COOKING ADVENTURE # 75: Beach Shark Cake
And yes, it has been a considerable amount of time since the last cooking adventure. I wanted to make the seventy fifth Cooking Adventure very special though, which is why I waited for such a long time. This is Shark Week, one of my favorite times of the year. Why, you might ask. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a fascination with sharks. I think they are some of the most interesting and beautiful animals in our ocean. They are powerful, they should be revered especially when we are entering their territory. I was the odd kid in class in third grade reading the books about sharks, crocodiles, and wolves. So now that there is an entire week dedicated to educating people about sharks and trying to turn the mindset that has been associated with them ever since Jaws came out, I have been ecstatic. I’ve been planning a Shark Week cooking adventure ever since summer began. In fact, I’m so excited that I’ll be doing two. Yes, you’re eyes haven’t deceived you. I said two. There will be another one at the end of the week. So, get ready for some terrifying tales as I brave entering the kitchen again to bring you some sweet shark themed goodies…
It’s been a while since I’ve had cake. I was looking forward to making cupcakes later on this week with little shark fins. But I also wanted to make a sheet cake of some kind with a shark theme. After scouring the internet for several hours, I finally happened upon the grisliest cake idea that I could imagine. It was a beach setting with a bunch of people shaped cookies and some fins in the water. Typical beach, right? Might I mention that half of these people populating the beach were missing limbs? Red frosting was splashed over the blue water and through the graham cracker sand. Suddenly this prospect of a delicious dessert has made me lose my appetite. All I can see are the little cookies staring at me with their iced on eyes, pleading for the horror to end. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to get that carried away with my cake. I didn’t want it to look like a culinary adaption of “Jaws”. But I also wanted it to be clear that it was a shark themed cake.
I pulled out my box of white cake mix and set it on the counter. The ingredients for these things is always the same; three eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 1 cup water. I checked my fridge for the eggs assuming I had enough. Imagine my surprise when I found that I only had two. First thoughts: well, crap. Second thought: what can I use as a substitute? Substituting while cooking has never really been my favorite thing to do because most times I’ve done it, it hasn’t worked out in my favor. I have, however, been in the position of needing to substitute an egg in a cake recipe before. I’ve always just substituted 1/4 cup of vegetable oil… which brings the total amount of vegetable oil up to 3/4 cups.
After beating the cake batter together, I tried to envision how I wanted this cake to go. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do on the surface, but I also wanted there to be a surprise inside. I pulled my box of food coloring from the top shelf where my spices were and grabbed the blue coloring from it. It was mostly empty. I used the majority of it back during that pathetic Christmas-time TARDIS Cooking Adventure that didn’t turn out so well. (BTW: 12th Doctor – Peter Capaldi! Very excited about this!) Ahem. Shark Week. Yes. I ended up using the rest of the blue food coloring in the cake batter and then mixed it together until I had a soft tropical blue. I pulled my 9 x 13 stoneware pan out and proceeded to dump the batter into it. When I’d evened it out as much as I could, and got a load of blue batter on my hands, I set the oven to 350 and put the cake in for a half an hour.
Waiting for cake to come out of the oven is like waiting for Christmas morning, with the exception that this momentous occasion of gifts for the taste buds can happen any time you want to bake and isn’t dependent on the calender. When it finally was ready to come out, it brought with it a tempting vanilla scent that overtook the scent of Chicken DiVan which I’d just made an hour before. I put the pan down on the top of the stove and turned on the overhead vent. It was at this point that I realized I was going to be very, very late for going over to my parent’s house for dinner. I’d said I was going to bring a very special dessert. Said dessert was boiling hot and I didn’t even want to speculate what kind of disaster might happen if I tried to transport it like that. So I assembled all of the ingredients to go on the top of the cake and then waited.
Until finally, I lost my patience. That took all of twenty minutes. I opened my vanilla frosting, dipped the spreader into it and slathered a nice thick layer of it over the top of the teal topped cake. Once it was covered, I turned to my “sand”: graham cracker crumbs. This came from a box of cheesecake mix that has probably been sitting in my pantry for over a year. But, graham cracker doesn’t really expire… or at least I’ve never seen it. So I opened the over-filled package and sprinkled a hefty amount of it over half of the cake. Back to the frosting: I needed to make the ocean part of the cake. I took the last couple drops of my blue food coloring and squeezed it out into the container, then swirled my knife around a couple times, just to put a few swirls in it but not turn it completely blue. I then dabbed this over the other half of the cake. I sprinkled a little more graham cracker at the shore, just so that there wouldn’t be an awkward stripe of nothing. I got some in the “water”. Floating clumps of sand. Now that’s scary.
I had a package of Swedish Fish in the fridge which I opened. These were multi-colored ones but there weren’t any blue ones of course. I figured my best bet would be to use the red ones. Red for danger, anger, roses, and strawberries. Yeah. That stuff. I placed each fish through out the tossing and turning blue frosting. Then, I apparently had a lapse of consciousness because when I came to my senses, I’d cut up a strawberry and left its little pieces all through out the water as well like grotesque blood pools. I turned my attention to the sand. I knew that I wanted to put some little cocktail umbrellas but I also wanted people to know that this was a shark specific cake. So I spent a painstaking amount of time delicately laying down chocolate chips to spell out “HAPPY SHARK WEEK”. I covered it in tin foil, transported it to the car with oven mits and took off for my parent’s house… an hour late.
When I got there, I took off the tin foil to make a horrifying discovery. Chocolate chips had melted and peeled off with the tin foil. I had to replace each one, then place the umbrellas, and finally get the photo I needed. At dessert time, the masterpiece was quickly sliced into and destroyed. It looks like a Great White just chowed down on the thing. But eating blue cake doesn’t happen very often and it was some pretty tasty cake.
This Friday on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be sharing with you some Shark Fin cupcakes and some Shark Week Cocktails including a very special chum jello shot! Stay tuned!