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Upscale Grocery Store Cake/Icing Recipe?

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I am the opposite of a baker. And yet for my father's birthday, I've decided I want to try to bake him a cake since he gushes about the memory of the cake and icing his mother used to make him. I figured if nothing else, the thought would appreciated.
When I asked him what kind he liked, he said "oh, just plain vanilla cake with chocolate icing or chocolate cake with vanilla icing." I probed a little further and ruled out cream cheese frostings or anything too creamy. It seems what he wants is basically a slightly nicer version of a grocery store cake.
Because I'm a baking novice, I have no idea how to replicate that! Most of the recipes for buttercream frostings seem more buttery than sugary and I think he's going for that sugar rush little kid icing.
Does anyone know any good recipes for this? I'm just not sure where to start!

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  1. I like the 1-2-3-4 yellow cake best. Here's Alice Waters' recipe.

    http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

    I use Hershey's cocoa buttercream or else chocolate whipped cream when I want a chocolate frosting. http://www.food.com/recipe/hersheys-o...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jay F

      I love how easy that looks. I can't believe I said I'd make a cake.

    2. I have always had much more luck making a moist chocolate cake than vanilla or yellow cake. Here is a link for a go to recipe that is my standard birthday cake, I made it as cupcakes on the week-end for a friends birthday and got rave reviews. I iced them with a cooked flour frosting which is not overly sweet so may not be what you are looking for. http://community.kingarthurflour.com/...
      Growing up my mom's standard icing was about a third of a cup of butter, lots of icing sugar and a splash of milk to get it to the right consistency. It was definitely a sugar bomb!

      1 Reply
      1. re: cheesymama

        Thanks, the cake looks good and that might be the icing he's looking for. I'll try it out!

      2. If he wants the kind of icing I liked as a kid, it might be this one. It has a bit of a crispy texture after it sets. It's a take on Wilton's Cake Decorating Icing from ages ago. My Mom used to decorate wedding cakes and this is the one she used. Butter is not going to give you that texture he might be looking for as it stays creamy and soft. Hope this helps.

        Decorator Icing

        2 boxes powdered sugar
        1/3 c Crisco
        1 tsp. cream of tartar
        1/2 tsp. salt
        2 c ice water

        Box and a half sugar, Crisco, cream of tartar, salt, 1/2 c ice water. Add more sugar and ice water as needed for consistency.

        5 Replies
        1. re: rouxqueen

          Thank you! I'll ask him about more about the consistency he remembers.

          1. re: rouxqueen

            Yep, he said it hardened a bit from what he remembers. So, do you just cream everything together? And could you add vanilla or cocoa powder to this for flavoring?

            1. re: hyacinthgirl

              Oh, my Mama always added plenty of vanilla. She loved vanilla! Yes, cream everything together. She used this icing to pipe decorations and for roses for the wedding cakes as well as birthday cakes, so sometimes she needed thicker consistency and other times she just needed to frost the cake, so the consistency would be a little thinner. I make it to the point of the 1/2 c ice water. Cream completely and then taste and feel the icing for the spreading consistency that you're going to want to frost the cake. I don't know about adding cocoa powder. You might check the Wilton site to see what they say about that.

            2. re: rouxqueen

              Plain crisco or the butter flavored?

              Or actually, could you use any shortening brand. (365 or spectrum)?

              1. re: ohmyyum

                I find that butter flavor Crisco has a different texture than regular, but you might could use it. I have a friend who owns a bakery and he uses Penguin brand shortening, but I've never seen that in the grocery store. So, although I've only used Crisco, I would imagine you could try it with another brand.

            3. This is an old-fashioned icing that is incredibly delicious. It's light and fluffy and perfect on a chocolate cake. It sounds weird, but believe me, you'll never look back!

              Flour Frosting

              1/4 cup flour
              1 cup sugar
              1 cup milk (or coconut milk for coconut cake)
              1 cup butter cut in cubes (My butter was cool and firm, but I could still leave an indent when I pressed my finger into it)
              1 tsp vanilla
              pinch of salt

              1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar, flour, salt together. Add the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally (I had to whisk constantly or else it started to stick and clump at the bottom) until the mixture has thickened into a paste and slightly bubbly at edges (You probably don't want it boiling because we all know how boiled milk tastes..)

              2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill slightly: then beat again until it is the proper consistency.

              3. Add the vanilla and continue mixing until combined.

              1 Reply
              1. re: roxlet

                While I love the cooked flour frosting if he wants a sugary sweet kid friendly frosting I don't think this will cut it. One of the reasons I like it so much is because it isn't overly sweet.