Here she is ... Miss America! We had two parties for Ailin both in the same weekend. The first was just for Yusuke's parents, so I decided to make a "practice cake" in preparation for the big "to do" that would take place the following day.
After 2 or 3 weeks of online coaching via email from Amy D., I felt confident enough to give it a try. Amy suggested making ganache for the frosting since Japanese people often complain about the sweetness of American frosting. We settled on ganache for the main topping and then typical sweet buttercream frosting for the decoration. In case you did not know (as I did not know also!), ganache is simply a mixture of heavy cream and chocolate, in this case, white chocolate. It is addicting...I must warn you of that before you try making it yourself!
I have no photos of the process of making this cake because our camera was MIA at the time, and thankfully, everyone was sleeping when I did the frosting!
I made 2 layers for this cake. The bottom layer in the oven and the top layer in the rice cooker to get that nice rounded effect. I don't have a shaped cake pan, and I wasn't sure I would be able to carve a nice shape myself. Making cakes in the rice cooker is easy. Just mix the ingredients as you normally would and pour the batter into the rice cooker pan. Put the rice cooker through 3 cycles. It varies depending on the rice cooker, so you'll have to test with a toothpick for doneness. My new rice cooker has a cake setting on it, but actually, our previous cooker did a better job steaming the cakes AND the shape of the pan was nicer.
Okay, this entry is not supposed to be about the cake I made. It is supposed to be about Ailin's birthday, so here we go.
My MIL agreed to cook the entire birthday dinner as long as we could have the party at her house, so we packaged up the cake with long skewer toothpicks and saran wrap and very carefully transported her over the MIL's house, along with the two kids, a few presents and the drinks.
MIL made an array of deep-fried foods, spaghetti, soup, salad & rice. Yes, I know. You probably didn't believe me before, but deep-fried food DOES exist in Japanese cuisine. And, why she made rice & spaghetti in one meal is a mystery to me, but this is not the first time, so I am over complaining about it.
As you can see, I am very happy and relieved that the cake turned out and that Ailin seems excited by it. Yes, she was excited and couldn't wait to get her hands on it, but once she blew out the candles, she lost interest and didn't eat much.
Her presents included things like a classic Mickey Mouse DVD set from MIL, some doll clothes from Grandma & Grandpa (my parents), a zoo lego set & a winter coat from us. Grandma and Grandpa also gave her a new doll, but she didn't open that until the next day.
After arriving home from the party & putting the kids to bed, I set to work frosting the 2nd cake. Yusuke, who was watching TV during that time, also watched the decorating process from afar. He seemed impressed, to say the least.
Birthday cakes are to Western moms what obentos are to Japanese moms. We take this art seriously, don't we? (Or we custom order it.) Japanese moms make these these works of art, but actually they are boxed lunches complete with character faces, animal shapes, etc. I have to make these obentos once a month for daycare, but I definitely don't put as much effort into them. Certainly not months planning and weeks of studying before the big day!