COOKING ADVENTURE # 64: Tetris Birthday Cake
Before we even begin on this colorful wacky adventure, we need the proper atmosphere. Kindly click here. Is it playing? Good. Now we can begin. This week was my brother’s birthday. Since both of us grew up in the nineties, we were both nintendo addicts. One of my brother’s favorite games was Tetris, a puzzle video game that is probably one of the most well-known classic video games. While browsing on Pinterest last fall, I came across a cake that someone had done in homage to Tetris and knew that this was what I would have to recreate for my brother. The RaspberriCupcakes website is the origin of this delicious idea. And what a hit it was with my brother and the rest of the family. However, not as easy a task as it might seem. I had to get my hands frosted for this one, dyed all the colors of the rainbow, and then as is usual with most cooking adventures, injured myself just when I thought I was in the clear. Good thing it tasted good so that it was all worth it!
I’d been looking forward to making the Tetris cake all week. It was on a Thursday afternoon that I finally had the opportunity to make it. My brother’s family party was later that night and I knew that it was liable to take several hours to really get this cake looking top notch. Good thing I planned on that, otherwise, it never would have been done on time. I was working with some pre-conditions for this cake. The biggest one was that it couldn’t contain any chocolate. My dad had given up chocolate for lent and my mom only really likes white chocolate. I wanted everyone at the party to be able to have it and enjoy it.
I decided to make a confetti cake. That way it would still be a white cake mix but would have some splashes of color in it as well. I took the box out from the metal rack under the counter in my kitchen and read over the directions. It was a pretty simple recipe. Three eggs, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 1 tbsp of oil were to be mixed with the cake mix. A wave of horror passed over me as I tried to recount how many eggs I had left. I opened the fridge and soon confirmed the inevitable; I only had two. I had used an egg the other night to make a chocolate chip cookie in a bowl… I forgot to add the butter to said cookie so it ended up tasting rather plain and gross. Nice to know I wasted that egg for nothing! I hopped on the computer and tried to search for egg substitutes. Banana? Didn’t have any. Potato starch? Didn’t have any. Applesauce? Nope. Gelatin? Nada. So what is a girl to do? The website I had also said that adding about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil would also be about the same as a third egg. Somehow in my head this translated into only about a 1/4 tablespoon though. I added all of my ingredients together, snagged a whisk from the drawer and began mixing. And the further along I got, the harder and harder it became to mix. Finally, when no lumps were left and my muscles were spasming like crazy, I moved onto the next step.
I took my 9 x 13 stoneware pan out from the cabinet. I was worried that if I didn’t grease and flour the pan that I would have an issue much like when I did my disastrous lemon bar recipe earlier this year. I pulled out some Crisco from the fridge and smeared it all over the bottom and sides of the pan with my fingers. Then, I took some flour (one of my deadliest enemies), poured some in, and shook it around so that everything was evenly coated. Then, with a deep breath, I dumped in my batter, spread it around with a rubber spatula until it was all equal in the pan and then put it in the oven at 325 for 35 minutes.
When the cake was done, it came out of the oven smelling like sugary warmth. I let it cool down for a while and set to work on getting the tiles ready for the tetris pieces. In the original recipe, the creator uses licorice as a black border for the cake. I despise licorice so I tried to come up with a way to use some of the short bread cookies that I’d already bought. Taking a knife to them, I carefully carved each one in half and decided to line the outside edge of the cake with them. But first I had to create the black background for the colored tiles to go on. And for that, I needed black food coloring.
I feel like black food coloring is for some reason synonymous with this sound. It doesn’t seem appealing in the slightest bit and conjures images of stained blackened teeth, making anyone immediately look as though they haven’t seen a dentist since the Bubonic Plague. But I knew that the Tetris background needed to be black for all of the colors to pop against it and for it to be truly authentic. I had bought a container of vanilla frosting which I added the black food coloring to and stirred. At first, I got a few dark grey’s that were in no way appetizing. Finally, I got a rich deep black and spread it over the cake in an even layer. Next, I took each little cookie half and painstakingly applied black frosting to it with a spreader, then placed each cookie along the border of the cake. By the time the border was done, my fingers were black, and my kitchen was already beginning to look like a nightmare. I discovered that I’d also died spots on my hands black somehow while trying to get the black food coloring open. I can’t get those spots off. They’re still there. Then having completely forgotten about the non-chocolate aim to the cake, I sprinkled a large dose of chocolate jimmies all over the cake. Smart. Very smart indeed. Dur.
After dumping the black frosting in the sink, I turned my attention to the colored blocks. While there are several different colors in Tetris blocks, I decided to stick with the basic pink, green, blue, and yellow and do them in Eastery shades (since it is next week!) The first color I did was green. It came out to be more puce colored than a solid green but it was still a nice shade for the cake. I took up one of the cookies and started spreading the green frosting over it. As I placed it down on the cake, I suddenly realized that the squares were going to be too big to work for the original plan that I’d had. After placing three, I decided to stop and alter the remaining squares so that they’d be smaller. I painstakingly went through twelve more cookies, slicing each one down to a smaller size so that it woudl fit on the cake. I placed the last green one and then I moved to the next color; pink. But instead of getting a nice soft shade, I got a hot tropical salmon color. Still, very cool! I put four of those cookies down and then tried to gauge what I should do next. The bottom row was almost full. And while I completely forgot the rules of Tetris and put a long yellow train of blocks in the last slot, you have to admit that it does look rather cool despite the inaccuracy.
I went to the last four blocks and did them in a soft almost slate blue before turning in the towel and putting the food coloring away. Now it was time to put on the finishing touches; the lettering. I’d been saving a white icing tube so that I could pipe on the customary “Happy Birthday” message. I plucked the tube of white frosting from the fridge and opened it up. As I tipped it and waited for the frosting to come out, I was rewarded with a sickening watery goo that began bubbling out. Yummy… I nearly threw the little tube across the room in revulsion. I took it over to the sink and squeezed all of the water out of it until I got white frosting again. Then, I returned to the cake and began to write. However, when I reached the “y” in Happy, I made a horrible discovery. The tube was now empty. I had a cake that said nothing but Happy on it. What was I going to do?
Thinking quickly, I grabbed my bag of white chocolate chips and spelled out my brother’s name on the cake. Thankfully its a short name. But I couldn’t write “birthday” with chocolate chips. They were too big and the word was just too long. I tried thinking of alternatives, everything from writing it in powdered sugar, to assembling each letter out of jimmies, to just writing it on a piece of paper and lying it on top carefully. In the end, my sad memory of making icing out of powdered sugar returned to me and I decided to do that instead. It might have worked better if I’d actually used milk instead of water to mix it with though. With a toothpick, I precariously formed each letter until what looked up at me was a milky, runny, sad word that I worried might evaporate the minute I set foot outside with the cake. I had no time. I was late. It would just have to do. I rushed out to my car with the cake and his gift. I decided that it would probably be better to put the cake in the front seat with me so that I could hold onto it in case I needed to. As I reached inside to put it on the passenger seat, I managed to punch the center console accidentally… and punch it hard. The top was broken off when I bought the car so this resulted in a nice cut on my knuckle which proceeded to bleed. Terrific.
I brought it with me to my parent’s house that night and hid it on the refrigerator. After dinner, I returned to the cake and my mom provided me with some neon colorful candles, just the right colors to compliment the tiles on the cake. Then came the most clumsy candle-lighting moment ever when I kept accidentally blowing out the candles while trying to blow out the match. Finally, in a blaze of fiery glory, I took the cake into the living room with the obligatory Happy Birthday song, raising high in chorus through the house. The cake was a sensation. Both my nephew and niece loved it. By the time both were done, the black frosting was everywhere, much to the chagrin of my mom who had to chase after them with wet wipes to clean them up. All in all it was a perfect birthday evening, where we watched a static-laced copy of Surf Ninjas, and bopped balloons around with the kids. Over all, I thought the cake came out fantastically. Now, I want to try all sorts of Nintendo themed cake ideas, everything from Anticipation to Zelda! Watch, guys. I’ll make it happen… somehow.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, in celebration of Easter, I’ll be making an Easter Nest Cake. Sounds interesting, you say? Stay tuned to find out more about it!