When I was a kid, my mom would make all sorts of cakes for me.
I don’t remember most of them, because I was three, but when I asked her, she said she made cakes shaped like bears to bats to butterflies, for both me and my sister. The cakes I have the strongest memories of, though, are the cat cakes.
When I learned about this project, I went to talk to my mom about what she thought would be a good topic for it, since a lot of my food-related memories are tied to her. We talked about a lot of the things we eat in our family, some of the more memorable traditions, our favourite foods and the like. Then, I brought up the cat cakes. Up until this conversation, I thought that my mom had used cake tins for them, but as I was talking to her, she told me that she cut most of them herself. That little thing completely reframed all my memories around these cakes. Not only did she bake and decorate them herself, she also cut the shapes and assembled them.
It’s strange- those cakes seemed so elaborate when I was a kid, I must have just assumed that they came from a specially shaped pan. It didn’t even cross my mind that my mom might have made them herself. Now that I know better, it makes me smile to think of all those years of animal cakes. They just feel that much more personal, you know?
My mom had said it like it was an insignificant thing, which I guess it is in the grand scheme of things, but I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized it in the fifteen years she’s been making me cakes.
These days, I don’t have many cat-shaped cakes for my birthdays. Consequence of getting older, I guess. But maybe for her birthday this year, I’ll make one for her.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
4oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
Preheat your oven to 350°F. and flour bottom and sides of a 13x9-inch pan, two 9-inch round cake pans, or three 8-inch round cake pans. In a large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).
Bake rectangular cakes for 40 to 45 minutes and round cakes 30 to 35 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Cool rectangular cakes in the pan on a cooling rack. Cool round cakes for 10 minutes; then remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely.
3 cups powdered/icing sugar
⅓ cup butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk
In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with a spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make the frosting smooth and spreadable. If the frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If the frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar. Frosts a 13x9-inch cake generously, or fills and frosts an 8-or 9-inch two-layer cake.