Kosher Birthday Cake - Help!!!
My oldest friend's future son-in-law has asked me to bake a birthday cake for her 60th birthday, to be presented at his wedding to her daughter. Although I've made a few baked desserts that were very successful, I tried to explain that I'm basically a cook and that baking is not my strong suit. I mean, I use cake mixes and doctor them up - my biggest success has always been the Paula Deen "Cool & Creamy" Coconut Cake. My friend is handling the catering at the wedding, but her family want to surprise her with the cake, so they don't want it to come through the caterers. "It's really only symbolic - we'll wheel it out after we cut the wedding cake. She'll blow out the candles, they'll take it away, cut it up and have it on the buffet, along with the wedding cake." Oh, well, okay, I'm figuring - if it's just a symbol, I'll do a Red Velvet cake (from a mix) with cream cheese frosting (from a can). But no, the kicker is, he tells me, that it has to be kosher. And it's a meat meal, so no dairy. (I have no idea what sort of wedding cake they're having, with that restriction.) So I was thinking about maybe trying the approximate the cream cheese frosting using the tofu cream cheese product and mixing it with powdered sugar.
Does anybody have any good ideas for this cake-mix-reliant baker? I have 5 months to practice and get it right.
First of all, talk to the caterer. If it's a strictly kosher event, they're almost certainly not going to allow outside, homemade food, even if your kitchen were strictly kosher, which it sounds like it's not.
If they'll permit you to bring in outside, homemade food, then you've got a bunch of options. Most of the Duncan Hines mixes became non-dairy again a couple of months ago, to great excitement within the Orthodox community, which was pretty upset when they went dairy a few years back. (Nearly all the baking in most kosher-observant homes is kept non-dairy, because it's generally served after formal meals, which are almost invariably meat-based. Personally, I don't have any dairy baking pans, mixers, etc. in my kitchen as I bake dairy only once every few years, so it's not worth it.) You can make most cake recipes from scratch non-dairy, too; just replace the butter with margarine, and the milk with soy milk or slightly diluted non-dairy creamer. (I choose soy milk, personally, but if you want to use Rich's Whip, or something like that, for each cup of milk called for in the recipe, use 3/4 cup Rich's Whip and 1/4 cup water.) If it calls for heavy cream, however, you're out of luck - I haven't found a good replacement for that. I'd skip the cream cheese frosting as well, as I'm not a big fan of the soy-based, non-dairy ones, but you can experiment with it if you like.
Many cake mixes aren't much simpler than making the cake from scratch, certainly if you're used to fancying them up. All a cake mix does is premeasure the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, etc. for you, and if you spend five minutes, you can do it all yourself. I've been making cakes from scratch since I was six, as have my siblings, although I needed to get help with the oven part :) (My mother has large block-print recipe cards in her file left over from when we were too young to read her normal script, but were baking entirely on our own until the oven.)
In terms of their official wedding cake, most of the kosher weddings I've been to don't have them. (Mine didn't, this past summer.) Not because you can't make them non-dairy (as I've said above, nearly all the baking I've done my entire life was non-dairy), but because they're not particularly customary. We had little molten chocolate cakes instead, and everybody seemed happy :)
I would repost on the Kosher board BUT. . .to me (keep in mind I am not Jewish) it seems like this is impossible. If they have kosher caterers, then the food is prepared in a kosher kitchen, and I'm guessing yours will not be. Depending on how strictly they follow kosher laws, that might be a big problem. (Perhaps you can get around it by wrapping the cake in foil, but that might mess up your presentation.)
My advice? You're not a baker. Tell them you will arrange for the cake to meet their dietary needs, call the caterer and explain the situation. Tell them you will pay for the cake separately, and they must keep it secret from your friend. I'm sure they have dealt with situations like this before -- this way you know the cake will be prepared properly.
Or just present her with flowers!! lol Maybe the symbolism of blowing out candles sounds good now, but in time the logistics might make something else more appropriate.
I was assuming your friends no what they're doing in asking you to bake the cake, so I'll assume it's not a hardcore kosher thing (or that you do keep kosher yourself.)
Imitating one of those shortening laden travesties of a layer cake you find at so many parve bakeries would be an option, but not a good one IMO. (If a mix is OK, you could use oil in the cake, but the frosting would still be an issue and shortening-based frostings are really gross IMO, though very common.)
I'm not much of a baker either, but maybe an angel food cake? Or a nut torte of some sort? Both can be made "properly" and be parve.
I have a very EASY parve chocolate cake -- the gist of it is on the back of the herseys cocoa... but use chocolate soy milk instead of milk or buttermilk... any receipie that uses milk can be swapped for soy or chocolate soy. Frosting is definately an issue...but i made a parve ganache type frosting with powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla and margarine that is pretty good. (I did have a cheese-cake for a wedding cake...but my wedding dinner was dairy...Fish and pasta!)
But if the bride and groom. caterer, etc. are meticulous about the kosher status...the last few peeople are right -- either make it in a strictly kosher facility (synagogue kitchen/kosher home) or don't make it at all. If the caterer is using kosher dishes, you'll be in trouble!
I've also been making the cake on the back of the Hershey's box for years, first with coffee rich, then with soy milk. I can have it in the oven ten minutes after I decide to make it - it's that easy. It's also good if you use orange juice, actually, either in place of all of the milk or 50/50. On the rare occasions that I make frosting for it, I make a very, very chocolate-y chocolate frosting, and it's worth splurging on good cocoa for it, like Droste's, as that's where all the flavor is coming from.
As someone else suggested, I think the best approach is to pay for a kosher cake to be made either from the caterer or from a bakery. Even if the family is relaxed about how they keep kosher, odds are many guests there will not be. A non-kosher cake (and your cake will not be kosher) doesn't have a place at a wedding with kosher catering. It is just asking for offense among the guests and could cause hurt feelings to you, to the guests, to the host...