When your son us a bookworm, your birthday parties tend to revolve around favorite book themes. This year was no exception. When I asked Henry if he’d be interested in a Dragons Love Tacos birthday party I was met with a huge grin, “I love dragons love tacos.” Oh we know buddy, we know.
After some searching on Pinterest I realized this idea wasn’t unique, but it was certainly awesome. First thing’s first. We need a cake. A homemade cake.
Did you know it’s actually hard to find a step-by-step process for making a taco cake? You either have the professionals offering their superb baked results (which is like comparing a couch potato to a marathoner. It’s not gonna happen, move on unless you train a year out.) And I wanted a BIG cake, not some flimsy 9in round (pfft, what is this JV?) So I researched cake sizes and methods.
Here is how I made it happen.
My lovely assistant, Henry. Promising not to throw in the egg and shell this time around.
1. Obtain a 14in. x 2in. deep dish pizza pan
2. Buy 3 boxes of cake mix (I don’t do this from scratch. I’m not too good for boxed cake mix.) 2 white, 1 chocolate.
3. Buy a 6-pack of unsweetened applesauce. Proceed to eat 3 – or have you child do it, because it will inevitably happen.
4. Make sure your two 9in. round cake pans are still in good condition.
5. 9 eggs, you aren’t making a omlette for a giant, but close.
6. 3 cups of water
7. mixer, unless you have Pop Eye arms and don’t mind mixing by hand (not a good idea, friend.)
Mix the chocolate according to the packaging. Instead of oil add 1 snack cup of applesauce (semi healthy if we ignore the frosting.) Line the round pans with parchment paper, make sure they are slightly oiled (peeling these can be tricky.) Bake according to the packaging, allow to rest on stove while wafting amazing smells through the house. Extract by lifting the parchment. Allow to cool on wire rack. I then packed it up in tin foil for the night. Cold cake is easier to frost. Don’t doubt me.
Next whip up the double batch of white cake (use applesauce again, a cup for each box of cake mix). Decrease the temp of the oven to only 325. Line with parchment, oil paper slightly. Pour into 14in cake pan. Bake around 55 minutes, don’t open the oven unless you have to. Remove when lightly golden brown and the jiggle has stopped.
1. 8 sticks of unsalted butter (you heard me, this is how much I needed to cover this behemoth.) I had lots left overs, but in the wrong colors. Yeah plan a double batch of the yellow. And you can do a scoop of red, I promise it will be more than enough
2. 9 level cups of powdered sugar
3. 4 tsps of vanilla
4. 3 bricks of cream cheese (8 oz each) (I used 1/3 less fat. Delusional that this is “healthy”)
5. yellow, green, red, and brown food coloring (I am ambitious, but not so much that I need to also make chocolate frosting.)
My amazing co-worker/book clubber friend, Cait, gave me this easy and delicious cream cheese frosting recipe. I swear by it (I swear in general, but I am an ambassador for homemade frosting.) The canned stuff I think I am allergic to.
I made a batch at a time, 4 batches total. (2 sticks of butter, 3 level cups of powdered sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla, 1 brick of cream cheese.)
Cut up cold butter and whip in mixer (30 seconds), add the cream cheese and blend well, decrease speed, slowly incorporate powdered sugar (1-2 minutes), then add the vanilla (10 seconds), once it’s mixed together increase the speed to medium for about 4-6 minutes, stop once fluffy, begin adding food coloring and continue blending until you achieve the desired color intensity.
Shove each mixture into a piping bag (the yellow I just spread right from the bowl with a spatula). Store your frosting baggies in the fridge until you are ready to use. You can keep the frosting in the fridge for up to 3 days.
I will call it the low point of the evening. Because after lifting out my cakes, letting them cool, marveling that nothing fell apart. After slicing the big one in half, then slicing the two chocolate ones on an angle to create the proper “meat” wedge of the cake. AFTER frosting it (which required Adam to run to the grocery store at midnight for an emergency butter/cream cheese resupply trip.) I ended up hating it. It was hard to frost and I was so exhausted that the thing I considered a challenge and something to look forward to accomplishing turned to something I hated. Well that and it was 1:40 in the morning.
Yeah you read that right. I woke up in the morning and dreaded looking in the fridge. But when Henry heard that his cake was ready you couldn’t stop him from opening the fridge. “I LOVE MY TACO CAKE.” And that was that. At that moment, I went from loathe to love. Because having him happy was the most important part.
Much like carving a turkey I would recommend the right equipment. In my case it was wielding a long bread knife and a spatula. We sliced off parts of the cake then cut the pieces down further. For having 64-cupcakes worth of cake and only 30 guests we only had about 10-cupcakes worth left.
IT WAS A SUCCESS. Would I do it again? Ask me next year. 😉