This past Saturday was my niece Emma's 8th birthday. The original plan was to go to her school's halloween carnival with the girls in their costumes - which would have been fun - but it rained, and they post-poned the carnival to next weekend, so we wound up having a small family gathering at a local pizza parlor. I'd offered to make her cake a few weeks ago, and when I asked her what kind she wanted, she requested vanilla with chocolate frosting. I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for the cake, and made my favorite cream cheese frosting with some melted chocolate and a little cocoa swirled in - then coated the cake with Oreo crumbs for the inky black kitty color and texture.
The kitty idea was actually based on a cake I made when I was a kid. That cake was frosted with white frosting and coated with coconut for a white fluffy kitty, which would be equally cute - provided your birthday girl hasn't requested chocolate frosting, and it isn't the day before Halloween...
Emma had a blast at her party and got a lot of great presents... (Could she be more adorable?? I think not.)
And luckily I think she really liked the cake!
A note on the cake:
The yellow cake I made came out ok, but it actually wasn't my favorite. Not sure if it's something I did or the recipe, but if you have a tried and true one you like, I say use it. (My favorite chocolate cake recipe is here.) The cream cheese frosting recipe follows. It's not super dark, but it tastes really good. If you want something darker, you might try Deb's suggested recipe made with sour cream.
"Sprinkles" Cream Cheese Frosting with Chocolate
8 oz of cream cheese, very soft
4 oz of butter, very soft
1/8 tsp salt
4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablesoons unsweetened cocoa
Place the softened cream cheese, butter and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition, and scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. (As is, this is a perfect recipe for ordinary cream cheese frosting.) If you want to write on the cake, set aside approximately 1 cup of frosting before the chocolate is added.
To make it chocolate, melt the semi sweet and unsweetened chocolate together over a double boiler or in the microwave (on low speed, watching carefully.) Stir the cocoa into the chocolate and mix well. Allow to cool and blend into frosting on low speed.
Assembling the Cake:
To create the kitty cat shape, you'll need to cut your two cake layers and assemble them as shown below:
To assemble the cake, lay the pieces out as shown in Fig. 3 on your board, and attach them with a liberal dollop of frosting. Cut 3 inch wide strips of parchment paper and slide them under the cake before frosting it entirely, so that you can pull the strips out when you're done and take the mess with you. Frost the cake with an offset spatula, dolloping frosting over the top and spreading it down the sides. Frost over the jointed pieces liberally, since they'll be crumbly at the edges and you'll need to fill in a bit.
After frosting the cake, I coated it with Oreo crumbs, which I made in the food processor. (It took about 1/2 a package - sans creme.) I laid down several sheets of parchment paper and put the cake in the middle, then sifted the crumbs over the top. To get them on the sides, I scooped crumbs into my hands and pressed them gently onto the sides of the cake. (If you want to make this whole project a little easier on yourself, I'd say use a darker frosting and skip this step.) After I coated the cake, I pulled the parchment strips out gently to remove the excess crumbs and frosting, dusted off the excess, and used a pointed knife wrapped in a damp paper towel to clean the board.
For the decorations, I went to an old fashioned candy store and bought sour gummi tape, licorice shoestrings and gum drops. The nose is an orange gum drop, and the eyes are Oreos with blue M&M's on top. The eye lashes, mouth and whiskers are made from licorice, but could also be piped on. The collar is a piece of sour gummi tape, and so are the ear bits. The white on the face and the writing are piped on white frosting which I saved back before adding the chocolate. (Word to the wise - piping on the cake was kind of difficult once it was coated with crumbs because it didn't want to stick.) The candies can just be pressed lightly into the frosting.
Et voila! A meow-worthy birthday cake!