So here’s the deal: my friends and I are outrageous, unrepentant nerds. Every couple of years, we host The Ultimate TV Marathon, which consists of twelve hours (the four of us—myself, Matt, Erin and Mandy—are allowed three hours each) of television. We each select a show that we’d like to promote to the non-believers in the group, choose a few of the best episodes, create elaborately themed food and cocktails, and conceive a drinking game for that show. It’s a lot of TV. It’s a lot of food. It’s a lot of booze. And it’s a lot of fun. But mostly, it’s a lot of work.
This year, I chose to demonstrate the majesty of Supernatural. And I thought: what better way to capture the manly, muscled essence of that show than to bake a cake shaped like Dean Winchester’s bitchin’ 1967 Chevy Impala? For those of you who don’t watch Supernatural, the Impala is like its own character on the show. It’s the only real home for the roaming Winchester brothers, and it lends itself very well to car porn. She’s a hot automobile, is what I’m saying.
Now if you don’t watch Supernatural and have no interest in bitchin’ cars, don’t go anywhere. This is also just a super tasty cake that you can make in regular cake-shapes. So let’s hop to, shall we?
First things first! The most critical ingredients in any baking endeavor: beer and tunes. I opted for Matt’s impeccably balanced IPA and ELO’s A New World Record. I also opted to have Matt and Mandy assist me in the kitchen, but you could totally manage this business by yourself if you’re alone and friendless.
Second things second: pre-heat your oven to 350°F.
This pro tip is actually old news, but it bears repeating. Clean as you go! Fill a sink with hot soapy water and place your dishes and utensils in there as you finish with them. You’ll thank me at the end of a marathon baking sesh when you only have a few minutes of cleaning to do.
Also old news, also bears repeating. Go with the Food Network Method and place your ingredients in little bowls in the order you will use them, in case you’re forgetful and/or drunk. I once baked cookies and forgot the oil—incidentally, because I was caught up in the S3 finale of Supernatural. I’ve used the Food Network Method ever since.
I’ve never made a car cake before, so I partook of some intensive research. My four minutes on Google informed me that pound cake is the best cake to shape into stuff, because it’s firm and sturdy, but still tastes light and fluffy. I decided on Paula Deen’s pound cake recipe, because she’s a southern grandma and southern grandmas know their pound cakes.
Vanilla Pound Cake Ingredients:
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour (leveled)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream your butter and shortening together in the mixer, until it looks like this. Add the sugar a little at a time, followed by the eggs, one at a time. Beat a little after each egg to fully incorporate it.
Combine the remaining dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder) in a bowl and add them to the mixer, beating in a little at a time, alternating with small portions of your milk. Miss Paula says you should start this alternating process with flour and end with flour, but I honestly cannot see how that would make the slightest difference. However, this is her recipe, so we shall defer to the expertise of the southern grandma.
As you beat in ingredients, take a few moments to periodically scrape the bowl with a spatula to make sure all the stuff on the sides is getting incorporated.
Add your vanilla, scrape the bowl again and whip it once more for good measure. Your dough should smell like heaven and look like this.
Butter or spray a standard loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5), then sprinkle with flour.
Dust the flour all over the pan and hit it on its sides to get it evenly coated on all sides. This will keep the cake from sticking to the pan.
Pour the batter smoothly into the loaf pan.
Pop it in the oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. If you’re going to turn this cake into a car, you can probably let it bake for 1 hour 45. The top will get a little crisp, but we’re shaving that part off anyway, and the bottom needs to be a little firmer than the usual cake. Stick a toothpick in the center; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.
For car cake bakers only: after your cake is baked and cooled, put it in the freezer for a couple of hours for easier shaping.
If you just want to make a normal cake, skip ahead to the frosting. For the rest of you, let’s turn this baby into an Impala!
I printed out a picture of the Impala to use as a guide. I recommend it; it was helpful. Cut it out and hold it up next to your cake. Use an electric knife if you have one and get to shaving! This part was pretty much all Matt, I should add. He’s a wizard with an electric knife.
Start by shaving the cake into a vague car shape. It’s easiest if you take little pieces of cake that we like to call cake brisket, which sounds so tasty I can’t even handle it.
Just keep shaving—a little at a time; it’s much better to shave off too little than too much—until you’re happy with the shape.
After your cake is in a basic Impala shape, put it in the fridge and prepare your frosting. Also, don’t throw away those cake shavings! You can make trifle out of them, or just eat them out of a baggie like I did.
Even though Dean’s baby is true black, black frosting is gross, you guys. It requires a crazy amount of food coloring and I am simply not okay with that. But this Hershey’s extra dark chocolate frosting is pretty close, and I urge you all to consider any feasible alternative to black food coloring. Or, god forbid, dark blue.
Extra Dark Chocolate Frosting Ingredients
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa
3 cups confectioner’s (or powdered) sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix the cocoa into the melted butter, then alternately add sugar and milk, beating as you go until it reaches spreading consistency. You can add a little extra milk if necessary. Mix in your vanilla last.
Once your frosting is the above color but a smoother consistency that I forgot to photograph, you’re ready to frost your cake.
Start with a crumb layer to keep those pesky crumbs out of your finished product. Drop some dollops of frosting on the cake and spread it around thinly, not bothering to make it look fancy and not worrying about crumbs.
After it’s spread evenly over the cake, put the cake in the fridge or freezer until the frosting is hard, and then start over with your top, fancy layer of frosting. Smooth on another layer of frosting, making it appear as seamless as possible. We could have used fondant, the smoothest frosting available, but fondant is nasty, and unlike those showy Ace of Cakes cakes, I wanted this cake to taste delicious and look okay, rather than the other way around.
After you’ve smoothed on the frosting, it’s time for the deets. I used chocolate covered pretzel circles filled in with white icing for the wheels. Since the white icing is sparsely used, I just bought a tube of easy-decorating frosting rather than making my own.
Refer to your picture of the Impala to get the details right. Pipe the frosting slowly, drawing windshields, windows, headlights and any decorative details.
If you mess up, don’t despair! You can always start over. If your piping droops, pick it off with a toothpick. If you royally screw up beyond a toothpick’s ability to repair, just scrape it all off and use the extra frosting (the recipe makes more than enough) to create a clean slate.
I used a toothpick as an antennae so the boys could be sure to pick up plenty of Zeppelin and Cream from the airwaves.
I also cut the fellas out of my Impala template and stuck them to the frosting, because it’s not a Supernatural Impala without Sammy and Dean brooding gorgeously in the front seat. Hello, boys.
She looks fairly bitchin’, no? So how does she taste? Delicious! The best part of this cake is that it’s not too sweet. The pound cake is light and subtle in flavor, and the frosting is so dark that the sweetness is barely perceptible. The frosting would almost be bitter without the delicate contrast of the cake sweetening it up.
Ack! Sorry for hurting your baby, Dean.
But she’s oh so tasty.
Wait—what’s this? A bonus feature?!
White Rabbit’s Foot Ingredients
1.5 oz Apple Jack apple brandy
1/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
3/4 oz maple syrup
Shake with ice, then add 3 oz cold Barefoot Bubbly sparkling white wine. (get it? Foot? White? Rabbit? oh, nevermind.)
The result is crisp, tart, sophisticated and refreshing. Drink up! And tune in for next month’s installment of Be A Badass Baker. We’re making homemade buttermilk biscuits into a veritable buffet of yummy breakfast sandwiches.
[all photos by Mandy Jeronimus]