Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tie-Dye Starburst Skittle Birthday Cake

My 30th birthday was memorable, but not for the usual reasons that most people might think of.  My second niece had just been born 3 days before, so with my sister still in the hospital, there was no party, no bar-hopping downtown, no night out with friends.  Instead we had dessert and a few presents with our parents and her in-laws, all crowded into her hospital room.  The focus was kind of on the baby, though, which was okay.  A new life is more important than my 30 years.  But It didn’t really feel like my birthday, and I definitely didn’t feel 30.

The very next year I met Jamie, and lucky for me, he likes to celebrate birthdays as much as I do, and always comes up with weekend adventures to mark the occasion, like wine tasting in the vineyards in southwest Colorado.  Since birthdays are usually a bigger deal for kids, it’s nice to still get a special day every year as an adult.

This week, a friend turned 30, so to celebrate, a group of us all went to see Jon Lovitz at Comedy Works in Denver, followed by a party in the lounge next door.  Her husband commissioned me to make her birthday cake, asking only if I could do something with Starbursts and Skittles – her favorite candy.

At first I had no idea what I was going to do, but then thought that a few square cakes, stacked and frosted different candy colors, would resemble giant Starbursts.  To actually incorporate the flavor of the candy into the cake, I melted some of the candy with water, then boiled it down into a syrup.  After cooling and straining the syrup (there is fat in the candy which will float to the top and solidify after boiling and cooling it), I added the syrup to the frosting for color and flavor.

For more color, I dyed the cake batter 6 different colors for a tie-dye effect; this technique is all over the internet, so I can’t take credit for this idea.  In retrospect, I would have used a darker color than yellow for the middle color, since when you cut it, the middle will be the most prevalent color, with all the other colors showing as stripes around the edges.  The only photo I was able to get of the cake after it was cut was in the bar, and it wasn't a great photo, but you get the idea!

And other than a crazy lady in the bar who thought that that my offer of Would you like some cake? meant Go away because I think you’re trying to steal my boyfriend, and a guy obsessed with my expandable/collapsible cake carrier (I eventually had to tell him it wasn’t a toy and take it away from him after he opened and closed it at least 15 times), it was a really fun night.

Happy 30th Birthday, Tani!

Tie-Dye Starburst Skittle Birthday Cake
printable recipe

  • Assorted Starbursts and Skittles
  • 3 square cake pans for the cake as pictured here, one 9-inch pan, one 6-inch pan and one 4-inch pan – NOTE: You will probably not be able to use all the batter between these 3 pans, so have another extra pan handy to bake the rest of the cake batter for either a spare cake for yourself, or to crumble and make cake truffles.  And if you don’t have the right sized pans, just bake the cakes in the pans you have and cut the cakes to the right proportions, keeping in mind, though, that a cut edge is more difficult to frost since it’s more crumbly.
  • 2 white cake mixes, plus oil, eggs and water (I use whole milk, though, instead of water, or sour cream, and add vanilla extract) called for on the box
  • Gel Food Coloring
  • 6 cups Vanilla Buttercream

Starburst Frosting:
If you want to incorporate the candy into the frosting like I did, then you’ll need to do this step a day in advance.  Separate all the candy by color/flavor.  You’ll need to select 3 different colors (about 20 pieces of each color) to make your syrup.  Unwrap the candy and place each color in a separate saucepan.  Add water so the candy is covered by about an inch of water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then boil over medium low, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced, about 30 minutes.  Pour into heat-proof containers and cool on the kitchen counter overnight.

The next morning, you should see a layer of fat on top of the surface that separates from the syrup as it cools.  Scrape the fat solids off, and pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer to remove the rest of the solids.  The syrups are now ready to use.

For this cake, I made about 6 cups of vanilla buttercream, and whipped in the syrup in place of the milk.  I was able to add a lot of syrup, but just start with a little and keep adding it to achieve the flavor and color you want.  If you like, you can enhance the color with some more food coloring as well, if it’s not dark enough.  Plan on making about 3 cups of 1 color for the bottom layer, 2 cups of a second color for the middle layer and 1 cup of the 3rd color for the top layer.

If you don’t want to make the Starburst syrup, then you can make other flavors like Lemon, Lime and Raspberry, using the tips in my Buttercream post.

Tie-Dye Cake:
Making a tie-dye cake is really simple, and it’s an idea that’s been around for a while.  First, mix up your cake batter according to the instructions on the box.  I like to substitute milk or sour cream, and add vanilla, which greatly improves the flavor of boxed mixes.  Divide the batter between 6 bowls.

Tint each bowl of batter with a different color of food coloring.  Take one bowl of batter and spoon it into the center of the pans.  Take the second color and spoon it directly on top of the first; the batter you add on top will spread out the batter underneath, so there’s no need for you to try to spread it out.  Continue with all the colors, noting that the last color you add in the middle will be the most prevalent.

Bake the cakes and cool completely.

Level the cakes with a sharp knife or leveler.  Place the 9-inch cake on a 12-inch cake board.  Frost all over with one color of buttercream.  Place the 6-inch cake on top, at a diagonal.  Frost with the 2nd color of buttercream, being careful not to mix with the color on the bottom layer.  Repeat with the 4-inch cake on top.

Use any extra buttercream to pipe decorative edges on the cakes, then decorate with candy.

Yields 25-30 servings.

Recipe and Design from Curly Girl Kitchen