Computer birthday cake


I love making my own birthday cake, and this year I got pretty nerdy with it. I’m a software engineer during the day, and decided to incorporate some of that into my cake. I wanted to make the cake a computer terminal (also called the command line), which is an interface that lets you run various commands to interact with files on your computer. You may have seen it before, it looks like this:

A computer terminal, the inspiration for this cake

Designing the cake

My design inspiration for the cake started with this, which probably isn’t exactly the most visually appealing thing you’ve ever seen. But don’t worry, I had plans to make it both cute and clever. I wanted to take a few common commands you’d run on a terminal and give them a birthday cake twist. I also made my own command line color scheme, using light pink and white frosting on a black background. Here’s the end result:

My command line birthday cake

And if you want to know what’s happening on there, here are some details:

  • ssh stands for Secure Shell and is a way of remotely accessing other computers. The format for this command is typically a username (in this case sara) followed by an IP address (for that I used my birthday). Running this would usually prompt you for a password but the security on this cake is pretty lax.
  • uname is a command that will give you info about the operating system and architecture of your machine. It will also tell you when the operating system was initially built. Cakes have architecture too! This is a coconut cake, more on that below. My birthday was on a Tuesday this year BUT I was born on a Friday, so in keeping with uname I’ve included Friday here since that was the original date.
  • ffplay is a program you can install to play audio files. Here it’s playing happy birthday 🙂

Making and assembling the cake

When I used to live in San Francisco, my all time favorite bakery was Susie Cakes. They have the most insanely amazing coconut cake with coconut buttercream, so I was determined to try to replicate it as best I could. I used this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

I split the full recipe between two 9×13 pans so that I could cut out the rectangle shape I wanted for the layers. To do this I made a template with parchment paper, placed that on top of the cooled cake, and cut around it. I cut out 3 rectangles and still had quite a bit of cake left over, which is currently in the freezer waiting to be turned into something amazing.

I made a half batch of the coconut buttercream from Sally’s recipe (it’s sooo good), and used that as the filling between layers. I find regular ‘ol American buttercream is the best to pipe with, so I made a big batch of that for the rest of the design. I colored most of it black, which gets darker if you let it sit for a few days. Then I dyed some light pink and left the rest white to pipe on my writing.

To avoid having the white filling peep out the sides of the cake, I piped a frame of black around the middle layers before adding the filling in. Then I covered the cake in black buttercream, put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to harden, and then it was time to pipe my commands on top! If you’re doing detailed piping, putting your frosted cake into the freezer for a few minutes is key. This makes it so that you can carefully erase if you mess up, and the decoration you’re piping on won’t blend with the background frosting color.

I used a Wilton 1S tip to write on this cake, which is pretty much as small as it gets. Piping this cake was tiring and gave me a temporary hand cramp but it was totally worth it. To make sure the black frosting stayed solid, I zapped it in the freezer once about halfway through piping.

I wanted to add another small pop of color so I found a bright sprinkle mix I had and scattered it around the bottom. I made the mistake of doing this after the frosting was already pretty solid, so it didn’t really stick but it still looked pretty. Then I cut in and wow was this cake tasty!

My husband who is not usually a big fan of coconut even liked it. People on Twitter seemed to like it too:

I’d love to hear what you think of this cake, and am always looking for more nerdy cake ideas. Let me know in the comments! And you can check out my Instagram for a full video of this cake making process.

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