Have you ever played Portal? Or perhaps Portal 2, which just came out? Then you might be familiar with this cake and the statement “the cake is a lie.”
I took a break from All Cakes Considered at my sister’s request. Last Friday, the 13th, was her Andy’s (of An Endless Sporatic) birthday. And for his birthday, Andy wanted the Portal cake. Amanda asked for my help on this one and the geek in me couldn’t say no.
I’ve never played Portal. I imagine most of you are somewhat familiar with it, but just in case you’re not, here’s what I got from wikipedia: it’s a single-player video game in which you solve puzzles. Teleportation is involved. In return for solving puzzles, GLaDOS (an AI) promises to give you cake. Eventually, I guess, things go wrong- GLaDOS turns on you and you wander around trying to survive. And you find “the cake is a lie” scrawled on the wall. I think this is basically saying that your goal or what you’ve been promised isn’t real.
I guess someone was wandering around and found a TV screen in some level that contained a recipe for a cake. The full text of the recipe can be found here, and contains some fantastic ingredients such as: fish shaped dirt, sediment shaped sediment, 12 medium geosynthetic membranes, an entry called ‘how to kill someone with your bare hands’, all-purpose rhubarb, grated orange rhubarb, and rhubarb (on fire).
I wish I could list the entire thing, but that’d just make this entry super long. The recipe that I actually used (which is a shortened, more realistic version) can be found here.
Um, is it just me, or does this look like Black Forest Cake? It isn’t black forest cake- the recipe is different. But as wikipedia says of them, “the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings.” Which sounds a lot like the cake in that picture. Google “black forest cake” and look at the images- look familiar? Maybe someone read the recipe wrong. Or maybe the programmer didn’t know what kind of cake it was. Or maybe this is just another cake dressing up as Black Forest Cake. I am not a big fan of cherries in my chocolate cake, so I stuck to the recipe.
It was a simple enough recipe to follow. But man, I am not going to lie, it is not healthy. Don’t believe me? Just look at the nutritional information on that recipe (right side of the page, 1/3 of the way down). I’m not one to shy away from unhealthy recipes, and I hate substituting for lower-calorie options because it messes with the chemistry. Have you ever had something baked with the splenda sugar? That stuff just isn’t good 99% of the time (it does work well with my cherry pie recipe, though). So I skipped it and made this the with no low-fat substitutions.
Back to the cake: I don’t think I’ve encountered a recipe that has you use oil and butter. I mixed those two with water and vanilla extract before adding the dry ingredients, and it was a new method for me. It was definitely an ‘ewww’ moment, though.
I’m always nervous about making layer cakes. They always come out with funky domed tops, which makes layering difficult, and I dont like cutting off the top to make it even. I once read about these magic strips that you use to keep cakes level, so I did some research. I found Wilton’s Bake Even Strips– dampen, wrap around the pan, and voilà! Flat cakes. I guess the dampness keeps the edges cool, which prevents the doming.
There’s no way I was going to go out and buy those, though, when I saw that you can make them yourself at home. All I did was take a big rag t-shirt and cut strips of fabric. I got them wet, wrung them out, and wrapped one strip around each pan. No need to spend the $$. And besides, I read in some reviews that the Wilton strips smell weird in the oven.
The cakes came out perfectly- no domed tops! I was pretty excited about that one. I put them out on my new cooling racks (I finally got some!) and hung out with my sister and her friend Matt as they made a “dirt cake.”
Decorating this cake was the time consuming part. It’s actually not that difficult, but there are a few things I would do differently:
1. For the coconut-pecan frosting (who knew that existed? I certainly didn’t): I’d refrigerate this before using it. It was too loose and fluid; it kept spilling out of the middle, making it hard to frost the sides.
2. The chocolate frosting (vanilla + cocoa powder) was very stiff. I wish I had gotten it out of the fridge earlier and let it warm up more. But even when it got to room temperature it was stiff- maybe if I’d added water to it.
3. If I had more patience, I would have tried to make the chocolate chips that you press into the frosting a bit more organized. Or make it prettier somehow. I just kind of pressed them into the cake and hoped they looked ok.
4. Actually, I think if I gave this another go I might use chocolate shavings instead of chocolate chips- like in the Black Forest cake.
5. The perfectionist in me wishes I’d done those blobs of white frosting on top better. As in, I wish they’d been more evenly spaced. They were fine but not quite right.
I heard from my sister that everyone enjoyed the cake. I made her take pictures to show me how it looked when sliced. Andy sent some pictures over and it seemed like he liked it!
This whole thing reminded me of my old roommates. Senior year of college I lived in a house with 6 guys. They were wonderful roommates and I miss them and that house! They were very good at video games- I used to hang out in our living room, reading or relaxing, while someone played their way through games. Bio Shock is so creepy! I joined in for a few games like Soul Calibur IV and Rock Band, but I have never been good at first-person games. No one ever played Portal while we were living there (that I saw), but I definitely missed the guys while I prepared the cake. Ben, David, Derek, Doug, Kurt and Matt: I miss and love you all!
Meanwhile, happy birthday Andy! I hope you enjoyed your cake and had a wonderful birthday.