Katelyn with her delicious birthday cake.  From this angle, it almost looks pretty, though the left side is a bit lower than the right!
Katelyn with her delicious birthday cake. From this angle, it almost looks pretty, though the left side is a bit lower than the right!
A couple of weeks ago, my niece Katelyn celebrated her 22nd birthday. My parents and I were invited to Mankato to attend her Minnesota Twins-themed party and I asked if I could bring the cake.

You see, I had just discovered a cake recipe on Pinterest, which I noticed Katelyn had "pinned" as well. It was for a vanilla cake with strawberry filling and a creamy whipped frosting. Reading the recipe for the cake, I thought I could easily substitute a cake made with a French vanilla cake mix, so the rest of the recipe didn't seem so daunting.

I went to the grocery store and bought all the necessary ingredients for the frosting and cake, which included heavy cream, cream cheese, seedless strawberry preserves and butter. Because I wanted my family to try the dessert I had made for the Habitat for Humanity fundraiser, I also bought the ingredients for that dessert as well - including cream cheese, Granny Smith apples and, yes, more butter! Do you sense a theme here?

As I shared last week, I like to do my baking at my mother's house as her kitchen is much more efficient than mine. I dream of someday tearing that room off of my house and building a new addition, but until I win the lottery or publish a best-selling novel, the one I have will have to do for the small stuff and I can use my mom's for the more complicated dishes and desserts.

A friend of mine who bakes birthday and other special occasion cakes as a side job had given me a couple of hints for making the cake mixes more successful, including using two mixes to make the double-layer cake and omitting the egg yolks to make a lighter and moister cake.

Well, a bit of miscommunication on my part resulted in my mother putting the entire amount of the cake mix in the two pans instead of simply filling them three-quarter's full. We had to bake them a bit longer than recommended, but they turned out OK. Because we were cutting each layer into two, the cake was to have four layers.

When I had successfully cut the cakes through the middle, we went to move the top piece to the side so I could start putting the filling on the layers. Not being as gentle as we should have been, the top broke in half. We had every intention of piecing it together and making it work, but as I assembled the cake, we soon realized that it would be high enough with three layers and the broken layer became our "taste tester" dessert.

Since we had made the Caramel Apple Crisp Cheesecake before the cake, the day was waning and I wanted to get home before it got dark as the weather was getting a bit bad.

So, when the frosting recipe said to chill it for a couple of hours, we decided to skip that step thinking it was firm enough. Well, that was a very bad call.

Each layer was topped with a thin layer of strawberry preserves, a layer of sliced strawberries and a layer of the whipped cream cheese frosting. Because the frosting was not firm enough, the layers had a tendency to slide around a bit. I worked and worked to get them even and finally the cake looked tall and straight. I was pretty proud of myself.

The next step was to frost the outer layers and the frosting went on much easier until I decided to use the extra strawberries on the top of the cake and tried to frost over them. Not only was the frosting still too soft, the strawberries were juicy and the frosting wasn't sticking to them.

We decided to put the cake in the carrier and put it in the vehicle we were taking to Mankato the next day as it was cold enough to "freeze" it in place - or so we thought. As I placed the cover on top of the carrier, I noticed the frosting on the sides of the cake was falling, but decided we would fix it when we arrived in Mankato.

I had learned my lesson - when the recipe says to chill the frosting, I will take the time and chill the frosting. It would have saved a lot of grief.

The cake was not the beautiful creation I hoped it would be. When we uncovered it the next day, we found that the layers had slid during the car ride and the result was a lopsided cake. Some of the frosting had come off and we did the best we could to perk it up, but it was far from perfect.

Thankfully, we could turn the cake strategically for photos so it didn't look so bad! Following the baseball theme for the party, we placed candles on top in the shape of bats and balls and the Major League Baseball logo. When lit, they helped improve the overall look of the cake. With Katelyn smiling behind it and being a good sport of the whole thing, I couldn't be that disappointed in the result.

Once we cut into the cake and served it up, the dilapidated appearance no longer mattered. The slice of cake with the layers of cake, frosting and strawberries was very pretty and one bite into the dessert made all thoughts of any failure disappear. It was delicious.

My mother will be celebrating a birthday later this week and has mentioned that she would like the same cake for her party. I've learned several lessons from my first try, which she was a part of, so maybe she and I can come up with a more appealing creation this time. Plus, we won't have to drive it to Mankato. Once it's on the serving platter, we can hope the layers won't shift and make another lopsided cake.

If it does shift and the frosting falls, we could always throw it in a big glass serving bowl and call it a trifle.

I'll be sure to let you know!