Sunday, July 27, 2014

July Daring Bakers' Challenge - Surprise-Inside Cake

For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds!

This month's challenge was both fun and extremely challenging. Most months, we are introduced to a new style of food or challenged to try a new and interesting recipe. This month, the challenge wasn't recipe based - it was a test of our creativity! And, as an extension, it encouraged us to try new techniques for creating tasty masterpieces.

A surprise-inside is just what it sounds like - a cake that, when cut into, has something unexpected or special that could not be seen until the cake was cut.  I have actually made some previously that qualify, including this zebra cake and this rainbow cake.  So for this challenge, I wanted to try something different.

Now, please keep in mind that we moved a week after this challenge was announced. So, my kitchen was in disarray and I had a new oven to test out. Which, as it turns out, is not calibrated correctly. It actually runs about 40 degrees (F) low. Which is a lot. Live and learn.

Anyway, for my surprise inside, I wanted to try my hand at this cool tie-dyed heart-inside cake

Now, remember, this was all about technique for me. It was also all about getting over my aversion to food coloring. Just for this cake.

I started with my go-to yellow cake recipe. And then came the tie-dye aspect.  I divided the batter into four portions and let the kids choose some colors.

Little miss started with blue.

Little man started with green.

And then we added pink and purple.

Each of these tinted portions of batter was then transferred to a zip-top bag. Simply snip the tip of each bag and... make a mess.

No, seriously, it was a mess. Squiggle the batter around a (sprayed) (and next time - parchment lined!!) rimmed cookie sheet, but try not to blend the colors. Make sure to reach the corners of the tray!

Then bake!

Pretty cool!

Hindsight being 20/20, I should have just frosted that and been done - called it a surprise tie-dye cake and called it a success.

But I wanted to make the heart-inside cake. And I was super optimistic.

The next step is to create the hearts. Using a cookie cutter.

My cake was really soft. Which... should have clued me in to the fact that maybe this wasn't the right recipe for this kind of treatment. But, again, I was optimistic.

I cut out as many hearts as I could from my tie-dyed cake and lined them up on a pan.

These went into the freezer, and I then prepared another batch of the aforementioned yellow cake batter.

Now, following the technique demonstrated in the youtube video linked above, I lined a loaf pan with foil, sprayed it well, and poured in a thin layer of cake batter. I then baked this for about ten minutes to let it begin setting up.  After those ten minutes, I removed the pan from the oven and removed the hearts from the freezer.

The next step is to stack up as many hearts as it takes to run the length of the pan and... embed them in the partially baked cake.

Upside down, no less. So that when you turn the cake out, it's right side up.

Then simply pour the rest of the cake batter over all of this and continue baking until done.

Which I'm sure works if your oven is actually the temperature that you tell it to be... and that it tells you it is... but I suppose that's another story.

This story had a frustrating next chapter. The cake took forever to bake (probably because the oven was 40 degrees too low), I tried to frost it while it was still too warm, and, because this cake is more delicate than it should be for this treatment, it completely fell apart. And my camera batter died. And the charger was resting comfortably at my old house. Yeah. None of that worked out very well.


I still had ten hearts resting in the freezer!

And I was still optimistic!

So I tried one more time. But with the same cake recipe. Because... I really, really wanted it to work.

This time, I tried a few things differently. First, I retrieved my oven thermometer from the old house and adjusted the oven temperature setting accordingly.  Secondly, I didn't pre-bake any portion of the cake batter before adding in the frozen hearts. I just lined the hearts in the empty, sprayed pan, then poured the batter around it.

The results?

Still extremely crumbly. Again, because I really think that this technique requires a slightly heftier cake batter.  But - you could see the heart!

Even though...

...the hearts did turn sideways during the cooking process.


I learned a lot. And had fun doing it. And everyone thought it was both fun and delicious, so, regardless of how frustrated I was that it didn't turn out as beautiful as the example, I was told that this was a success. So I will accept it as one.

Ruth, thanks for inspiring us to bake outside of our comfort zones this month!


  1. I love love the tie-dye idea!!! The kids would have loved it! (It looks like so much fun!!) I had the same problems when I transitioned to unfamiliar ovens! I still think it's awesome though! :)

  2. The colours look beautiful, like an abstract painting. Love your perseverance and determination.

  3. That is such a cool idea! And way to persevere through adversity. I feel you on the uncalibrated oven - I struggled with that for about a year after we moved into our new house (CONGRATS by the way!!) before I was able to snag my parents' old (but in perfect working condition) oven!

  4. The tie-die cake is beautiful, even if it was too soft! I had trouble with my first attempt too- banana bread is too soft to work with as well. :)


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