Cake dilemma: I want to surprise my friend with homemade birthday cake, but I don't know what kind of sweets he doesn't like. I have my own tentative solution (two or three small cakes) for which I need guidance and recipes, but I'm also open to other solutions.
posted by Nattie to food & drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A very close friend recently moved to the same city as me and my husband. It is wonderful to have him back and we have all been hanging out, but because of the previous geographical distance, we hadn't gotten to talk much at all for the past six or seven years. It feels just like old times and that's great, but unfortunately because of the time that's passed, I can't at all remember what kind of sweet stuff he likes and dislikes. All I have to go on right now is that he liked some strawberry cheesecake we split at a restaurant. I'm pretty sure he liked some Oreo cheesecake I made in college, but his tastes might have changed since then.
His birthday is coming up in a little over a week and I would love to surprise him with a cake, especially because he doesn't know very many people out here, but I have no idea what kind to make! I'm going to steer clear of nuts, citrus, coconut, and carrot cake -- he's not allergic, but those are common dislikes among the public. But past that, I'm not sure what to do. Some people don't like chocolate, for example, or they just don't like too much chocolate. I'm pretty sure he at least likes cake, and isn't terribly picky.
What would you do? I've thought of asking him, but that would ruin the surprise; next year will be easier once I find stuff out this year. I've also thought of letting him pick out a cake somewhere, but I think it's more thoughtful to bake it myself -- and I'm a very good baker -- plus it might make him feel weird to point at something and have someone else buy it.
My tentative solution is to make two or three small layered cakes, those narrow rectangles you see sometimes that feed roughly two people; that way, he'd get more variety, there's bound to be something he likes, and it would make for a nice presentation. It would also not be too much cake overall so he's not stuck with a bunch of stuff he can't or doesn't want to eat too much of.
However, I've never made cakes that small so I need some guidance and recommendations/recipes. I've been cooking and baking since I was a kid and can make just about anything, plus I have a good selection of kitchen equipment, including a good food processor and stand mixer. Difficulty level isn't an issue, nor is time or cost or nutrition. I'd prefer recipes that are just a tad involved/exotic without being too off-putting. I do not want anything involving a box mix because I enjoy baking from scratch (though box mixes are perfectly good otherwise).
Tentatively, I'm thinking the following categories might be reasonably safe:
1) moderately chocolately - white with chocolate icing, or maybe marble cake, or maybe chocolate with cream cheese icing, or maybe Oreo cake; considering loosening the nut restriction to allow for Nutella because I've never met anyone who doesn't like it.
2) white with raspberry filling -- he seems fine with berries; Nutella might be good here as well, but I want to avoid putting chocolate in everything in case he doesn't like chocolate.
3) toss-up: traditional birthday cake (seems a bit boring, but perhaps safe), traditional birthday cake with some added zing, red velvet cake
I'm also thinking I can afford to try at one unexpected, polarizing kind of cake if I make three, but only one. Thinking about presentation, it seems that at least one cake should have dark icing, a ganache, or berry spread on top.
Another thing: if I do this, is there a decent way to transport them? I just need to take them in the car. I expect to leave the sides un-iced because that's how I've always seen them and it shows off the layers. Are there pre-made cardboard separators or papers that someone can buy?
I'm a bit overwhelmed, so any advice, recipes, or things I haven't considered would be a huge help. Thanks!