intensely trivial

An eruptive masterpiece

If I ever want to express how much I love someone, one of my kneejerk responses is to cook or bake for them. And a birthday cake is just an edible “I love you” on steroids. For the past two weeks, I have been brainstorming and planning how I could make a volcano-shaped cake to celebrate Jonathan’s birthday. I got my idea from this picture. Today, five batches of cake and three batches of frosting later (I didn’t add up all the flour, sugar, and butter), I had the makings of a volcano cake.

Ellie carefully placed the chocolate rocks in the lava and all around the volcano

Ellie carefully placed the chocolate rocks in the lava and all around the volcano

That dinosaur got caught in a lava flow. Run, dinosaur!

That dinosaur got caught in a lava flow. Run, dinosaur!

Another view of the carnage. Can lava knock over trees? This lava did.

Another view of the carnage. Can lava knock over trees? This lava did.

dry ice. Thanks, Dan!

The final touch: dry ice. Thanks, Dan!

And the birthday boy who inspired me!

And the birthday boy who inspired me!

In case you want more details, here ya go: The base is made out of two 9″x13″ chocolate sheet cakes, a moist recipe called “Amazon Cake,” which I clipped from the newspaper about 20 years ago. On top of that is a double-batch yellow cake from the BH&G cookbook, which I baked in my biggest Pyrex mixing bowl (it took a long time to get done, let me tell you). And above that is a bundt cake that I carved up to fit the bowl cake a bit better and be slightly more volcano-shaped. The bundt cake recipe was from none other than Dorie Greenspan: “Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake.” I’m a bit biased, but I think all three kinds of cake are AWESOME. I decided not to be too perfectionistic about the shape of the volcano. I used the Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting recipe from to frost the sheet cakes. And I sort of made up a (fake) buttercream recipe for the rest of the frosting. The mud-colored frosting is that way because of the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder I used, and the red lava got that color thanks to a huge amount of Christmas red gel coloring and a little leaf green mixed in. The dinosaurs were stolen out of Jonathan’s room when he was too tired to notice.

And finally, here’s a big thank-you to Grandma and Grandpa Aberle, who came down to help celebrate! (They weren’t even afraid to eat some of the cake!) Our kids were tickled to have a visit from grandparents! Dan and I were so happy to spend a few hours with you, too, Mom and Dad!

Happy Birthday, one and all!


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  1. * limeandlemon says:

    nicely done … love the idea … Laila ..

    Posted 9 years ago
  2. * Jill says:

    That is the coolest cake…ever. πŸ˜‰ Wish I could snag a piece.

    Posted 9 years ago
  3. * Kate says:

    So, you’ll be eating birthday cake for the next two months, right? You are much more adventurous then me, that is for sure. I am glad he enjoyed all your hard work, good for you!
    Happy birthday Jonathan!

    Posted 9 years ago
  4. * manhattandoula says:

    Thanks for the comments, everybody! Yes, Kate, we have a TON of cake (and it feels about that heavy). On the other hand, we do have many people in and out of here in the course of a week. (Yep, LIFE groupies, this means you get to eat leftovers on Wednesday night!) Also, we have this handy cold snap, which means we can store the cake in the van outside. πŸ˜‰ The fridge would not be able to hold it.

    Posted 9 years ago
  5. * svetla says:

    Happy birthday Jonathan! πŸ™‚ and thank you Rachel for sharing your birth stories! – we are expecting our first kiddo and reading through your experiences helps me to better prepare for what is to come…soon. πŸ™‚

    your neighbour from down the street (who got your card), svetla

    Posted 9 years ago
  6. * Jessica S. says:

    Lovely! Thanks for the birth stories. They were a treat to read! Wish I could come by for some of that cake! Oh, by the way, if you do another recipe challenge that is soy and dairy free, I’m in!

    Posted 9 years ago
  7. * t'ilia says:

    mmm…cake. That cake is so incredibly awesome. I’m impressed. It looks like it was even fun to make!

    Posted 9 years ago
  8. * Matt says:

    Excellent job on the cake. And chocolate cake is ALWAYS great.

    Posted 9 years ago
  9. * werido says:

    yo cool cake

    Posted 8 years, 9 months ago

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