When life ruins your cake, make a trifle

Happy Fathers Day! Today’s the big day – the day when all that prep work from yesterday comes together into one mouthwatering dessert. If you’ll recall, I spent most of last night trying to make a chocolate stout cake for my beer-lovin’ dad. Long story short, it was kind of a bust. My cake became a sinkhole, but there’s still hope! I don’t give up that easily.

Only the middle of my cake was a failure. The rest of it was perfectly cooked, deliciously moist and chocolatey enough to satisfy a chocoholic like me. While brainstorming ways to salvage my little experiment, I came up with:

How to make a chocolate cake trifle (a.k.a. How to revive dead cake)

It’s actually pretty easy. (Baking the chocolate cake was the hard part.) By preparing just a few more ingredients, you can completely transform that uncooperative cake into something beautiful (and no one will ever know it wasn’t what you intended to make in the first place).

1. First, slice up some fruit into bite-sized chunks. I chose strawberries and raspberries. Not only do they go great with chocolate, they’re also bright and colourful enough to stand out next to the rich dark cake.

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2. Next, I mixed up a batch of whipped cream (from scratch. No Cool Whip here!). All you need is some heavy cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract. I use one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla for every cup of cream.

Tip: It helps to work with a cold bowl and whisk. I stuck mine in the fridge while I was prepping the berries.

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Whisk that cream until it’s about to form peaks, then add the sugar and vanilla. Make sure it doesn’t slop out over the sides while whisking. I learned that the hard way – with a face full of cream flecks.

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When it starts to form peaks, you know it’s done. I kept my peaks soft, but you can make it thicker if you like that texture. Just don’t go overboard with that whisking. Remember we’re aiming for whipped cream here, not butter!

3. Back to my sinkhole cake. I cut around the er … “problem area” and thickly sliced the parts of my cake that did cook properly.
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Now for the fun part – putting the trifle together. I have a handy dandy trifle bowl, but you can use any large bowl really. Just make sure it’s glass so you can see all the pretty layers when it’s done.

1. First layer: cake.

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My first layer isn’t a very good example (because I didn’t really think of this technique until the second layer), but you can cut some of the cake chunks into smaller pieces and use that to fill in the gaps. Since you’ll be scooping through all the layers to serve it, it doesn’t really matter if there are smaller pieces of cake in amongst the bigger chunks. Just make sure you can see a relatively even layer of cake from the outside.

2. Second layer: whipped cream.

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Time to ladle on a generous layer of that freshly made whipped cream! Again, make sure you fill it along the edges so it doesn’t look all “holey” from the side.

3. Third layer: a splash of colour (berries!)

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4. Repeat until you fill up your bowl (or run out of cake/cream/fruit). It’ll look a little something like this.

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While taking pictures of the process, I got a little too excited and skipped the berries on my second layer. I tried to make up for it by loading on the berries on the very top. Ah well, you get the gist. And who’s going to nit-pick when they taste it? Answer: no one! (Otherwise they can say bye-bye to their share of dessert.)

That takes care of my sunken cake, but what about all those cupcakes? I’m glad you asked. Don’t worry, cupcakes. I haven’t forgotten about you!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Remember that chocolate frosting I made yesterday? It seemed like a good idea to stick it in the fridge overnight, but it came out hard as a rock this morning. I even snapped my wooden spoon in half trying to loosen it up. Whoops.

Solution: Take a metal spoon and scoop out some of the hardened frosting into a microwavable bowl. Stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds (or less). Seriously, frosting and microwaves need constant supervision. You’ll be surprised how quickly that frosting will warm up. You just want to make it spreadable, not warm (Trust me, no one wants to eat soggy cupcakes with drippy frosting. Not even my guinea pig dad.)

Decorating these cupcakes is super easy.
1. Spread some frosting onto the cupcakes.
2. Put a small dollop of whipped cream (leftover from making the trifle) on top of the frosted cupcakes.
3. Stick your favourite (preferably edible) decoration on top. I went with a blueberry, just because it was handy. But you can use anything – gummy bears, a chocolate, a mini marshmallow, sprinkles … another cupcake. The sky’s the limit really.

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Ta-da! There you have it. Cake salvaged and I even managed to put that frosting to good use. I think the cover-up worked pretty well. I’m going to chalk this up as a success!

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