I adore making birthday cakes. They are quite possibly my favorite thing to bake. Probably because they are so festive and fun and made to be everything that one person wants. When you make a birthday cake you should have only the birthday person in mind. If the birthday girl wants something chocolate, everyone's eating something chocolate. If the birthday boy wants an ice cream cake, everybody's going to have to be happy with an ice cream cake. Even if the birthday person would rather have a stack of pancakes with candles in it... then pancakes it is. I love that birthday cakes are personal, it makes them so much more special :)
Of course birthday cakes have been added to my ever growing list of things that are a thousand times better homemade so the Dairy Queen ice cream cakes that were once my birthday treat of choice have been replaced by my own sugar laden creations. I think this is the third year (maybe?) that I've made my own birthday cake, and being the perfectionist I am... I'd have it no other way ;) My stipulations for my own birthday cakes were usually
-It must contain chocolate
-It should probably have peanut butter in it
-It must primarily be chocolate
-It should be rich
-It must have large amounts of chocolate in it
This year, however, I kind of broke my pattern. No peanut butter. Not super rich. Only a little chocolate. But damn was it good. I'm not much of one for fruity cakes, but when I saw the pictures that went with this recipe I was sold. THAT was going to be my birthday cake.
I toyed with a number of options before picking this cake (such as german chocolate cheesecake, cookies and cream cheesecake, or even a classic coconut cake) and was still in deep debate when a couple of friends mentioned a cake that had blown their minds. Since they claimed it was the best thing they'd ever tasted I decided I had to go on a recipe hunt. Admittedly, I never found the cake they described (though I'm planning on attempting my own "mimic" in the near future), but I was quickly distracted by a similar idea that seemed promising.
Banana Split Cake. Let your mind wrap around that one for a moment. I picture a classic banana split having bananas (of course), vanilla ice cream, strawberry ice cream, chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, maybe strawberry sauce, possibly pineapple sauce, loads of whipped cream, and of course a big red cherry on top. Banana splits are a bunch of different flavors going on all at the same time and translating this into a cake sounds like a feat so, naturally, I had to do it. I started sifting through recipes and found one that seemed perfect.
I am a sucker for presentation and this cake is stunning. At least I think so ;) Four layers of banana and pineapple laced cake cushioned by generous amounts of homemade whipped cream, strawberries, and chocolate ganache topped with yet more whipped cream, drizzled with chocolate, dusted with sprinkles and dotted with bright red maraschino cherries... this cake was practically begging to be made.
The recipe is at http://www.howtoeatacupcake.net/2009/08/banana-split-birthday-cake-version-20.html. The recipe calls for three 8" cake pans... though the picture has two layers that were cut in half to make four. How that works out I don't really know, I only have 9" inch cake pans so I did the cut two layers in half route and felt pretty good about it.
I feel like I did over-bake the cake a little bit, it could have been a bit more moist and would recommend watching the cake closely after about 25 minutes ( I did 30 and I wish I would've done just a few minutes less). Also, I ran out of whipped cream :/ I had nearly covered the whole cake when I realized I was short on frosting. And no was I not going to pipe dollops around the edges.
So I made an extra 1/3 sized batch of whipped cream, though I think if you are careful about not putting too much between the cake layers you should be fine with what the recipe calls for. I also fudged the fruit a little bit... I added a little more than 2 cups of diced bananas (and still wished the cake would've had a stronger banana flavor!) and sweetened my strawberries a bit. I used probably 2 cups of sliced strawberries in all, to which I added about a tablespoon of sugar and let sit for about half an hour before using.
Great choice, especially since strawberries weren't in season. Final change, I had trouble with my chocolate ganache being thin enough to drizzle, so I dolloped it in the layers and used Hershey's chocolate syrup to make the top look pretty :D Kind of a cheat, but it worked!
Best of baking luck, this really isn't as difficult as it looks! Considering taste it wasn't my favorite cake, but it is definitely one of the best looking ones I have ever turned out. It was an excellent choice for a birthday cake and is a recipe I'm sure I'll use again :D