1 kitchen. 2 ovens. 12+ hours. 13 friends. 18lbs of pork. 19 cakes. This is #cakeDay2013.

I was amongst an earlier crew to arrive, but still behind the early birds. The breakfast bar was laden with pans and cooking gear stacked like little towers – a veritable skyline of baking. Two KitchenAid mixers stood on opposite ends of the room. The ovens were already humming away. In a corner, the ridiculously large mountain of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter awaited demolition. I spent about two seconds on this landscape before bee-lining through the open set of window/doors that made one wall of the kitchen and plonked down onto the inviting patio furniture. Don’t tell anyone, but I may love a fine patio (With snacks! And drinks!) more than baking a cake.

So let’s start with the snacks. They provided some much needed salt to balance off the 5kg of sugar we’d be motoring through. Our host kindly provided me us with some Shriner’s Creek sweet & salty kettle corn (what… it’s salty!!), and others made an impromptu Portuguese platter of Pão de Queijo (cheese bread) and Pastéis de Bacalhau (salt cod fritters, bought). Some spreads from Candy: a vividly red muhamarra dip, and the group favourite, mushroom dip. Not pictured are four bags of chips to further up the sodium level. Some local strawberries and cherries made for a bright and fresh splash of colour.

But one cannot live on snacks alone! So, in addition to salt, we add eighteen pounds of delicious pork to fuel our day’s work. Two kinds were on offer and I ate JoAnne’s Chengdu pork over rice as an anchor (comfort food!) and nibbled on pieces of Vanessa’s grilled lemongrass pork throughout the day (Couldn’t. Stop.). The salads: pickled cucumber slaw (to offset the pork, offsetting the sugar – hmn…), mango salsa, and a jap chae. That patio was a perfect paradise for me.

But! This is cake day. We make cakes on cake day. And since most of us can’t leave well enough alone – we are compelled for various reasons to make more than one cake – I brought my first cake with me.

A good baba au rhum needs some time to mature, and so I had spent the previous afternoon baking to ensure it would have enough time to do its thing. Except my rum cake (not that I confused the two, nope) came out with tops anchored to the bundt pan. I had tried to beautify it with the recommended icing glaze, but that was also a fail – it was gritty and well, I probably should have used the good rum for that. Though I’d not make this again, I can at least check off one more recipe from my Bouchon Bakery book self-challenge. I figured I’d make a go of things and bring the catasrophe to Cake Day anyway.

But it didn’t end there! On the way over, the cake had a bit of a tumble and all that terrible icing that I didn’t know what to do with stuck on the top of my cake carrier. Though I was back at square one with an ugly cake, most of the offending white topping had been removed. Huge improvement already! But still so unpretty. This is when you go and dig up some fruit. After a quick chop off the top for a clean slate, I added some delicious Luxardo Maraschino cherries (more booze!), some fresh cherries for a pop of colour, and I was done. I think it was a decent save on the looks front.

But… aren’t you supposed to make cake on cake day?!

Of course! I had whiled away pretty much all afternoon on the patio and was amongst the last flight of bakers. Really, I was making a simple butter cake. Just needed to mix together some eggs, sugar, butter, and flour and I’d be good to go. Oh, and then I had to math out the batter, colour them like the constituent elements of Superkid ice cream, bake them, carefully slice them into perfectly even bits, enrobe in chocolate ganache, then assemble them into something that Mondrian would have painted.

No big deal.

But maybe – just maybe – I should have started a little earlier. I blame delays on the multiple batches of scorched ganache. Luckily the internet came to my rescue and a quick beating with some additional white corn syrup saved the day. It’s a lesson learned from last cake day too – if your [insert thing your making] is coming apart or separating, beat the crap out of it and see what results. At worst, you’re still going to pitch it, so why not roll the dice and turn the mixer on high for a minute or three?

Being the last baker, I believe it was around 5pm when I finally turned off the oven. Fast forward about another hour for assembly. And once all the cakes were done, another two hours of staging and photography for the entire group ensued. Ladders, white boxes, and light bounces came out for play as we set up, shot, and boxed our baked goods.

From the get-go Candy had locked in BAKED’s root beer bundt cake. Then she got antsy and decided to make Dan Leopard’s mont blanc for the aesthetics. And of course, with the leftover extra yolks, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s gateau Breton popped out just like that. At three baked beauties, Candy well… she took the cake.

One of my favourite cakes of the day was Bonita’s chocolate cake (sweetapolita). But not just any chocolate cake – it came with a toasted marshmallow filling and a malted chocolate buttercream frosting. This was ridiculously good. And as a last-minute pre-packaged treat, she brought some Earl Grey teacakes with a lemon-lavender glaze tied up with some pretty raffia.

JoAnne revisited her lovely strawberry custard cake (with Rose Levy Berenbaum’s white velvet cake as a base) and no one was going to say no to this repeat! On the day-of, there was much grating and a fresh ginger cake (David Lebovitz) with a caramel cream cheese frosting was brought forth.

Edythe had a lovely lemon curd layer cake (America’s Test Kitchen) that turned into something like a fractal design as things began to move. Great well-rounded lemon flavour from the curd and I loved how bright the white frosting was. In addition, she whipped up a raspberry bakewell cake (BBC Good Food) of jam and almonds.

We had two tres leches cakes this time ’round and Yvonne jazzed hers up with cardamom and pistachio and re-christened it as a gulab jamun tres leches.

Jacquilynne’s butter pecan cake with cream cheese frosting was a delicious mash-up. Sadly, hard to photograph well on a white plate on a white background!

Kathleen’s raspberry buttermilk cake from Smitten Kitchen.

This Red Wine Red Velvet cake (Brave Tart) by Cindy was oh-so-moist and delicious. Not unexpected, as it contained 5 cups of butter. Worth every bite. Might need to make this sometime soon. Paired with some bourguignon, perhaps?

And another Tres Leches cake (The Pioneer Woman) from Evelyn!

A Cherry Bundt Cake by Deanna. Based off of Good Housekeeping’s Blueberry Crumb Ring.Another Smitten Kitchen recipe, the Pistachio Petit Fours Cake By Vanessa.Andrew had never made a layer cake before and knocked it out of the park with his Black Pearl Layer Cake (epicurious). Based off the Voges chocolate bar, this is a mix of chocolate, wasabi, and sesame. He’d amped up the black sesame by creating a paste instead of using only the toasted seeds.

And then there’s my failed Rum (Tortuga) Cake (Bouchon Bakery). Better-looking for having chopped off its peaks. So promising in the pan. Highly boozy. Alas.And… The Mondrian cake (Modern Art Desserts)! Forgot to even out the sides before doing the final enrobing, but not too shabby for a first go! I was pondering how one could make a version of Starry Starry Night… I kid! Sorta. Taste-wise, I quite liked the pound cake recipe I found on allrecipes.com. I subbed the lemon extract for real lemon juice and some zest, but that was about it. Would make that again for any of my pound cake needs.

Once we’d finished our photography session and packed away almost 6 pounds of cake per person, we – finally – could eat. One lone slice from each cake remained and in a game of musical chairs (where the music never stops and there are no chairs), we moved around the table sampling each one. Exclamations of delight and sighs of contentment floated over the table as we enjoyed our bounty. It was past 10 pm and, though tired, we were all quite satisfied with how the day turned out.

The funny faces of bakers.

Cake Day isn’t an official day of any kind – it’s just a gathering of crazy bakers. Are you one too? Join the fun next year by rounding up your like-minded friends and hosting your own. Or don’t wait and set your own Cake Day up now. What do you do with all that cake? We freeze the rest of the slices when we get home so that we can enjoy these treats in the weeks to come. Because really, one can never have enough cake!

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