How do you throw a baby shower for someone who once sported dreds, spent some time with the Rainbow Family, and has a soft spot for the Grateful Dead? Clearly, anything pastel colored is outlawed, and so are most baby shower games. No passing around diapers full of melted chocolate at this party! We decided that the answer was to hold a co-ed cookout and tie-dye everything in sight, including lots of baby clothes – and the cake.
The cake that I came up with was a lovely two-layered confection covered in vanilla Italian meringue frosting. But there’s nothing vanilla about the inside of this cake. It’s a tie-dyed surprise with raspberry filling. The top was decorated with a Grateful Dead bear, in honor of the mom-to-be.
It would only be fair to warn you that the cake took a while to make, but it isn’t terribly complicated. You might want to start a day in advance or really early on the day of the party – and be sure to plan ahead and read all the instructions (something I am notorious for forgetting to do…). Also, you’ll want to watch the frosting carefully. Be sure that the temperature of the sugar syrup is right on, or it won’t be hot enough to cook the meringue and give structure to the frosting. You could end up with mush, as I did with one ill-fated batch.
That said, this is one fun party cake!
Grateful Dead Baby Shower Cake
Frosting adapted from CakeLove
For the cake and filling:
2 boxed mixes of white cake – I used Duncan Hines classic white cake
Other ingredients called for on the boxed mixes (Duncan Hines asks for 3 egg whites, water, and vegetable oil in each cake)
Gel food coloring – red, green, yellow, and blue
1 16-oz bag frozen raspberries
2/3 cup sugar
For the frosting and decoration:
10 egg whites
2 cups + 1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 pounds (8 sticks) butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoons
3 tsp. vanilla extract
gel food coloring – your choice of color
chocolate frosting (I bought the Betty Crocker chocolate cookie frosting in a squeeze packet with a nozzle)
1. Preheat the oven according to the directions on the cake mix box. Grease and flour two 9×13 pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, and grease and flour the paper.
2. Add the two box mixes and required ingredients in a large bowl and beat for half of the time required on the box. Divide the batter evenly into four bowls, and add food coloring to each bowl to make the colors that you prefer. I dyed my batter bowls red, blue, yellow, and green, but you could also do orange.
(Tip: Purple can be tricky. I tried to make purple batter in one version of the cake, but it ended up the color of dingy laundry.)
3. Beat each bowl separately for the remaining amount of time called for on the box, rinsing off the beaters between bowls so that the colors don’t run together.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans in small batches, alternating colors and pans so that you have the same amount of batter in each cake pan. Bake the cakes according to the box directions.
5. While the cakes are baking, start the raspberry filling. Add the raspberries and 2/3 cup sugar to a sauce pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries break down and the sauce thickens, about 20-25 minutes. Remove sauce from heat.
6.Take the cakes out when they finish baking, and let them cool on racks for 25 minutes. Run a knife around each cake to loosen it, then invert the cakes onto the racks to finish cooling.
7. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 c. of sugar and 1/2 c. water. Clip the candy thermometer to the bowl, and heat the sugar syrup to 245 F. Meanwhile, place the egg whites in a really big heat-proof bowl. Beat the whites at medium-high speed until they have stiff peaks. When the whites have stiff peaks, gradually beat in the 1/2 c. of sugar. Congrats – you have meringue!
(Tip: I used a stand mixer for this, and it makes all the difference in the world.)
8. When the syrup reaches 245 F, pour it into the egg whites in a thin stream, beating the whites at high speed the entire time. Keep beating on high for 1-2 minutes more, then reduce the speed to low and beat for another 3-4 minutes, until the resulting meringue is cooled.
9. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated. Wait a few seconds between tablespoons to be sure that the meringue is absorbing the butter. When you are done, the frosting may need to be refrigerated for 15-20 minutes to get it to spreading consistency.
(Tip: This frosting can be persnickety, so keep your eye on it! It may also get too soft while you’re working with it. If this happens, pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes to help it firm up.)
10. Once the cakes and filling are completely cool and the frosting is at a good spreading consistency, you’re ready to start assembling the cake. It’s best to assemble on the platter that you’ll be using to serve. Place one of the cakes on the platter, then level the top of the cake by slicing off any particularly high spots. Frost the top of the cake.
(Tip: To keep your platter clean, tuck strips of wax paper around bottom of the cake. Leave them there while you frost the cake, and remove them carefully before serving.)
11. Place about 1 cup of the frosting in a piping bag with a medium tip (or put it in a plastic bag and snip off the corner). Pipe a really thick line of frosting around the top rim of the cake. This works as a sort of dam to hold in the filling. Spoon the raspberry filling onto the top of the cake and spread it around the inside of the frosting dam.
12. Place the second cake on top of the first. Level the top, as before. Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting. This is called a crumb coat because it catches any loose crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.You’ll probably want to put the remaining frosting back in the refrigerator as well.
(Tip: This is a good place to stop if you want to divide the recipe into two days. The cake is fine to sit overnight here, although you should cover it with plastic wrap. If you do decide to make the recipe over two days, I highly recommend dividing the frosting in two batches: make half the recipe the first day and the other half the second. The first batch will be enough for the frosting between the cake layers and the crumb coat. The second makes enough to put on the finishing coat of frosting and decorate the top.)
13. Get the frosting out about 10 minutes before you start the next step, so that it can warm up. You may need to stir it a bit to bring it back to spreading consistency. Frost the entire cake with the remaining icing, setting aside about 1/2 cup. Put your cake back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to let the frosting set. Dye the remaining frosting the color that you want your bear to be.
14. Those of you with mad artistic skills can probably draw a Grateful Dead bear freehand. Not me! I found an image of the bear online, copied and pasted it into a Word document, and resized the image to fit the cake. Then, I cut out the bear, laid it on the cake, and used a toothpick to lightly trace the outline of the image into the frosting. I used chocolate frosting in a squeeze bag to go over the outline. Next, I filled in the lines with the remaining 1/2 cup of frosting. I’m not extremely coordinated, so I employed a combination of a knife and a toothpick to keep the frosting in the lines. Using the bear image as a guide, I went back and filled in the center lines, piping over the green frosting, and then reoutlined the bear. Finally (!!!), I dragged the toothpick through the green fur frosting to give it some texture. Disclaimer: A friend drew the half notes. I figured out how to draw the bear, but the notes were beyond my skill level.