Having Your Cake

Backpacking, Baking, Bozeman, Montana

Having Your Cake

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Deb Katz

And eating it too—in the backcountry. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a baker friend, you might find yourself deciding each year what birthday cake you’d like. When my friend Cheri said she’d like a vanilla layer cake with apricot filling, I was excited to make it. The problem arose when I realized we’d be celebrating her birthday by hiking to a backcountry cabin.

Now, I’ve schlepped a large layer cake via snowmobile to a yurt and have transported many a cake, pie, or plate of pastries to a cabin or tent, but always with the car/cooler advantage. I love my friends, and I love to show off, but I really want to minimize the weight in my backpack. Thankfully, there were only four of us.

Despite the specs below, let’s just say that your cake is any type of cake, any filling, and any frosting. The important part is the method: cylindrical 4-layer cake, sleeved in plastic wrap, then dropped into a yogurt container for transport.

The Cake: Vanilla chiffon cake. Light, spongy, and very forgiving.
The Filling: Tangy apricot and tamarind compote.
The Frosting: Italian meringue buttercream. 

Let’s assume that, like mine, the bottom of your yogurt container measures 4” in diameter. Trace a circle onto cardboard and cut it out. This is the base for your cake, allowing you to bake the layers directly in 4” cake pans. Alternately, you could bake one thin sheet cake and cut out circular disks. Assemble the cake, placing one layer onto the cardboard. Smear frosting, then some filling. Repeat with as many layers as desired. I prefer four. (Tip: freezing the cake helps with assembly.) Now frost by covering the sides and top. I like to give the sides a thin coat for the “naked” look; I’ll also pipe some florettes on top for a touch of bling.

Backcountry Baking, Bozeman, MontanaBackcountry Baking, Bozeman, MontanaBackcountry Baking, Bozeman, Montana

Place the assembled cake on the cardboard circle and set it over the plastic wrap. Bring the plastic up around the cake and press it gently into all sides. The plastic should extend past the top, so you can grab the excess to lift the cake and lower into the yogurt container. Then carefully fold the wrap over the top before snapping the lid closed. Chill during the winter months; freeze in the summer and hike fast! Bring a birthday candle for full effect. This cake is plenty for four people and is exceptional with morning coffee, so any leftovers will disappear.

Deborah Katz is the pastry chef at Montana Ale Works and enjoys leaving a path of goodies wherever she goes.

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