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The Great Indoors: Celebrate Paul Bunyan with plaid-themed Lumberjack cake

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Lumberjack cake’s plaid pattern is from stacked chocolate, red velvet and spice cakes. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 4
Lumberjack cake has stacked chocolate, red velvet and spice cakes inside.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 4
Paul Bunyan holding an ax with pine trees and a lake in the background.4 / 4

The folklore is legendary — a giant woodsman and his loyal blue ox, Babe, carrying out heroic, nearly superhuman feats around the wilderness. It's said Paul Bunyan created the Great Lakes because he needed a watering hole for Babe, and the Grand Canyon was formed when he dragged his ax across the ground when he walked.

Bunyan's exploits have been shared in stories for more than a century and at least six towns in America (including both Bemidji and Brainerd, Minn.) claim him as their own.

Reason enough that the big guy and his big blue sidekick should have their own holiday. Paul Bunyan Day is Tuesday, June 28.

What better thing to do than celebrate with a lumberjack cake? I first saw a lumberjack cake when my friend Carrie Snyder forwarded a link from the site SugarGeekShow.com. The site, which offers amazing cake tutorials, is the brainchild of Portland baker Elizabeth Marek.

I've seen a few other tutorials on other sites. But here's the truth: I'm just a little cheap and a little lazy. I don't want to buy special equipment like a baking airbrush kit or even bake cake from scratch. So I looked at all the tutorials for lumberjack cake and tried to simplify it. Call it "Lumberjack Cake for Dummies" or maybe just "Simple Paul Bunyan Cake."

I used chocolate, red velvet and spice cake mixes to form the plaid shirt pattern inside the cake. Melted chocolate and powdered sugar form the bark and fondant and chocolate syrup make the top of the log cut.

The chocolate and spice mixture give a nice, almost woodsy flavor to the cake. And because three cake mixes make up the Paul Bunyan Cake, it serves a Bunyan-esque appetite—at least 50 servings per cake.

I was happy with how the cake turned out, but it requires patience. You need to give the cake layers plenty of time to cool and enough time to let the cake chill in the freezer or refrigerator to add to its stability.

Watch our video to see how it's done.

Circles of red velvet, chocolate and spice cakes are layered to form a plaid pattern. Michael Vosburg / Forum photo editor

Simple Paul Bunyan Cake (aka Lumberjack Cake for Dummies)

Serves 50

1 box dark chocolate cake mix

1 box red velvet cake mix

1 box spice cake mix

Eggs, oil and water, as directed by the cake mixes

1 small package white fondant (I used Cake Boss fondant)

¼ cup Hershey's chocolate syrup

1 tub of chocolate frosting

2 bags of melting chocolate discs (I used 1 dark and 1 light)

Powdered sugar

Equipment needed: hand mixer, fork, 6 cake pans, rolling pin, brush, aluminum foil, 5-inch round cookie cutter and 2½-inch cookie cutter.

Mix cake batters according to package directions. Evenly divide between 6 round cake pans of the same size (2 pans per mix). Bake according to package directions. Let cool completely. (It's very important to be patient. I made the mistake of working with slightly warm cake, and it crumbled a bit.)

Now the tricky part. You will be making 4 layers of cake.

For the bottom layer: Place 5-inch cookie cutter in the center of one of the red velvet cakes. Press down to cut cake. Put outer ring of red cake on plate. Now use the 5-inch cutter on the chocolate cake, but this time take the cake from inside the cookie cutter and place it into the red cake circle. Using the 2½-inch cutter, cut a hole in the chocolate cake, removing the center. Then cut a small circle of red cake to put inside the chocolate circle. You should have a complete cake with alternating colors in three circles.The bottom layer is done.

For the second layer: Place 5-inch cookie cutter in the center of one of the spice cakes. Press down to cut cake. Put outer ring of spice cake on top of the bottom layer of cake on the plate. Now use the 5-inch cutter on the remaining red velvet cake, but this time take the cake from inside the cookie cutter and place it into the spice cake circle. Using 2½-inch cutter, cut a small circle of spice cake to put inside the red cake circle. The second layer is done.

For the third layer: Repeat the process for the bottom layer.

For the top layer: Repeat the process for the second layer.

Stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so to firm up so it's easier to work with.

While it's cooling, crumple a foot-long strip of aluminum foil into a ball, then straighten it out again. Melt chocolate in a saucepan or in the microwave, watching carefully so it doesn't burn. Spread chocolate in a fairly thin layer across the foil. The crumpled foil will make the chocolate look like bark. Set it aside to cool.

After about 20 minutes, it should be cool enough to pull the aluminum foil away, leaving you with a few pieces of "bark."

Put fondant into a small plastic bag and add a few drops of chocolate sauce. Knead the fondant to mix in the brown color, then roll into a circle the same diameter as your cake. This will cover the top of the cake.

Take cake out of freezer and place fondant on top. Mix chocolate sauce with a few drops of water to make a paint, then brush onto fondant to create circles that look like a log. Also, use the prongs of a fork to create the rings of the wood grain.

Spread frosting onto the smooth side of the bark and attach to the sides of the cake until all sides are covered. Dust the bark with a little powdered sugar to give it a little texture. Serve and enjoy.

Happy day, Paul!

Tracy Briggs

‘The Great Indoors’ with Tracy Briggs appears every Thursday in The Forum. For more information go to her blog at thegreatindoors.areavoices.com.

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