Friday, February 4, 2011

Captain's Cake

Isn't everything just happier when you're by the sea? Well, I didn't actually get to enjoy the ocean myself because I'm stuck in my office without windows all day long. But it's been sunny and gorgeous lately in LA, and I'm glad the recipient of this cake got to enjoy the ocean from a boat cruise. What a birthday!

I just really couldn't decide what cake to make or how I should decorate it until I actually started to make it. I just knew it had to be sort of nautical. It helps that my baking repertoire is all over the place and I have so many odds and ends of materials. I used a really great chocolate cake recipe. It's just what a chocolate cake should be: rich, dark, moist, soft, fluffy. I thought the stout chocolate cake for the Irish car bomb cupcakes would be my new favorite go-to, but this one is it. I'll be using this one many many times.

I assure you this cake was very moist, but I made a Scotch simple syrup (the captain likes scotch) to add a little flavor and extra moisture just in case. I'm used to running into an event with a freshly baked cake, flour and cocoa powder still in my hair, but this cake wasn't going to be presented right away.  A vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream complimented the chocolatey deliciousness. Once I crumb coated the cake, I had to figure out what to do to snazz it up. Pipe shells? Blue buttercream? Brown sugar faux-sand? Fortunately, I decided to channel my inner Martha and keep it classic - ivory buttercream, simple pearl drops, and a comb swipe across the outside. Here's the fun part: I melted some candy melts and piped a ship's steering wheel onto transparency film over a template. I didn't know if it would work and I was surprised and delighted that it did work and on only one try! Once I placed the wheel on the cake, I mixed together and tinted some gelatin and drizzled a thin layer around the wheel to look like water, making sure the border was "leak proof" so that gelatin wouldn't run down the sides.

Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 scant cup cocoa powder
2 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly brewed coffee, room temperature
Scotch whiskey simple syrup*
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans with wax or parchment paper. Line with 9" wax or parchment circles and grease and flour those as well. I like to to use non-stick baking spray (it has flour in it) as it's incredibly convenient and much less messy.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low speed with mixer until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until well combined and fluffy.
  3. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and slowly add to the batter. Scrape down sides and beat until combined.
  4. Divide evenly into pans and bake 30-35 min or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans 10 minutes and then allow to completely on racks.
  5. Brush tops of both cakes with syrup and frost.
* Scotch Simple Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons Scotch whiskey

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Allow to boil about 4 minutes. Cool completely and stir in whiskey. If you don't like whiskey, just omit it.

Chocolate cake recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen


  1. Love this cake! I bet the "Captain" did too!

  2. It's adorable! Great buttercream work!

  3. @Sue - Thank you! Btw, your family blog is great!

    @Jessica - Thanks! I'm loving all your great photographs =)

  4. Oh wow this cake is amazing, such a work of art and bet it was tasty too!

  5. What a beautiful cake!!! And that scotch simple syrup with the chocolate cake sounds fantastic! Really nice! :)

  6. @Lot-O-Choc - Thank you :)

    @shseila - Thanks! I've always wondered what those Turkish delight treats they were eating in Narnia were :)

  7. What a fun cake! Beautiful work!