The question has often been posed: does bacon make everything better? And actually, I fall in the camp that bacon does make everything better. But it was high time to test out that theory. And since I had a birthday coming up and a Daring Baker Challenge to complete, I thought what better way to test my theory than a bacon themed birthday party with a party cake made with bacon too?
It was during a dinner date with E that a brainstorm of sorts happened. What would the menu of a bacon themed party look like? E thought it was would great to take food typically not made with bacon and re-envision them with bacon as an ingredient. I agreed. She came up with a bacon "maki" with grits as the "rice" wrapped around egg and topped with a slice of bacon. I wanted to serve bacon cheeseburgers, bacon "spring rolls" (which later became salad with homemade buttermilk dressing and bacon) and also the party cake for Daring Bakers. I had thought about tweaking the recipe to include bacon but since it was my first challenge, I didn't want to earn the label of "rebel" this early on.
But I did go home that evening and read the Daring Baker recipe a couple of times and decided that this challenge was in fact flexible enough for me to play around with. And since I loved the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, I thought I'd use that with the bacon as decorative flavor and texture component on the top of the cake. Chocolate, peanut butter and bacon?! Well, it sounds good to me!
The first thing you should know about me is that I love cooking and baking, but the "science" often alludes me. I know to follow baking recipes almost to the letter because most baking requires precision. So it's rare for me to add or sub in anything when it comes to baked goods. But this bacon party inspired me to be a little bit more, well, "daring" (hah).
The set up was rather easy. And I decided I would bake the cake the night before the party and cover the cakes and ice and assemble the day of the party.
I added a cup of hersey's baking cocoa to the dry ingredients and I was sure to use cake flour for this challenage too. I used swan down brand. In the pic below you will also see my late Grandma Howley's trusty hand beater. I love it because it works like a champ and well, every time I use it, I think of my Grandma H.
I also added a bit of instant espresso powder to the dry mix too. I'm a devotee of Ina Gardener and she says that coffee brings out the intensity of chocolate and often combines the two. I used this stuff. I've had this jar for ever and I use it when I make tiramasu too. Anything calling for chocolate means this stuff gets added to the mix as well.
I finished mixing and when I took a look at my final cake batter, it looked, well a lot thicker than most cake batters I've ever worked with.
It was more of a brownie batter and this caused me a bit of concern. I decided I'd just loosen it up a bit with a buttermilk. The batter was still thick but I poured it into the cake pans and baked anyway.
The cakes came out and looked, well, hmm...
cracked. I cooked them for only 31 mins...maybe I should have done even less time. I was a little nervous about the cakes because of the cracks. I hadn't ever baked a cake and have it crack like that. What did it mean exactly? How would it taste? I was also disappointed in the lack of rise. But I read other Daring Bakers' entries and noticed that many of them had trouble getting their cakes to really rise either.
I will say that it smelled divine. But what's better than the smell of chocolate, butter and sugar? Not much, if you ask me! And um, cleaning the cake batter bowl with a spoon was a tasted endeavor. It tasted great in raw form, so I hoped that it wouldn't be much different in cooked form!
I made the frosting by halfing the butter in the cream and subbing in peanut butter instead. I figured the fat content in the peanut butter would make up for the missing butter. I've never been a huge buttercream frosting fan and so never tried my hand at making it. I have to say, I really enjoyed making this recipe. It was much more time consuming than my usual habit of making cream cheese frostings or confectioners sugar with some milk frosting or just plain old whipped cream, but the end result was pretty amazing. The frosting was shiny and quite delicious. The peanut butter flavor was very apparent. Frosting the cake was a breeze and it looked quite nice with it's crumble of bacon on top. This cake also has a layer of cooked crumbled bacon in the middle. Who needs raspberries when you have bacon!
Here is my finished cake. If I wanted to make a real show stopper, I would have made another batch of batter. It wasn't a very tall cake but the bacon on top was quite a conversation starter.
The food was great and a fun time was had by all. E made bacon martinis for all and my friends Harin and Ed took over cooking the burgers. Sure the copious amounts of bacon meant that the smoke detector was set off three times over the course of the evening but whatever.
And as for the cake? Well, it was pretty dense and dry. I was really disappointed and ended up throwing much of it out. If the cake had been a lot moister, it would have been a fantastic cake! The bacon really brought out the nuttiness of the peanut butter and it was smoky and salty. The frosting with the bacon was the best part of the cake.
My conclusion? Bacon does indeed make everything better!
Thanks Daring Bakers for letting me join. I had a blast with this challenge and can't wait until next month's!