My entire extended family is very much into gross out humor. Two years ago, I baked a kitty litter cake for my little cousin’s birthday and since then, she and I have been stepping up our game with each subsequent birthday. Last year was a chocolate fudge cake with homemade hot pink raspberry icing- pretty, but not particularly clever. Imagine my pride when this year, a full two months before her 9th birthday, she sidled up to me a brunch and said, “Emily, I know what kind of a birthday cake I want this year- a dog poop cake!” As we hashed out the details, we decided the cake should be a scene of a dog park, complete with grass, play areas, and defecating dogs.
Don’t worry, cakes are not going to become a regular feature on this blog. Although my obsessive compulsive tendencies lend themselves fairly well to the precision of baking, I’m much more into rustic desserts. In fact, I only create a ‘celebration cake’ a few times a year. But thanks to the Baking & Pastry Boot Camp my mom and I took last fall, I have acquired some skills that allow me to turn out a cake that is both delicious and humorous.
I knew I wanted to use coconut, dyed green, for the park’s grass, so I opted for the Bon Appetit coconut cake recipe below. Moist and coconut-y without being overly sweet, this cake was a big hit with the adults present. Unadorned, it would be a perfect sophisticated dessert for a wedding shower- perhaps with the original white icing in lieu of “grass” and “mulch”.
Josie’s Dog Park 9th Birthday Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
1 bag sweetened shredded coconut
5-6 plastic dog figurines, such as these
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles, and butter and flour the sides and paper. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl to blend. In a stand mixer, beat sugar, butter and sweetened cream of coconut on medium-high, until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract. Reduce speed and beat in dry ingredients, and then buttermilk, just until combined.
Transfer the batter to a large bowl. Wash and dry your mixing bowl and whisk attachment very thoroughly. In the scrupulously clean bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt just until stiff. Fold beaten egg whites into batter.
Pour cake batter into cake pans (I like to use a scale to ensure each pan contains an equal amount of batter). Bake for 45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. When cool to the touch, loosen cakes with a sharp knife and turn out onto racks to finish cooling.
To create your dog park:
Using a serrated knife, level off the tops of both cakes to make each layer as even as possible. If your cakes have baked evenly, this may not be necessary. Invert one cake, top side down, onto a cake plate. Tuck strips of wax paper or parchment paper underneath the sides of the cake to protect the plate from any frosting mishaps. Spread a generous amount of Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting over the bottom layer, and sprinkle with shredded coconut. Invert the second layer, top side down, on top of the first. Using a light touch, spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake, and set aside to dry.
Meanwhile, divide your remaining frosting into smaller bowls to tint with food coloring, reserving some plain frosting as backup. The bulk of the frosting will be green “grass”, with smaller amounts of brown “mulch” and blue “water”. Once you are satisfied with the colors, transfer the brown and blue frosting to small individual squeeze bottles. Cheap ketchup/mustard squeeze bottles from the dollar store work well for this. To dye the coconut, take 1/4 cup and mix with a few drops of brown food coloring in a small bowl. Empty the remaining coconut into a Ziploc bag, add a few drops of green food coloring, and toss to combine until you reach a shade of grass.
With your frosting and coconut fully prepped, you are ready to decorate. Using the green frosting, spread a generous layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle the green coconut over cake, gently pressing into sides to adhere. If you are simply making a lovely, classic coconut cake, skip ahead to the last paragraph. Otherwise, congratulations, you have a lawn for your dogs to frolic upon. Using your squeeze bottle of brown frosting, outline a mulched play area over the coconut and fill in with frosting. Very carefully, add brown coconut on top, pressing the coconut into the frosting. Outline the mulched area with your squeeze bottle a second time to neaten the edges. With the squeeze bottle of blue frosting, outline and fill in a pond.
To make a cake that is “tasteful”, place your plastic dog figurines around the park and skip ahead to the last paragraph. To make a cake that will mesmerize a room full of children and delight the adults in the crowd, open your bag of Tootsie Rolls. Warm each Tootsie Roll in your hands to make it shiny and pliable, sculpting it into various shapes of “dog poop” to match the plastic dogs you have selected. This is an excellent task for the birthday girl or boy. For a special touch, roll the Tootsie Rolls into thin tubes and spell out the birthday kid’s name.
Remove your wax/parchment paper strips and carefully wipe any stray frosting and coconut from the plate. The Dog Park Birthday Cake/Coconut Cake can be made one day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature 2 hours before serving.
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
From Bon Appetit
2 8oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (or the remainder of the can from the cake)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese on medium-high until fluffy. Add the butter and beat until combined. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended.