According to the Bloggess (one of my favorite sites for wackiness and irreverence,) the Hubs and I have reached the Giant-Metal-Chicken milestone in our marriage; it’s sort of like leveling up. After some deliberation, I determined that we’re too urban to have outdoor giant chickens – there’s a chicken ordinance, you know. So I set out to find a Not-So-Giant-Indoor-Metal-Chicken.
Being me, I thought baking a cake and putting a Giant Anniversary Chicken on top would be just the way to show my beloved how delightfully the years have whizzed past. So I poked around the depths of the internet for several days…and found…a clockwork chicken kitchen timer (say that six times fast.) Not metal, but it’s standing on top of a metal gearbox decorated with a farmhouse scene. If the farmhouse represents the scale, then IRL my chicken could totally obliterate Beyoncé the chicken – even without a shiv.
I couldn’t show Sparky the site because I don’t want to explain that particular knock-knock joke to his school principal, so I gave him a G-rated version of the Beyoncé the chicken story, with a focus on the importance of towel shopping. Together, we excitedly opened the box containing Mini-Mondo-Beyoncé and wound it up. Sadly, our chicken is not an egg timer (does that tell us it came first?) but an hour-long timer. He/she/it clucked around the circle sloooooowly. Laziest. Chicken. Ever.
Sparky: “That’s not clucking, it’s TICKING. Besides, roosters don’t cluck, CHICKENS do!”
Me: “Sexist! Roosters can cluck if they want to!”
Sparky: (purposely ignoring me and diving for the table)“It’s a BOMB! I only have a few seconds left!”(readjusts the timer) “Now it’s OK.”
Me: “It’s easy to thwart the chicken.”
At this point, Mini-Mondo-Beyoncé’s time ran out, and he/she/it gave a sickly, gargled-sounding buzz…kind of like the bird was choking on a gigantic cicada. Sparky and I fell over laughing, and he agreed to help me cook: clearly this was going to be the best anniversary EV-AH.(Coincidentally, this is the only anniversary I think we’ve celebrated. I don’t think Sparky even knew we had one.)
So, I needed an appropriately lovely cake to put underneath this miniaturized behemoth poultry…and for that, I went to Martha Stewart. Logically.
(Can I just say? I…don’t really like Martha Stewart. All that perfection and “best” ingredients and clean pinafores, and, well “good” – it’s totally annoying. I’d like her a lot better if she got a neck tattoo – maybe of a chicken. So to get back at her I played fast and loose with the ingredients and method, and came out with a cake that’s a little more street, but dandy for holding up a bird.)
1 cup plain old all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large ordinary eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup superfine sugar, separated (or you can whizz ordinary sugar in the blender)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest from 2 clementines or 1 orange
Zest from 1 lemon
4 tablespoons of whatever citrussy juice you have open at the time; we happened to have Mango lemonade.
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of cream of tartarLemon Curd (Note: if using homemade,make this first and cool completely. You can use Martha’s recipe here, or use my unnecessarily lower-fat recipe with clementines. We made hers, but this post is far too long already.) You can easily buy a jar of the stuff, it’s a fine thing. Or good. Or whatever.
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.Prepare your wet ingredients: separate your eggs – you can do the squeeshy way: crack an egg in your hand and let the whites drip through your fingers. Keep the whites in a largeish bowl as you will need a place for them to live after they’re whipped. (Yes, you’re making that bowl dirty…but you don’t have to wash your mixing bowl and your whisk attachment! It’s better than nothing!) Put the oil in a large cup-measure and add the two zests to it. Measure out your juices together into another cup, and then measure all your remaining cake ingredients and have it all handy.
Slice the cake into three even rounds, and remove two layers to a plate. Spread the layer with well-cooled lemon curd, and top with the next layer. Spread with curd, top with the next layer, and then poke a skewer through the center and cut it so it’s flush with the top of the cake.(We used three, extra stabilization for Mini-Mondo-Beyoncé, who is no lightweight) Don’t forget to remove these when you serve, but they will keep the layers from slipping when you frost the cake. And hold up any chickens. Refrigerate overnight.
Swiss meringue offers the stability and smoothness of a cooked meringue without the fear of working with scalding liquid sugar (like an Italian meringue.) Start this part of the recipe an hour or so before serving. I changed the Martha recipe because of a personal pet peeve: she uses 3 egg yolks for the lemon curd and made a 4-egg-white meringue. ^*$#! Until I can buy eggs with no yolks, I’m not playin’ – so I adjusted the recipe.We still wound up with leftover meringue – I guess Martha uses the overage to feed her minions while they hand-wash all her bowls.
I put the bowl of the mixer over a pot of boiling water, dumped in the 3 egg whites, the 3/4 cup of sugar, the cream of tartar and slosh of vanilla (I admit, I don’t measure vanilla) and whisked by hand like mad until the sugar melted and the whole thing was a white goopy mass (it felt like my arm was going to fall off.) I then put the bowl back on the machine and let the mixer finish whipping until they were glossy and held stiff peaks. Then I said thank-you to the universe for mechanical engineering and electricity and got an ice pack for my arm.
We set the cake, still on its base, on a small cookie sheet. Sparky smothered the whole thing with meringue, except for the space we left for Mini-Mondo-Beyoncé’s pedestal.