Rocket ship birthday cake…

I love birthday parties, in fact I love all parties!! I really enjoy the planning part and creating the vision and theme for a party…and then there’s the doing, which I don’t love as much.

Just as well I have a very involved husband who enjoys putting my ‘creative visions’ into action! For our son’s recent 3rd birthday party, he said he wanted a rocket cake. I must say I was happy and relieved three weeks leading up to the big day he had changed his mind from what he previously requested which was a Lightening McQueen cake! This would have caused way more stress to build a car than a rocket (in my mind) so I worked at building enthusiasm and excitement over a rocketing good party theme.

I searched for ideas and inspiration around the theme…as you do, and finally sourced what my cake base was going to be and the type of rocket ship cake I wanted.

I have used a combination of recipes to achieve what I wanted, because that’s what I do to perhaps make things a little more complicated! This is the type of cake you can definitely take breaks with in-between to entertain child, make coffee, clean up toilet training accidents etc, because it is virtually impossible with child to do it all in one go!

Anyway, here is the white cake base mixture recipe I used and slightly adapted which I found on the Whisk-Kid.com for her super epic rainbow cake.

I wanted to create three coloured layers inside the rocket cake to reflect the colours of the icing on the outside. The colours I used in my layered cake were blue, red and yellow.

I wanted to use as much natural colouring as I could in the cake, so the layers were given natural flavours of blackberry, strawberry and lemon.

The cake design for the rocket was sourced from http://www.taste.com.au and called a Flying rocket cake which provided the template.

I used a standard buttercream icing for the outside of the cake.

White Cake – please note, this mixture is enough to make three thin cakes in a 23 cm x 23 cm sized cake tin.

Flying Rocket Ship cake

Ingredients

226 gm butter, room temperature

426 gm sugar

5 egg whites, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

426 g plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

350 ml milk, room temperature

Red, yellow and blue GEL food coloring

silver cachous

M & M chocolates

Sour straps

Method

1. Remove ingredients; eggs, butter and milk out of the fridge to let them warm to room temperature. Meanwhile thrown in a handful of washed strawberries into the blender and then strain through sieve to catch the juice. Set bowl aside. Do the same with blackberries and set aside in another bowl. Using a micro-plane grater, shave lemon zest from a lemon and also set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 355 F degrees. Oil and line three 23 cm x 23 cm square cake pans or two and reuse one for the third amount of cake mixture.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4. Cream the sugar and butter, then add the egg whites (I cracked them all into one bowl) and add them a little at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Then alternating between wet and dry, add the milk and flour in two parts. Ensure you stop mixer when adding these otherwise there will be milk and flour everywhere!

5. Divide the batter amongst three bowls. The best way of doing this is to weigh your mixing bowl before you have added any ingredients and then subtract the weight of the bowl from the final measurement after the batter is completed. Divide that number by three and add that weight of batter to each bowl.

6. Add one tablespoon of strawberry juice to bowl number 1, one tablespoon blackberry juice to bowl number 2 and the lemon zest to bowl number 3.  I whisked in a small amount of GEL food colouring into each to achieve a greater depth of colour, but not much as I didn’t want them to be really bright. The colour of the unbaked batter will be the colour of the baked batter. Pour into the pans and bake for 15-20 minutes each or until a skewer just about comes out clean (they will cook a little further in the pans while resting).

7. When you remove from the oven, let them rest on the cooling rack for 20 minutes, in the pan. They may be a little sticky, so flip carefully onto a plate lined with baking paper and cover placing into the fridge to cool quickly for 30 minutes.

Assembly of cake

1. Ensure you have a cake board or plate that measures at least 34cm in width and 40cm in length. I covered mine with foil to give it the space look. Remove cakes from the fridge and place the blue one on a flat board (like a plastic chopping board) still with the baking paper underneath this base one, layer the red cake on top and then the yellow and ensure it is lined up as well as possible. Please note the cakes should have a slight sticky texture to them so they should hold well together, however if corner parts need a little extra sticking, use a small amount of strawberry jam or sugar syrup.

2. I measured each side to check that the three layers were even all around. However should your cake be a little sloped, shave off a tiny bit slowly, slowly with a serrated knife to even up. If you are careful spreading batter mixture into the pans they should be very flat and level.

2. With pre-printed template of rocket cake, place over the top of the cake and pin with toothpicks to secure at sides and tip and very slowly, cut the shapes with a serrated knife. I cannot stress enough it is important to move very slowly! I used a steak knife as it is smaller than a bread knife.

3. Place the cut fins of the rocket cake in their correct place, securing if you need to with sugar syrup.

Note:- At the end of assembly, slip the baking paper out of the bottom base cake carefully (with a pair of extra hands) and spatula if you need it as it can be a little sticky.

Butter icing

Ingredients

250 gm butter, softened

2 cups (320 gm) icing (confectioner’s sugar), sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Red and blue GEL food coloring.

1. Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6-8 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for a further 10-15 minutes or until light and fluffy.

2. Using a cake spatula, spread the icing over the cake first to do a crumb coat, sealing any edges and joins and then place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

3. Remove cake from freezer. Split icing into three bowls. Add a few drops of blue to one, a few drops of red to another and mix well. The other bowl will remain plain coloured.

4. I started with the red area first, then the blue and then used the spatula to add more plain icing to the white areas and smoothed them out.

5. Finally, the decorations! Cut sour straps to size to neatly separate coloured areas. Place silver cachous and M & M’s all over and then remaining sour straps (which I used a knife to separate strap colours) as the rocket ship blasting fire out the back.

Flavoured layers in rocket ship cake

To follow in theme, the menu of food included; rocket dogs, cornflake meteorites, starry trail mix (selection of moon chocolate rockets, dried fruit selections in different containers), out of this world banana yoghurt muffins and rocket fuel drinks.

With rocket ship and space games like; find the meteorites, pin the planet on the rocket ship, catch the asteroids and pass the light sabre kids were well and truly entertained for a couple of hours!

It was fun, but I am glad birthdays only come once a year!

Pin the planet on the rocket ship game

Flying rocket ship!

Rocket fuel drinks

Out of this world banana muffins

Thai-style pumpkin soup with cilantro/coriander pesto

Halloween is approaching, and we Aussies are newcomers to the traditions and parties that take place here in Vancouver on October 31. We just don’t celebrate it in a big way like it is in Canada and the US so it’s sure to be an eye opener.  The stores are in preparation stocking the shelves with decorative ornaments, costumes and loads and loads of candy! What I’ve never seen back home is all of these treats are manufactured and packaged into  a special Halloween size (mini snack size)…it’s full-on, seriously on another level!

Supermarkets are exploding with pumpkins, everywhere you turn there are bulbous orange objects of all shapes and sizes staring at you in the face.

I look forward to dressing up, I look forward to seeing my son ‘trick or treat’ and most of all participating in making or baking some Halloween goodies.

But one thing I do have experience with is eating pumpkin. I am used to cooking it in roast dinners; ‘Roast lamb with pumpkin and potato with gravy’ is a Sunday favourite back home and in wintertime many weeks may include pumpkin in risotto, soups, curries and stir-fries. Perhaps one of the most popular dishes that presents pumpkin a good light in the  fall here in Canada is pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving which I haven’t mastered yet!

It’s loaded with anti-oxidants; vitamins A, C and E as well as B complex group vitamins. What’s more is that the seeds which you can roast are an excellent source of fibre and minerals like iron, selenium and zinc. It’s a fairly sustainable food too with the flesh, seeds and sometimes skin all being used and eaten in recipes.

So for now, here is a warming recipe which was published in the July, 2005 issue of delicious. magazine (Aust. edition) adapted ever so slightly to my taste.

Thai-style pumpkin soup with coriander pesto

Ingredients

2 bunches of cilantro/coriander, roots trimmed (a few leaves reserved for garnish)

1/4 cup of walnuts

Zest and juice of one lemon

2 garlic cloves

1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil

1 onion chopped

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1 teaspoon cumin

1 Tablespoon Thai red curry paste

1 kg of butternut pumpkin (is best otherwise standard pumpkin), peeled and cut into small cubes

2 cups of vegetable stock (500 ml) vegetable stock

400 ml canned light coconut milk

Optional: Thinly sliced red onion and red chilli, to garnish.

Note: I used ground baked pumpkin seeds prepared while soup was cooking.

Method

1. To make the coriander pesto, process coriander, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic in food processor. Slowly add 3 tablespoons of the oil to give a sauce consistency adding a little warm water if necessary. Add walnuts and process again and then season.

2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add onion and cumin stirring for 1 minute. Add ginger and red curry paste and stir for one minute. Add pumpkin and stock, bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes until pumpkin is cooked. Cool slightly and then blend until smooth.  Return to the pan, add the coconut milk and season and warm through.

3. To serve, place in soup bowls and swirl in a spoonful of pesto. Garnish with the ground roasted pumpkin seeds, reserved cilantro/coriander leaves and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.

Note: For a party, and a bit of a retro look you could serve soup in the pumpkin as shown.

Enjoy!