, and I can't eat palm or coconut (try finding shortening without it).  We solved our problems with lard and juice and marshmallows and eggs.  And sugar.  Lots & lots of sugar.  Let's not think about how much sugar.

Here is the original cake recipe* from Buckeye Cookery 1877
*yes, I squeezed a Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge into my son's birthday - what can I say?  It tastes good, so why not?

Gold Part.--Yolks of eight eggs, scant cup butter, two of sugar, four of flour, one of sour milk, tea-spoon soda, table-spoon corn starch; flavor with lemon and vanilla.

Silver Part.--Two cups sugar, one of butter, four (scant) of flour, one of sour milk, tea-spoon soda, table-spoon corn starch, whites of eight eggs; flavor with almond or peach. Put in pan, alternately, one spoonful of gold and one of silver.--Miss Emma Fisher.

Figures are marzipan, natural and artificial colors
the black paint is food coloring gel just painted
on with a synthetic brush.
Hard Money Cake 

Yellow cake:
4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch
1 c. butter/lard
2 c. sugar
1 tsp lemon
1 tsp vanilla
8 egg yolks
1 c. sour milk / orange juice
White cake:
4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch
2 c. sugar.
1 c. butter / lard
8 egg whites
1 c. sour milk / orange juice / water / other juice
1 tsp almond extract or peach juice

Once he figured out it wasn't sand
there were a lot of "mmm mmm"
noises.  Awesome.
Preheat oven to 350F
Grease & flour (4) 8” round pans & (1) 9x13” pan, parchment paper optional.
In 2 medium bowls, mix flour, baking soda & corn starch for both cakes.  Set aside.
In 2 large bowls, cream sugar & butter.  Add vanilla & lemon juice to yellow cake.  Add almond extract OR peach juice to white cake.
In 3 smaller bowls, separate yolks from whites using the 3rd bowl to hold the shells.  Beat each till mixed.
Beat eggs into respective creamed sugar.
Alternate flour mixture & milk, stir until combined.
Spoon into pans alternately, no more than ½ full. 
Bake at 350 until done, 45min – 1+hrs.   (35-40 min if using lard)

I did not do the coin thing for this cake, just added a bit of extra liquid to the yellow cake & made them both up as separate layers.  When I made the cake the first time I found out that the yellow & white aren't that different once they are baked, so no point.  This bad boy will serve 20 generous, 40 wedding cut.
Caution: lard burns fast.  Watch it the last 15 minutes, don't go off to play with your baby.  Just don't.

Accuracy: fairly.  At least for this part.  After this it's totally not.  It's just a cake.
The substitutions are plausible and tasty, and would have been available in summer in 1877 in our area of NY.  I see no reason not to use them.  I lined the pans with parchment, etc.  Just used a conventional gas oven.  All my tools are hand tools, so no major issues there.

Cost: Let's not even think about it.  Truly.  It's not a box mix.

Results: pretty darn good.  Not fabulous.  Not "if you touch the last piece I'll stab you with my fork" good, but it was a tasty cake.  I would not have complained to the bakery if I had bought it.  It was light enough to have some air bubbles & dense enough to allow for carving & stacking (yes, I used plastic straw dowels to support the layers, which were removable).

Basic Marzipan, sticky as slug slime...
far better tasting.
Marzipan Mr. Brown
I used a cooked marzipan recipe by Elizabeth LaBau mostly because it's cooked egg whites.  I know the chances of getting sick are like 1:100,000,000 or something insane like that, but baby = cautious mom. 

A few words of caution: while this recipe is excellent in both flavor and final product, it is not all that easy to make and it is sticky as slug-slime to start.  Have a friend help you with the powdered sugar and plan on using a lot.  Also, it does not hold its shape well when you first start working it.  Let the various pieces dry a little before trying to stick anything together.  Expect some slumping.

A bit of history on marzipan: the early recipes go back insanely far.  If you want a sweet European/Middle Eastern treat for a medieval or renaissance era feast, this is a good option as long as nut allergies aren't an issue.  Recipes call for rose water, almond extract, orange extracts, etc.  Steer clear of vanilla until later recipes... actually, steer clear of it entirely, everything today tastes like vanilla today - it's overused.

7-Minute Frosting 1 from All Recipes by cookinwifeandmom
Hilarious.  More like 35 minute frosting with 7 minutes before the blasted stuff crusts over into nasty sugary shattery bits, and I had to finish it off with the hand whisk before it got anywhere near soft peak stage.  Tastes great though.  Stuck the cake together like nobody's business.  Cleaned up easy after it got everywhere.

Help me!  She's going to EAT me!
This marshmallow fondant.  It's A-Mazing.  It's easy.  It tastes GOOD.  It works.  It takes food coloring like a charm.  It's paintable.  I highly recommend it.  If it starts to dry out, add some shortening (not much) and knead it in.  Problem solved.  Feel free to refrigerate ahead or freeze, but don't refrigerate the cake after its on or you may risk slumping. I was worried that I had put on too much jam-glue, but it was perfect.

I stuck the marzipan & fondant on the cake (and each other) with diluted orange marmalade.  Delicious.

Time: The cake took about 1 week to make, starting with mixing up the marzipan & fondant, then on to sculpting the figurines.  I baked and carved the cake on Friday, and put the marzipan layer on.  It rested overnight.  I applied the white fondant on Saturday and then did the colored fondant & painting.  Doweled & stacked it Saturday & boxed it up for the party on Sunday.  We ate it Sunday afternoon and it tasted great.  Dad ate the last piece yesterday, everything was still good, so it lasts.

Before anyone asks, no, I'm not a professional baker and have no intention of ever being one.  This was my first time using fondant ever, if that gives you any idea of how easy that recipe is to use...
I'm in love with food coloring as paint.  That is awesome.  I highly recommend trying it.  You'll need a hard, smooth frosting (not buttercream) and gel food coloring.  My kid pooed green the next day.  Again, awesome.  While I hope he can eat dairy someday, we did not settle for second best here.


Rowenna said...

Love this! Mr. Brown Can Moo is a favorite in our house, the point that it took a brief vacation to a top shelf because my husband and I couldn't handle reading it anymore! (It's back now.)

Stephanie Ann said...

Awesome job! I love the marzipan decorations!

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

Mr. Brown occasionally goes off on an adventure to learn new sounds. Doggies, A Counting And Barking Book by Sandra Boynton also goes for a walk now & then.