When I think of Leap Year, frogs and green erasers are what come to mind. Why, you might ask? Well, when my family lived in Congo, the nearest city was about 250 kilometers away ( ~ 150 miles). There were no convenient ways to get to the city, so when my parents stocked up, they STOCKED UP! We would have huge 50 kg sacks of flour and sugar to last for years (well, maybe not years, but a LONG time).
Even if the nearest city had been easily accessible, there really were not options to buy “frilly” things, just the necessities. However, my Mamma, the Organizer of all Organizers, had the foresight to plan ahead, and I mean WAY ahead—nearly 4 years in fact.
Before we went to Congo in 1992, she bought some cute little froggy erasers, stickers, and I think frog-shaped pads of paper or post-its. On Leap Day, 1996, she gave us those treasures. I remember it being so special! So special, in fact, that I never did use my eraser—I set it on my bookshelf as a “decoration” instead. Yes, classy, I know.
And this, my friends, is why froggy-shaped erasers come to mind whenever Leap Year comes around.
So, this year to celebrate I thought, what could be cuter than cutting into a froggy-decorated cake, only to find more frogs inside? SURPRISE!
Hidden Design Vanilla Cake
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Just a couple of quick notes about this recipe:
- I learned the hard way that when placing the frogs in the cake batter, they need to go in UPSIDE DOWN, so that when the cake is turned out of the pan, they are right-side up. Doye!
- You will essentially be making this cake twice. The first time, you will make a half batch, you’ll dye the batter green, and bake it in a shallow baking dish. (note: when I did this, I made a full first batch so that I had extra frogs for decorating the outside with. You can do this if you’d like, just make sure to use a larger shallow dish, like a jelly roll pan. A half batch though is a sufficient enough to provide the frogs for the inside of the cake).
- The second time, you’ll bake a full batch, omit the food coloring, and bake it in a Bundt pan, rather than a shallow baking dish.
- If you have a food scale, I would recommend weighing out the ingredients instead of using measuring cups. I’m always amazed at the difference in bake baked goods when I weigh them properly.
- Even though we are baking in a round Bundt pan, try as best as you can to squeeze the little frogs together as close as possible so that the yellow cake batter can’t sneak into the cracks.
**See my hints at the end of this blog post about successfully getting the cake out of the Bundt pan.
Ingredients for Cake 1:
- ½ a cup softened Butter (113 grams)
- ¾ cup Sugar (165 grams)
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup Milk (60 mls)
- ¼ cup Yogurt (63 grams)
- 1 ½ tsp Vanilla
- 1 ⅛ cups All-Purpose Flour (158 grams)
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Salt
- Green Food Coloring (30 drops)
Ingredients for Cake 2:
- 1 cup softened Butter (225 grams)
- 1 ½ cups Sugar (330 grams)
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup Milk (120 mls)
- ½ cup Yogurt (125 grams)
- 3 tsp Vanilla
- 2 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flour (315 grams)
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
Ingredients for the Frosting:
- 8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
- ½ cup Butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 cups Powdered Sugar
- Food Coloring
Cake 1: Preheat the oven to 350 F (325 F for Convection Ovens). Grease a 9×13 pan.
Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar for 2 minutes so that it’s light and fluffy. Next, add one egg at a time, beating it for 1 minute between each addition.
Once all the eggs are whipped, add the vanilla, yogurt, and green food coloring.
In a separate bowl sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing constantly.
Gradually add in the milk and remaining dry ingredients, and beat the mixture for another minute.
Pour the batter into the shallow baking dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let this cake cool for about 10-15 minutes, and then, using your awesome froggy cookie cutters, start cutting out the shapes. The hotter the cake, the more crumbly it is, just FYI.
Cake 2: While the first cake is cooling, start in on the second cake. Prepare it exactly the same way as the first, but omit the food coloring. When it is ready to bake, grease a Bundt pan. I like to use Crisco vegetable shortening.
Melt the shortening and use a baking brush to “paint” the inside of the Bundt pan. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour over the shortening (tap out any excess).
Put half of the batter into the Bundt pan.
Place the froggy cut-outs in a tight row, UPSIDE DOWN, in the batter. When you have a nice ring of frogs, packed in as tightly as you can get them, spoon the rest of the cake batter over the top and gently spread it evenly around and on top of the frogs.
Bake this cake at 350 F (325 F Convection) for 50-60 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes.
You can try to remove the cake at this point, or you can see my notes below about the 5-minute steam bath and try removing the cake after that.
Once the cake has cooled completey, prepare the frosting by whipping all of the ingredients with a hand mixer until it’s smooth and creamy.
Separate the frosting into different bowls depending on what different colors or shades of green you want.
Clearly, I am not a professional cake decorator, but where’s the fun when all you have is perfection? ?
You can even add cute eyes and a mouth to the slices to help the froggy shape stand out more. (I saved a small amount of white frosting before I colored it green to decorate the eyes. For the mouth and center of the eyes, I melted some chocolate chips).
I hope you enjoy this cute, down-to-earth, Leap Year Celebration cake!
**Bundt Pan Preparation:
I have a love-hate relationship with Bundt pans. They are so pretty and can make such nice designs on cakes, but they are SO HARD to get out of the pan sometimes. I have learned over time that the best way to get cakes to come out of a Bundt pan is to use a cooking brush and “paint” melted vegetable shortening into every nook and cranny of the pan. Then, lightly sprinkle flour over the shortening to ensure that the cake doesn’t stick.
After removing the cake from the oven, I let it sit on a wire rack for 15 minutes, at which time put a couple inches of steaming hot water into the sink, wrap a towel ring in the center, and boil a kettle of water. Once the water is boiling, carefully pour it onto the towel ring. Place the Bundt pan on the towel ring and cover the sink with a tea towel. Let the cake steam for 5 minutes.
At this point, I turn the Bundt pan upside down onto a wire rack, hold my breath, and pray that it comes out clean. This method has worked for me, and I hope it works for you too! There’s nothing more frustrating than slaving over a nice cake, only to have it break apart because it won’t come out of the pan.