Special Delivery Cake

Two days ago was C's birthday - you know, C, L's brother - the one who brought infamy to an otherwise innocuous (if not deliciously addicting) cranberry upside down cake. We aren't quite into the gift-giving realm of not-quite-inlaw-hood, so I usually just bake him something. Last year, for instance, was a batch of cupcakes designed to look like sushi. Kind of. This year, I baked him an upside down UPS box - so that he could have his very own, genuine upside-down cake.

Even if you have no desire to replicate the design I made, you should try both the cake and the icing, because they're fabulous. The cake is a yellow cake, very reminiscent of the flavors we've all come to love in that hate-to-love-it box mix. It stays moist and tasty, even after being kept in a trunk in just above freezing temperatures (though I would've preferred it, to be perfectly honest, had we had time to warm it to room temperature). The only "complaint" I really have is that it seems to be a little bit heavy on the sugar. The recipe says to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and the top of that cake when I tried to peel off the parchment was downright gooey. There was a puddle of liquid under my cooling rack by the time the cake was ready to be constructed and frosted. I don't know that this is a bad thing - it's certainly not the worst title a cake has ever beared (born? bore? huh.) - but it is something to consider.

As for the frosting, I needed something more tan than chocolate brown if I wanted it to really look like a cardboard box. Plus, if I used a traditional chocolate frosting, then I would have had a much more difficult time finding something to use as a writing medium. So, with this brown sugar frosting, which I think is much more aptly named a chocolate whipped cream frosting, I was able to better approximate the color of cardboard as well as use a simple melted chocolate for the writing. The actual frosting was night - very light, not too decadent or rich or overpowering. I'm not a fan of the gobs of confectioner's sugar + shortening that bakeries tend to use, and I could also do without the really rich buttercreams more often than not. I like the cake to dominate, and the frosting to accent. This definitely does this. There's just this little bitsy after taste that I noticed and wasn't thrilled with. Right now I'm chalking it up to being a little heavy on the cocoa, so you might want to decrease that. No one else commented on it (negatively, that is - there were plenty of compliments), though, so again, this might just be my weird palate trying to sabotage an otherwise enjoyable cake for me.

As you can see, I forgot to take a picture of it until I was staring down at it, half eaten already. So, you won't see a full shot of it, but I did manage to get a few out of the cake the next morning. This way you can also see the inside, which might give you a better idea of how it was constructed (that word you are searching for would be sloppily, I believe). The dimensions weren't as amenable to cutting as I had anticipated, but in the end I don't think that matters so much as long as you can cover it up. And cover it up, I did. By the way, that part of the cake that looks like a chocolate cake layer is not at all a chocolate cake layer. It is a strip of solid chocolate. More on that later.

I would consider using the yellow cake as my go-to birthday cake (although I have too many variations to quite my search just yet), and I'll definitely keep the frosting in my back pocket. Because I didn't alter the recipes at all except to halve the cake, you can follow the links below. The rest of this post will cover how to make the UPS cake specifically, for all of those times that you find yourself in need of one. You're welcome.

Special Delivery Cake
Yield: 6-8 servings

The "Ingredients"
1/2 batch of a cake of your choosing, baked in a 9x9" square pan instead of a 9" round cake pan; I used one from Annie's Eats
2C (approximately) chocolate whipped cream frosting
1/2C (give or take) semi-sweet chocolate chips

The Method
While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting. It won't look like much, but I managed to eek just enough out of it to cover the full cake.

Take the cooled cake and place it on a working surface. If the cake does turn out to be 9x9, cut the cake into a smaller 6x6 square*. This should leave you with 2 extra strips of cake approximately 3" wide each.

Place the strips top down and frost on all sides (except the side faced down on the work surface) before sliding them together, to form another (pseudo) 6x6" square. Take the original, whole 6x6" square and place it, face down, on top of the 2 3" strips that you just frosted. Now, frost the 6x6" square, leaving the top side either unfrosted or just barely so. Be sure to smooth out all sides so that it now looks like one, tall cake.

Melt the chocolate on half power in your microwave in roughly 30 second intervals. When melted, transfer to a ziplock bag or pastry bag. If using a ziplock, push the chocolate to one bottom corner, close the zip, and snip a very small hole in the full corner. Decorate as you wish - I wrote "This side up" on one side, his name and zip code on another (the full address turned out to be far too ambitious for such a small cake and rudimentary tools in the hands of a pretty inexperienced cake decorator), and my attempt at the recycle symbol on a third side. Remember, right now the cake is "upside down" from how it will be presented, so you can write normally.

Once all of the lettering and decorating is finished, place the serving platter on top of the cake and carefully flip over. Frost the remaining side, keeping the two halves on top distinct to resemble the flaps of the bottom of a cardboard box. My box had a very large gap between the two, so I squirted the remaining melted chocolate inside of it to fill it up, and then smoothed over the surface carefully with a knife so that it looked like a seam.

*Note: My cake did not turn out to be 9x9. It was about 8x8" so my construction job was a little sloppier. You still want to split the cake into 2/3 and 1/3, if that makes sense. For an 8x8 cake, this would mean making a 5 1/3x5 1/3" square with 2-2 2/3" strips.

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