Monday, March 13, 2017

Almost as Convenient as a Bakery Cake


My two daughters will have a birthday later this week.  I have always baked my children's birthday cakes, even when time was short. There are a few ways to make a homemade cake more convenient for the cook. One can make an cake that is intended to be kept in the freezer, such as an ice cream cake. One can use a mix and canned frosting. Or, as I do, one can bake the layers, wrap in plastic film and keep in the freezer, well in advance, then thaw and ice on the big day.

The last couple of months have seen me struggling under a tightly-packed schedule. This hasn't changed. I am trying to fit everything in, yet also trying to make a big day, a special one. This is how I manage the cake.

About a week or two before their birthday,  I bake the cake layers, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze until the day that I'm ready to frost. I cannot express just how convenient it really is to have the cake baked and ready to go. I bake the layers on a day when I do have spare time, and then it sits in the freezer, like convenience food, to be pulled out at the last minute. Frozen cake layers thaw in about 1 hour. All that is needed is some icing and candles.

One afternoon last week, I baked a couple of cakes. I was making a quick pumpkin snack cake for dessert that night, so I reused the mixing bowl to make the batter for the birthday cake. I had all of the cake-baking ingredients out and ready to use, anyway. It felt like no chore at all to be baking the extra cakes.

After the layers cooled, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and they now sit in the freezer, waiting for Friday. I'll use a can of clearance frosting (37 cents) to ice the cake, sticking to a tight budget on a tight schedule. Not only will my cake save us money, but it really won't take much time to get it frosted on their birthday.

The same freezer stash cooking that I use with casseroles and soups for busy upcoming days is applied to baking birthday cakes.



On another, related note, I bought plastic cling wrap in the large, commercial size for the first time. I've only bought plastic wrap in the small grocery store boxes, so buying in this very large size is a change for me. The standard grocery store box has 200 feet of film, and will last about 1 year in our household. This box has 2000 feet of film, so it should last for 10 years. That feels like such a long time. I sometimes have uneasy feelings about a purchase so far in advance. I'll get over it, and at some point, I will be grateful to have bought this. Price-wise, the last grocery store box of film cost $1.19 for 200 feet, on markdown for a damaged box. This box cost $7.95 for 2000 feet.  A 200-foot amount of this box cost about 79 cents, so I saved about 1/3 of the cost of buying my plastic wrap at the grocery store.

25 comments:

  1. With ten years worth of film, you could give some to your kids when they move out. Another small thing to stock their kitchens with. :)

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      yes, a little parting gift of plastic wrap! ha ha! But seriously, I have been thinking through how I could continue to buy in large size packages, ad divide with the kids, if they remain local. A mini-buying co-op. It would allow me to get the low unit price, and save them money, too.
      Have a great day, live and learn.

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  2. chocolate cakes sounds so good right now!

    Rough weekend. High school classmate of my youngest daughter who also happens to be our neighbor was killed in a car accident Sat. night. An innocent victim, her car was hit by a car fleeing the police. She goes to the same college my daughter goes to and my daughter was on that same route back but 3 hours earlier. A life that was lost due to someone else's wrong choices.

    Alice

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    1. I'm so sorry, Alice. Was that the young lady in Michigan I heard about on the radio news? That was horrible. Prayers for her family and friends. Hugs-- Sara

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    2. Oh Alice, I'm so sorry. I saw that news story online last night and felt sad about it--she sounded like a lovely girl. I was praying for her loved ones--I will add you and yours to my prayers.

      Lili, your picture of a cake looks wonderful. Chocolate/cherry is a favorite combination of mine.

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    3. I am so sorry, Alice. That is such a tragedy and great loss to her family and friends. I am so sorry.

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    4. Thanks, Kris. Chocolate and any berry/cherry is a favorite of mine.
      Have a lovely day!

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    5. So tragic and senseless, especially when a young life is taken. Hugs to your daughter as this must be so hard for her, and your neighbor's family.

      You're right about it being the result of someone else's careless actions and choices. Last week, a tragedy happened in our local highway, where a head on collision happened in the same stretch of road about 30 minutes after my husband and I had passed. We were headed to his doctor's appointment and later heard on the radio about a fatality that occurred in the opposite heading direction. The irony is we decided to be early for his appointment not knowing the traffic conditions since even the smallest accident can cause a major traffic tie up. A car had hopped the median strip and killed a driver and injured several others due to a medication that the driver had taken. That always concerns me, because as we age, we are prescribed medication that can cause drowsiness, like one that my husband was just prescribed. So since that day, we have been hesitant about going out with the car knowing what had just happened, and until we know the interaction with his new medication and the blood pressure medicine he is already on. There are now two medications that affect his blood pressure, although the doctor thought it would be fine. I'm worried that his blood pressure could suddenly drop while driving. The choices we make everyday have consequences, and not making the right choice can sometimes be so very life altering.

      YHF

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    6. Yes, this is the big story in Michigan! Please pray for her family and boyfriend right now. They need your prayers in a very big way.

      Thank you, everyone, you are all so special!

      Alice

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  3. Lili--

    We've had good luck with the commercial packages of plastic wrap and butcher paper. Wish I could find parchment in that size.

    We've also had good luck with baking cakes ahead. Sometimes there's a lot going on at that time, so it's nice to get it done when you know you have time to bake and cool it.

    I also sometimes use the same bowl to make a second batch of a similar thing! Dishes are dirty, ingredients are out, oven it heated, why not!?! :)

    Have a great birthday party week! :) Sara

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    1. Hi Sara,
      I've been buying parchment at Dollar Tree. I don't use much parchment, so I haven't compared to buying it in institutional sizes.

      I like not having one more thing to worry about, with a birthday celebration. So doing the cake ahead is always good thing for me.

      Have a great day, Sara!

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  4. Smart thinking, baking ahead! I hope you have a great week!

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    1. Hi Cat,
      Thanks. I hope your week is off to a great start, too!

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  5. I wish baking or cooking was easy for me. How I envy your statement that baking cake is as easy as bakery cake!! Not so for me. I recently attempted baking carrot muffins using up some of the boiled carrots in my father's freezer since he complained that he got upset stomach from the carrots. We stopped peeling the skins, since the carrot is organic, and we had blanched some of our garden vegetables first before boiling his carrots to conserve water and electricity. So he said the water after defrosting his carrots was brown, probably from the green garden vegetables. So now we are going to buy organic baby carrots all cut up and peeled. I showed him the package so he doesn't complain, and we are going to switch the order, boil his carrots first, than blanch/steam our vegetables.

    To save on plastic wrap, we started washing it along with our dishes. Sometimes, if it wrapped a frozen item, like burritos, and is fairly clean of any food debts, I just roll the used wrapper on a paper towel roll core and stick it into the freezer. Same with the air dried washed sheets. Has been working great. We recently bought 3000 ft from Costco, but we go though quite a lot sectioning all of my father's food for the freezer.

    Have a nice day!!

    YHF

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    1. Hi YHF,
      Okay, I know the cakes for you. Refrigerator cakes. I know you and your husband don't eat much in the way of cake, but if you ever need to make a cake for your grandkids, a refrigerator cake would be the way to go. You take wafer type cookies (chocolate wafers, vanilla wafers, or even ladyfingers -- either the soft kind or the hard ones, Savoirardi) and you spread whipped cream/topping (you can even use a low-cal version like Dream Whip), in between and make a multi-layered sandwich with cookies and topping. Lay this long, multi-layer sandwich on it's side on a plate, then cover the whole thing with more whipped topping. Put in the refrigerator overnight. By the next day, the whip topping has softened the wafers, and it's like a cake. Sprinkle with cocoa powder, or colored sprinkles or diced fresh fruit, and slice into servings. It is really fool-proof.

      We washed plastic wrap for many years. We had older cabinets that we didn't care if they got wet regularly or not, so we used the side of the upper cabinet (right next to the sink) to hang sheets of plastic wrap from. It worked. But I am also glad not to be doing that anymore. It kind of made for a messy kitchen.

      Sounds like a good plan with your dad's carrots. Have a nice evening, YHF!

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    2. Thank you Lili for the fool proof cake suggestion. I think the grandkids would love constructing their own cake and I like the idea of decorating with fresh fruits. If I find a good sale on wafers, I'm definitely going to try this.

      They are coming again next week during spring break, so I have started to meal plan for at least 5 days.

      YHF

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    3. Woo hoo! more fun at Grandma YHFs! I bet your house is the place that they love visiting. You always put so much thought into planning a fun time for them.

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    4. Hi YHF.

      One of my husband's favorite desserts is similar to the Refrigerator Cakes that Lili described. It's called Chocolate Eclair Cake, and it's very popular at family reunions and church potlucks in my area. Your grandkids should like it!

      http://allrecipes.com/recipe/17172/chocolate-eclair-cake/

      (Lili, I'm trying to post this without making it a link. Sorry in advance if I am doing it incorrectly!)

      Angie

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    5. Hi Angie,
      I checked out that recipe, and it looks like a great alternative, too. It's a little like the banana, vanilla pudding and vanilla wafer dessert that was popular in the 70s.

      Have a great day, Angie!

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    6. Hi Lili,

      Yes, it is similar to that banana pudding dessert!

      I always make the Chocolate Eclair Cake the night before I need it, and refrigerate it. The next day, it cuts and serves like cake!

      You have a wonderful day, as well!

      Angie

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    7. Thank you for the recipe, Angie! Easy no bake desserts are just my speed, like the coconut gelatin dessert that I have finally mastered lol

      Yes, isn't it fun, that I can play Grandma YHF! Our son said their spirits are up from the moment they come home from school on Friday. Usually they are here by the evening. It is a respite from their usual and typical repertoire so that's why they like to come here so much. But when they are here, my husband and I are cooking and cleaning almost nonstop, but a good break for their parents. I think we have only a few years before they stop sleeping over as often. To extend their interest in coming, I'm creating a Lego central, where they can make their own creations, and keep track of their creations by posting pictures on the Lego app. I read that if popular by "like" votes, Lego will consider buying your child's idea, and putting that design into production. (I read this a few months ago, but wonder if the company has since removed it from their app, cannot find it anywhere now.) I think Lego is one of the still all time great educational toys that can engage a child's interest as much as the tablet. The downside is Lego is not cheap, but I've been finding good deals at Savers, and will continue to look for second hand at .02 piece or less.

      YHF

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  6. We always bake our birthday cakes ahead, too. It saves time & stress on the big day & they're easier to frost when frozen.
    Melissa

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    1. Hi Melissa,
      It does help with the celebration stress. There seems to be so much to do for birthdays. Have a cake all done or almost done gives me time to do everything else. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one baking cakes ahead and freezing.

      Have a nice evening, Melissa!

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  7. OK. Now I'm craving chocolate frosting! To tell the truth, I haven't baked a cake in years. CatMan prefers pie for special occasions, and I fear eating an entire cake myself!

    But I do LOVE the traditional Mexican "Pastel de Tres Leches" - it's basically a sponge cake drenched in a mixture of condensed and evaporated milk, frosted with whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit. I've never tried making one, but I'm tempted to give it a try. Have you ever made one?

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    1. Hi Cat,
      I've never made a tres leche cake, but I had it once. It either wasn't my thing, or maybe it wasn't made as well as it should have been. I thought -- meh. My guess is it wasn't made terribly well. I think it had canned orange segments on top. But maybe it as just me. It was awfully milky, and milk and I don't agree.

      I think it would be easy to make. Sponge cake is pretty easy. And then it's a matter of mixing the liquid and pouring over it, and allowing to sit, I think. Good luck with this if you make it.

      I always make my husband pie for his birthday. Pie does seem to be a favorite among the men that I know.

      Have a nice evening, Cat!

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