Wednesday, May 16, 2012

For My Peeps

Earlier this spring, my mom showed me a picture she had saved from a magazine of a sunflower cake using Peeps for the petals. (Here are the original instructions from Taste of Home.) I thought it was really cute and when my mom decided she was coming down to visit for Mother's Day, it was the perfect opportunity to make it. I had picked up a couple boxes of Peeps on deep discount a couple of days after Easter and instructed Keith not to eat them, so I was ready to go.

On Friday morning I baked our favorite chocolate cake (the instructions use a box cake but there is just nothing like a homemade cake, right?) and once it cooled, I iced it with peanut butter icing. Because let's face it, chocolate and peanut butter just belong together. And this is where the problems started. I always have some trouble icing this particular cake because it is super-moist (which is why we love it) so I made the icing a little thinner by adding more milk. Now it looked like a Dr. Seuss cake, all lopsided, wonky, and runny.

I wasn't too bothered by the state of my cake, and figured making the sunflower on top would distract from all manner of frosting fiascos. So I went about putting the Peeps around the top of the cake, leaving them connected as instructed. But I found my icing was too runny, and the Peeps were ready to take a backslide off the edge of the cake, dragging peanut butter icing with them.

I implored them to stay put, but they refused to listen, leaving me no choice but to impale them with toothpicks.

Now all the Peeps were lined up around my cake, looking oddly like synchronized swimmers about to do a backflip.

I was ready to start adding the "seeds" to my sunflower, in the form of chocolate chips. If you looked at the magazine photo, you would notice that the chocolate chips are placed in a meticulous, Fibonacci-approved spiral. If you are looking at my cake, it is pretty evident that any pretense of perfection is long gone and the Cake Boss would have already sent my resume through the shredder, so I simply poured my mini chocolate chips on the top and spread them out.

Then, fearing my backsliding Peeps would be rock hard if left in the open air, I put the cake cover on, only to find that it smashed all those Peep beaks back into their poor little faces. But at least they weren't going to fall off the cake or dry up.

While it certainly isn't the prettiest cake ever made, I didn't hear any complaints in the taste department.

Here's the chocolate cake recipe I used, which is a family favorite from Keith's aunt and mom, along with the peanut butter icing recipe.

Hershey's Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling coffee or water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans or a 9 x 13 pan (or this recipe can make 25-30 cupcakes). Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling coffee or water. Batter will be thin. Bake 30-35 minutes for cake pans, 18-22 minutes for cupcakes. Cake will be very moist and freezes well.

(My brother and niece report that if you leave out the hot coffee or water, the batter works well in a cake pop maker.)

Peanut Butter Icing

1/3 cup peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4-1/3 cup milk

Beat together, adding milk slowly to achieve desired consistency.

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