Sometimes I feel sorry for the Peep. I feel like it's the one Easter candy people love to hate. I was one of those people who hated on the Peep until a while ago after I had actually tried one. It's marshmallow, people. That's all. It just happens to be covered in sugar and have no taste. Three years ago I was with my nephew at the Target in downtown Minneapolis. It was a few weeks before Easter and we were cruising the candy isle because that is apparently what we like to do together. Tommy, my then 8 year old nephew, spotted an entire section dedicated to Peeps and in that section was every color Peep you could imagine. So, naturally, we bought them all. In the end we probably ended up with all of the colors in the rainbow and they all ended up tasting the exact same. I think he was a little bummed to find out that they weren't different flavors, just chemically colored different. I love that kid. When I see Peeps hitting the candy isle every spring I think of Tommy.....and my mother.
My mother is another Peep-eater. Four Easters ago I watched her put one in the microwave first before she ate it. What?? She said it tasted better. First, how can it taste any different? Second, why would someone ever try that out to begin with? But, I guess I shouldn't ask such silly questions. As kids we received Easter baskets from the Easter Bunny every year until we moved out of the house. In those baskets would be a sleeve of Peeps. None of us would ever end up eating them so my mother would have a stack of Peeps to herself by the end of the day. Funny how things work out that way.
I saw this cake in the new issue of Food Network Magazine and I thought to myself, 'who in the hell would make this?', and that's when I decided that I would be the one. It made me laugh and think of good memories I've had with Peeps, so that's why I ended up wanting to make it. Just because it made me smile. Hope it does the same for you. Happy Easter!
Giant Peep Cake
Adapted from Food Network Kitchen
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
*Food Network used boxed cake mixes. I did not. I like to do things the hard way.
**Note: you have to make two recipes of this cake to complete the peep cake.
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
Cake Baking Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch cake pan plus a 1-quart and 2 1/2-quart ovenproof bowl. Make both cake mixes; divide the batter among the pan and bowls.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. (sifting rocks!) In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in buttermilk until just combined on low speed. Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is mixed in. Don't over mix.
Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes for the pan and small bowl, and about 50 minutes for the large bowl. Let the cakes cool 15 minutes in the pan and bowls, then unmold onto racks to cool completely.
Ingredients for Frosting and Decorations:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon yellow food coloring
Yellow sanding sugar, for coating
black piping frosting
Directions for building the cake:
Trim the flat sides of the bowl cakes with a serrated knife to make level. They may have gotten a little uneven on top while baking. You want them flat so it's easy to stack. Using a chef's knife, cut the 4 corners off the rectangular cake and set aside three of the cake triangles for the tail and beak.
Put the flat cake on a cake board or platter and use toothpicks to attach two cake triangles to a short end for the tail. Position the large bowl cake on the flat cake as shown, then top with the small bowl cake; insert a skewer through the cakes to secure. Trim another cake triangle to make a beak; attach to the small bowl cake with toothpicks.
Make the frosting:
Heat the sugar with the cream of tartar, salt and 2/3 cup water in a saucepan, stirring, until dissolved. Beat the egg whites with a mixer until frothy. Slowly, seriously slowly, beat in the hot sugar mixture, then increase the mixer speed and beat until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts and the food coloring.
Cover the cake with a thick layer of the yellow frosting, using the frosting to sculpt a rounded chick shape. This frosting actually works really great for shaping. With the edge of an offset spatula, use some frosting to extend the beak and tail. Coat the cake with yellow sanding sugar. Refrigerate, uncovered, 15 minutes. Draw circles/ovals for the eyes with black frosting. Remove the skewer and toothpicks as you cut the cake.