The Puppy's First Birthday: Part 1

Tonight commenced the first part of my preparation for tomorrow's Puppy Birthday Extravaganza, what's really an excuse for me to bake and cook for the same event and get more people to show up to eat it. But, as it's past midnight, my puppy, Yogi, is officially a one-year-old, a bona-fide big boy. So, I decided today I would get together with one of my friends to bake and decorate the cake - because juggling cooking responsibilities is still chaotic enough for me without adding another course the day of.

Of course, as soon as I got my camera out to document our progress, the Birthday Boy himself came running over for his own close up.

In all my relief of having finished baking, decorating, and escorting my friend back home after such a long day, I left the cookbook with the recipe in it downstairs. I will have to edit this in the morning with the full recipe. Overall, I'm disappointed in the cake's texture and flavor. It is a vanilla buttercream, and came out dry. I had to make a few adjustments based on what I had on hand, so maybe that's what did it, but it's a good thing there's a layer of chocolate buttercream followed by a layer of fondant. It would be a deliciously flavored cake if only it had turned out moister.

In terms of decorating, though, I have to say - I impressed even myself. I searched the internet for ideas for the cake (the cake itself I was hoping to be edible for humans and dogs, but upon running out of confectioner's sugar without enough icing to complete the cake, the only way I could think of increasing the volume was adding chocolate chips - so the cupcakes are done with a simple glaze so the pooch can have his share). I finally settled upon a Blue's Clue's cake, which I thought looked the most like Yogi. It called for one round cake along with several cupcakes for the ears, and my friend and I both agreed that before carving the head a little and adding the frosting, Yogi the Cake was looking a lot like a bunny rabbit. After adding everything, though - wow! Ace of Cakes, eat your heart out!

Not too shabby, eh? The fondant was a little patchy, the icing was a gamble, and the addition of chocolate makes the majority of the baked goods inedible for the guest of honor, but I really am pleased with the result. We even had a bunch of extra cupcakes lying around, so we heated up some Apricot preserves, strained them, brushed them on as a glaze, and decorated with fondant paw prints.

We started baking at 3:00 and, including an extended dinner break, did not finish until 10pm. Needless to say, it was a long day of baking, and everyone - even the pup - was tired by the end of it.

But then, tomorrow is only a few hours of sleep away, and I have a whole dinner ahead of me waiting to be cooked. I have a feeling you will be hearing from me again shortly.

edit: The Recipe - Vanilla Buttercream Cake from "Cupcakes" the cookbook, and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting from "Perfect Cupcakes" the cookbook.

Yield: 1 9-in. cake + 10 cupcakes (this recipe is 2.5x the original one; the original did not make enough for this cake design)
for the cake:
15 T. butter, softened
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 C sugar
5 eggs
2 1/2 cup self-rising flour (substitution: 2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour + 5 T. baking powder)
7 1/2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 6-hole oversize (Texas) or 12-hole standard muffin pan with paper baking cups (Note: if you're making the puppy cake, you will have to fill a greased 9-in. cake pan halfway with icing, and then make at least 6 additional cupcakes).

Beat the butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk in a small bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium, beat until mixture is changed to a paler color.

Divide mixture among baking cups; smooth surface.

Bake large cakes about 25 min., small cakes about 20 min. Turn cakes onto wire rack to cool.

for the icing:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (substitution: 1/2 cup salted butter)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 T. heavy cream
*addition: a guestimated amount of melted chocolate chips to increase volume when I ran out of confectioners' sugar without enough icing to frost the whole cake

In a medium bowl, use a hand-held mixer on medium speed to beat together the confectioners' sugar and butter until blended. Beat in the vanilla; then, beat in enough of the cream to achieve a soft consistency suitable for spreading or piping.

Assembly, courtesty of
To shape the dog's face, cut out two half circles on both sides of the "top" of the cake round. For the tongue, cut out a triangle shape in the middle of the "bottom" of the cake.

For each ear, line up three cupcakes at the top of both sides of her head. Cut one cupcake in half and, on the last cupcake, use a toothpick to connect one half on each side.

Ice the entire cake and cupcakes (wrappers removed), and lay prepared fondant in desired colors and patterns. Use extra frosting to add the marshmallow eyes (take 1 marshmallow and cut in half lengthwise, and trim corners to make a rounder shape) and fondant pupils, nose, and eyebrows.

Also, after trying the cake again, I have no complaints. No, it is certainly no moist angel food cake, but the flavors blend well and it has a nice homemade taste/feel to it. I definitely enjoyed my piece tonight during my Thursday night t.v. show!

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