This is a very special cake. Like many cakes, it was made for a celebration and created with deep love. There was a special ingredient in the mix this time (and no- not the champagne): hope.
I hope they find a cure for cancer.
A few weekends back, I participated in the 3Day walk for breast cancer in honor of my coworker, Susan, who is a survivor. I didn't know what to expect; I've never participated in anything like this. We met at 430am and hit the trail around 730am. Powerful speakers, positive people, and a whole lot of sneakers.
Everyone on the route was encouraging and eager to make friends. It was always a shock in mid-conversation to learn that they once had cancer. What? You had cancer? But you look so... normal. Such powerful individuals. Then there were walkers sporting pictures of fallen loved ones that brought a tear to your eye. Possessing such a rare strength. I floated in this sea of pink- listening, reading t-shirts, and observing.
My initial gripe was, "what does walking 60 miles accomplish? how does that help anybody?" People kept saying it was symbolic of the physical struggle. Um, I think fighting cancer is slightly harder than walking 60 miles. It was during the journey (and yes, it's a journey because that's a lot of steps) that I realized the true purpose of the event.
It's brings people together. It's a community. It's knowing you're not alone- be it in your personal battle or honoring someone you've lost. It's cathartic and healing. It gives hope that a cure will be found and all the pain wasn't for naught.
After the walk, our Team threw a small celebration in the office to thank all the people that donated to our fundraising. If it weren't for them, some on the team wouldn't have been able to participate. Of course, the theme was pink.
This provided the perfect opportunity to try a hip frosting style called Ombre. People are doing this with their hair color as well. It's a gradual gradient from a darker color to a light color. Pretty cool, no? It's quite impressive on this 4 layer, 9-inch round cake. (Don't mind the cake sweat pictured above- the cake was frozen overnight) The inspiration is from Apt. 2B Baking Company! Making the ombre simply requires a bit of patience, the food coloring of your choice, and 4 tiny bowls.
Simply frost three (3) rows of frosting, the bottom bring being the darkest ring of frosting. Save the lightest shade for the actual top of the cake. Gently blend the colors together. Apt 2B recommends an off-set spatula- a tool that I do not own. I used a combination of spoon and knife. And make sure you have a spinning cake decorating stand or lazy susan- it will make frosting so much more merciful.
As for the actual cake, I simply did not have time to make 2 cakes in one night. I'm not Martha Stewart people! So we went the shady route with box cakes: one vanilla and one strawberry. The vanilla got the royal treatment with the water substituted with champagne. You could do the same with strawberry if so desired.
The filling is lightly heated strawberries with a touch of sugar. You could use jam, as Apt 2B does. Strawberries happened to be on hand and I wanted a touch of freshness. Honestly, I think this is what made the cake stand out. Strawberries and champagne, heck yes.
This cake was destroyed. Usually I'd snub a box cake mix but you know what- this came out awesome! Check out Apt. 2B for their glamorous version and Chickabug for awesome breast cancer awareness templates!
Strawberry & Champagne Cake with Pink Ombre Frosting
1 box cake strawberry mix
1 box cake vanilla (substitute water with champagne) mix
Champagne (love that Asti)
4 cans of vanilla frosting
16 ounces strawberries, cleaned and quartered
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons water
Grease 4 9-inch round baking pans. Prepare strawberry cake mix as directed. Divide amongst 2 pans and bake.
While that's going, prepare the vanilla cake as directed. Remember to substitute the water for champagne. Divide amongst remaining 2 pans (or wait to reuse the one's from the strawberry cake). Bake.
Allow cakes to cool on wire rack to room temperature. Do not remove them too early from the pan or else they may crack. Using a cake leveler, saw cake tops so that they're flat and even. If you have a really good eye, you can use a long knife. All that matters is the cakes are level- save the sawed tops as a snack. Wrap the cakes in saran wrap and place tinto the freezer to firm up for about 30 minutes.
As the cakes firm up, make the strawberry filling. In a medium sauce pan, add the quartered strawberries, sugar, and water. Cook on medium heat until strawberries are tender and soft. If they start sticking, add a little more water- just enough to prevent sticking. Set aside to cool completely- put them in the fridge to expedite.
Let the stacking begin. Place on round of strawberry at bottom and lightly frost the top. Make sure the outside parameter is thicker so you can create a comfy lake for the strawberries. Add half of the cooled strawberry mix.
Stack a round of vanilla cake; frost the top. Add final round of strawberry. Same deal- frost with a thicker outside parameter to hold the strawberries. Add remaining strawberries. Top with last vanilla cake round. Frost the entire cake with a crumb coat (the dirty undercoat of the cake that catches all the fly away crumbs) with plain vanilla frosting. Set cake back into freezer to harden- this will make your life so much easier in the long run.
Divide one can of frosting into 4 small bowls. With red food coloring gel,create 3 shades of pink (keep one bowl pure white). Maybe 2 drops for light, 4 drops for medium, and 6 drops for dark? You be the judge.
It's go time. Take the darkest shade and frost a bottom row, then medium row above, and finally the light. Frost the very top the cake with pure white frosting. Lightly go over with a knife or off set spatula the division between layers till the slightly bleed together. If you want the circular effect, place the back of a spoon at the bottom of the cake and slowly turn the lazy susan a full 180. Place the spoon directly above where you started the first line and repeat until you make multiple rows up the cake. Rinse the spoon between rows. For the top, same technique- start from an outer point and spiral to the center slowly.