Growing up, my mom made wedding and celebration cakes as a side business. This meant that us kids would often smell fresh cake baking and watch her beautifully frost cakes, knowing that we weren’t allowed to eat any of it. Now, before you think my mom is super cruel, she would sometimes let us lick the bowls clean. But still! It was torture for a kid that loved cake (I’m still a kid that loves cake).
But enough about me. If you’re a Simpsons fan and I tell you that this Cooking The Simpsons comes from season five’s “Lady Bouvier’s Lover,” then I’m obviously going to make the “Happy Birthday Magaggie” cake, right? Wrong! Ha-ha! (Nelson voice)
More on that later. It’s Maggie’s 1st birthday party and the whole gang is there. Grandpa Simpson, Patty and Selma, their mother Jacqueline and the usual Simpsons. Marge has made a lovely cake, but points out to Homer that he didn’t do the best job decorating it. Candy letters spell out “HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAGAGGIE” on top, and when Homer realizes what’s wrong he eats the extra A and G. And then eats some more letters. “Hey hey hey stop it! I made a special cake for you to ruin, it’s right over there!” cries Marge, and points to a whole other layer cake, iced and covered in random letters. It’s amazing. I wish my mom had made me a cake to ruin.
The rest of the episode revolves around Marge realizing how lonely her mother and Abe are and subsequently trying to set them up. Abe falls hard for Jacqueline, but is sidelined by fancypants Charles Montgomery Burns who sweeps Lady Bouvier off her feet. It ends with Abe interrupting Monty and Jacqueline’s wedding a la The Graduate and they catch the senior citizen bus together. In between Bart buys an animation cell and gets punched in the face a few times. This episode is a little all over the place, but has some hilarious jokes in it, including but not limited to the Simpson kids singing the Armour Hot Dog jingle, “Each Matlock could be our last!,” and Marge trying to shelter her mom from over-zealous Abe: “Uh, I love ya, Mom! I love ya I love ya I love ya I love ya. I love ya, Mom. Gotta go!”
I’m starting to use this article series as a way to eat/drink my feelings, and this recipe is no exception. I mean, I made a layer cake and it’s not anyone I know’s birthday (other than Magaggie). And you should do the same! This is a special cake just for us to ruin. It doesn’t need to be a special occasion to ruin something—a Thursday will do.
For my ruin cake (dedicated to my childhood self), I made a homemade Funfetti® cake. It’s a basic homemade vanilla cake recipe with sprinkles mixed in and a vanilla swiss buttercream. I planned to make a classic 2 or 3 layer cake, and then my candy letters arrived in the mail. They looked so big on the computer screen but are, in fact, tiny tiny. Ridiculously small. So I adjusted and make a two-layer cake that is just 6 inches. It will still feed eight people plus a few cupcakes, but the recipe below will work for the standard two 9-inch layers as well. I’ll leave it up to you depending on what cake pans you own and what kind of letters you end up with. You could always use gummy letters, or even cut your own out of fondant using stencils or cutters. It’s your ruin cake, make it how you want it. And then ruin it.
For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
2+ tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
Preheat oven to 375. Prepare 2 6-inch cake pans and four spaces in a muffin pan with cupcake liners OR prepare two 9-inch cake pans.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each. Add vanilla and mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the baking powder, salt and flour.
Add ½ of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Add the milk and mix. Add the last ½ of the flour and mix until batter is smooth. Stir in the sprinkles.
Distribute the batter equally between the pans. If you are making 6-inch cakes, you’ll have enough leftover for about four cupcakes.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Start checking the cupcakes and cakes at 15 minutes and do not overbake. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
For the frosting:
½ cup egg whites (probably 4 eggs)*
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
1 pinch salt
Colorful sugar letters for decorating
Add egg whites and sugar to a heatproof bowl. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Check this by rubbing the mixture between your fingers to see if it feels grainy. When it doesn’t it’s done!
Remove from heat and beat in vanilla. Add butter one cube at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition. Add salt and continue to mix. The mixture will do weird stuff—be liquidy for too long, look like it’s separating. And finally it will just become frosting. Don’t lose hope.
Decorate! Place one cooled layer on a platter and top with buttercream. Add second layer and frost the top and sides. Stick sugar letters on in a totally random fashion. Ruin it!
*If you’re worried about undercooked eggs, used pasteurized egg whites
Just for kicks, here are the lyrics to the Armour hot dogs song:
Hot dogs, Armor hot dogs!
What kind of kids eat Armour hot dogs?
Fat kids! Skinny kids! Kids who climb on rocks!
Tough kids! Sissy kids! Even kids with chicken pox!
Love hot dogs! Armour hot dogs!
The dogs kids love to bite!
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy