I wouldn’t exactly call this particular birthday cake a “showstopper”. It’s cute and all, but it doesn’t scream, “LOOK AT ME!”. My previous decorated cake attempts were all a lot more spectacular (the rainbow fish cupcakes, the Thomas Aquaduct, and the race car) than this one, which was sort of a let-down.
But I couldn’t handle too much more than this, coming off of Christmas and all, and having very little time to prepare. Quick and Easy was my main concern, and Cheap was right behind it.
Healthy was also of concern – I wanted to finally make a cake with natural food coloring! I’ve been intending to for years, but never have actually done it. With this simple design, I figured it was the right time.
So, with all those things in mind, here is what we ended up with.
Of course, it’s patterned after an UNO card with the number 1. It was very easy. I used 2 batches of homemade dairy-free decorators frosting, tinting one of them yellow with saffron.
Let’s talk about saffron for a second. Saffron is one of – if not the most – expensive spice due to its labor-intensive and tedious method of harvesting. At a regular grocery store, you can spend as much as $20 for only a small amount. The small bottle I have (which has lasted me for quite some time since I rarely cook with saffron) was actually purchased at Trader Joe’s for a much lower price. I don’t remember exactly how much it was, but I can tell you it was less than $10. And it is still available there, as I have seen it on recent trips. I wouldn’t have used saffron as my coloring agent except that I happened to have it on hand. Another option for yellow coloring is turmeric, which is not quite as expensive.
To color the frosting, I replaced the 3 TBSP of water called for in the recipe with saffron-dyed water. To color the water, I placed some saffron in a small bowl and crumbled it in my fingers. Then I poured 3 TBSP of hot water over it, swished them all together and let it sit for a while until the color deepened. Don’t worry if it looks orange; that’s actually a good thing, and indicates a stronger yellow color. I probably didn’t put as much saffron in the water as I should have, hence my very pale yellow. I would recommend a good well-filled teaspoon worth of saffron for a stronger yellow. Mine was probably more of a half teaspoon.
To make the design, I first frosted a 9×13 single-layer cake with one thin layer of yellow frosting. I let it set for a little while to create a “crumb coat” so I could avoid picking up crumbs in the actual design. Once the crumb coat was set, I used a toothpick to trace out the slanted oval, stretching from a couple inches down from the top right corner all the way to a couple inches above the bottom left corner. Then I traced out a large UNO-style number one in the center of the oval.
Next was my big mistake. I really should have piped everything with the star tip, but I had most recently used my frosting decorator bag with meringue frosting, and I was concerned that there would be some egg protein left behind. Not good for my allergic little guys! So I just spread the yellow frosting on the background areas with a knife, smoothing it the best I could. (To get it really smooth, I could have dipped the knife in water between each stroke on the frosting, but I didn’t take the time to do that.) Then I just did the old ziploc-bag trick to pipe the outline for the “1″ in the center, and the oval. I finished up by frosting the oval plain white, and then piping in some small “1″s in the upper left and bottom right corners.
Of course, any UNO-themed color can be used to make this card (blue, green, or red), and any number can be used (up to 9 anyway!). Or you could do a Wild Card for someone whose age should remain a secret!
As for the cake itself, I used a new allergen-free recipe at Back to the Kitchen, and wasn’t 100% pleased with the result. It was probably my fault, though. I made my own GF flour blend, but didn’t have any potato starch, so just did without. I think that was probably a big mistake. Looking back, I think that my most successful cakes all had potato starch as part of the flour blend. Plus, I accidentally set the temperature on the oven a little too low, so the cake cooked up funny: it was kind of hard on the bottom. Not overcooked, just sort of… hard. It was weird.
Consequently, I had my DH whip up a batch of Rice Krispies treats (using Erewhon Cocoa Rice Crispy cereal, so it was at least a tiny bit healthier than you-know-the-usual-kind) for all the non-allergic guests to enjoy since the cake was kind of a bust, at least in terms of taste and texture. You know what? Next time, I just might decorate the Rice Krispies treats instead. That’s what the Cake Boss does! Then everybody will be happy. Not healthy, but happy.
Read the Rest of An Uno Birthday Series:
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