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The type of cake I never thought I’d make… But then I volunteered for the smash cake for a friend’s son’s birthday before knowing the theme, so here comes a sports cake! Wasn’t sure how ‘smashable’ fondant would be, so I made an extra cupcake in buttercream only, but smashed by the little guy that big ball was!

Used Wilton’s ball pan set, with my most favorite wet towel strips wrapped around each pan, resulting in two perfectly leveled, evenly baked half-spheres! (My two previous Wilton ball pan attempts have been disastrous, as without the strips cake bakes to a crisp on the edges while the middle is still wet and mushy.)

Dr. Oetker organic chocolate cake mix with chocolate buttercream (melted Belgian chocolate with 54% cocoa content, organic unsalted butter, Ghirardelli chocolate power, a touch of powder sugar and organic heavy cream) in 8 tortes — birthday boy, I was told, was very fond of chocolate! That fairly small cake took 1lb of butter for filling and frosting…

The baseball had some unintended but very realistic texture… I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to smooth fondant over a sphere, so to prevent overstretching, cracking and tearing,  I rolled the fondant (Choco-pan) on a thin piece of plastic (in retrospect, I don’t think I would have been able to do it otherwise, the shape is very tricky…).  Then, I flopped the fondant, with the plastic, over the sphere and proceeded to smooth it on, still without removing the plastic. It resulted in tiny, little, uniformly shaped, very shallow indents/folds, all around the ball – just like leather! “Stitching” those baseballs was very time consuming as I rolled fondant very thin and cut it in tiny little pieces for each stitch… I’m pretty exited about how the cake ended up, considering I’ve never seen a baseball up-close and personal… Giants logo was free-handed on fondant. My Halloween serving plates ended up the perfect match!

Oh, and The Statement of The Party – according to birthday boy’s mom:
I don’t want that one because it has chemicals in it” – my 4 1/2 year-old precious exclaimed, rightfully refusing a bottle of flavored water! My friend shrugged to the greatly amused crowd: “His parents are vegetarian.” – and understanding nods followed… Should we be afraid of creating a monster or give ourselves a deserved pat on the back for raising such a reasonable offspring?! :-) 

 

 

Yup! Made for my very close friend (who’s obviously very passionate about penguins) and her twin brother (unfortunately several thousand miles away). I’ve only known them since… hm… all my life - I was almost two years old when our parents first became friends and the then-crawling duo invaded the house, only to spend our entire childhood adventuring together… I *think* she liked her cake very much!

I intended to make 30 penguins, but realized cake was too small to support so many – plus at 2am, that sounds like an impossibly numerous waddle… I made two batches of my flourless walnut cake recipe (by my friend’s request) in 10-9-8” layers, about 1.5” thick. First, about 1/3 of each layer was cut to make another layer, then each layer was torted under an angle similar to the topsy-turvy cakes, for the slope effect of a total of 6 layers in 12 tortes (whew, did I get all those numbers right?). There was a small setback mid-way though the assembly, with the top 6 tortes sliding off as a whole from the bottom group, but such sliding disasters usually prove quite agreeable after sticking butter-based filling in the fridge for a few minutes! Swiss meringue butter crème snow – can you tell I was out of white fondant?!

I had a blast making those little penguins. They’re not hard at all, but they are time-consuming. I’ve seen several penguin cakes and fondant/gum paste penguin figures on my favorite cake website, so I took ideas from there… Each penguin starts as a black ball, gently rolled to shape. Eyes are a heart-shaped white cutout, with black straw-cut tiny pupils. Noses are little tiny dark orange cones. Belly is a white ellipse. Wings/flippers are two leaf-shaped side cutouts from a circle. Feet are also a heart-shaped cutout, in pale orange. Then hats, scarves and earmuffs are just pure fondant fun! I prepped everything first, then just used egg whites to glue the pieces together – line production rules! When deconstructed like this, anyone can make a little cute penguin!

Suitcase and Purse Collage

 

The going away party cake…

Purse is 8” chocolate cake, cut in half, then each torted in 3, with dark chocolate mousse w/ morello cherries, with their syrup soaking the cake layers.

Suitcase is 9×13” Garash torte, 6 batches of the recipe for this size – only ahm…36 eggs and 2lb of butter among other things…

Leather effects are done with a stonewall roller and marbling.

I had a blast with the details on this one…

 

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A couple of people on a cake decorating forum that I frequent asked me about different details of this cake, so I ended up writing up a few paragraphs, figured I may as well post them here, since I have been very word-less lately…

 

About the Purse cake:

 

It is a generic 8” round, about 2-1/2” thick, came out of the oven completely nice and level because of the baking strips (a.k.a. wet kitchen towel) that I’ve gotten into the habit of using. Mousse is like any other run-of-the-mill version – milk, heavy crème, cocoa, powdered sugar, some dark chocolate blocks and a left over small box of Nestle’s dark chocolate mousse mix (never using that stuff again, I finally read the contents and it has gelatin in it!).

 

I used the word “soaked” to describe the syruping of the cake layers, but that’s probably a little too strong of a word… In the jar of sour cherry preserve there was about a cup of juice, and it is very heavily sugared, so its not super runny like water. Each of the six 1/2 tortes got about 3-4 tbsp of it, and the cherry fruit were mixed in the mousse…

 

This “soaking” word created some questions about how the moisture of the cake is kept from ruining the fondant. So… here’s some process guaranteed to avoid wet fondant… What I do is assemble the cake, including a very thin crumb-coat of the leftover filling (yesss, the milk-and-crème-based mousse!) all the way around (cake was lying on its side, not standing up like the completed purse) and let it set well in the fridge for a few hours – this one was left overnight. Then, I made very simple buttercream from two sticks of butter whipped with a very generous amount of Ghirardelli chocolate powder (the kind used to make hot chocolate), dissolved in 2-3 spoons of heated heavy crème (so the cocoa and sugar crystals from it are not grainy in the buttercream), and I just kept adding until it tasted like rich chocolate, nothing like butter. Then I GENEROUSLY coated the now solidified, already standing up cake with it, so butter was all around everything, cake, mousse, and all. In the freezer for a couple of minutes only to set the butter fast but not affect the cake or filling, then back in the fridge for an hour or so again while I got my decorating stuff ready. As a result, fondant only touches buttercream, no cake layers and no mousse — nope, didn’t even do a dam on this one — everything is completely sealed by the butter. I’ve learned my lesson with wet fondant after my first fondant cake (the Baby Buggy), in which I slapped fondant all over pastry crème filling and coating – in the morning, I had a wet, sticky, runny mess dripping all over my fridge. Scrape all off and repeat!…

 

About the Suitcase ‘Garash’ Torte:

 

Yup, I did use a roller that is called ‘cobblestone’ (sorry, not ‘stonewall’) for a leather effect. It’s a tiny 2” thing that I got when I was making BloodRayne’s Fortess, but hey, it worked quite well, if I say so myself…

 

And yes, everything is edible, buckles and all, fondant with a touch of gum paste, though I wish I hadn’t used the gum paste as it ends up very fragile when dry. In retrospect, the amount of time I spent to make the studded holes in the belts is a touch on the ridiculous side, yet I enjoyed the process – I’m sure there’s some tool for it on some website but I just used a straw to cut the holes, and wiggled it around to widen it a bit, then rolled super thin rope and looped it around a wooden dowel to form a ring. While still soft and on the dowel, into the belt hole it went, some more wiggling and adjusting to set nicely, and by the third, I had figured the process out, but the first one is really bad…

 

The layers in the pictured slice are not in fact cut ( or ‘torted’ from a thick cake like the Purse cake), they are baked individually. The suitcase is made out of 2 separate tiers on top of each other (you can sort of see that in the pic, the way the fondant folds inwards in the middle around the cake board of the top tier). Each tier was made of 6 layers of cake – though I don’t know if “cake” is the right word to use in this context – the layer is just is just egg whites, walnuts and powdered sugar. Each layer was baked individually on wax paper, takes only about 11 minutes, like a cookie. The filling is made of the egg yolks, cooked on low heat with some heavy cream mixing constantly (even though my recipe calls for only 2/3 of the egg yolks, and whips them to the butter raw – yuk! - I cannot fathom eating, let alone feed to other people, especially to kids, raw eggs under any circumstances!), then sugar and unsweetened cocoa is added until all is nice and smooth, and the pudding-like mixture is taken of the heat and whipped cool before adding the butter. I actually had a large semi-sweet chocolate block I needed to use up, so I tossed it into with the cocoa and sugar – just like butter, chocolate can’t hurt the chocolate filling. :-)

 

Garsh Torte is insanely rich, one can only eat a small slice… In my opinion, it is best served when it has had a chance to adjust to room temperature, though people are used to eating it right out of the fridge… Ok, now it’s time for some leftover cake!  

 

Baby Shower Topsy-Turvy Pastry Creme Abyss

 

Made in two nights for the baby shower of a good friend, to match the crib set she chose and the party decorations at the same time. Sizes are supposed to be 10-9-8, 8-7-6, 6-5-4 inches, though I don’t think I carved out that much from the bottoms. Bottom tier is chocolate with roasted hazelnuts Kahlua ganache, w/ Kahlua simple syrup and espresso to enhance the chocolate flavor of the cake layers (yes, of course the mom-to-be was made fully aware of the potential harmful effects the miniscule trace amounts of liquor and caffeine per slice could have on the developing baby – blah!), middle is vanilla with pastry crème (completely safe!), top is alternating chocolate and vanilla with pastry crème and buttercreme. Covered in SatinIce.

 

Some more details about this cake, and a picture of the abyss for desert:

 

… And this is what happens when a 3-tier topsy-turvy gets pastry crème as filling in the middle tier… Bottom was rock solid in its chocolate cake ganache – I think it would have supported the top layers even without the dowels, and the fondant went on as smooth as it ever could! But even while I was filling the vanilla tier, nicely mortared (!), I knew it wasn’t going to survive – I think my pastry crème layers were too generous even with the mortar, and the weight of it all shifted the carved bottom tortes off balance. Still, it survived long enough for pictures…

 

But that’s not all that went wrong with this cake – or rather this one tier:
– I had to bake one of the vanilla layers twice, as I did cake mix (Dr.Oetker Organics) plus extender, but was on the phone with a friend, and I forgot to add the butter for the extender (!) so it only had the vegetable oil for the mix and its texture would be very wrong – I realized that 5 min into the baking, as I saw my nicely soften butter on the counter – on the bright side, it was ready for the redo, and now I still have two frozen rounds waiting their turn for cake truffles.
– The milk for the pastry crème curdled when I heated it up (with an exp. date 9 days ahead) which threw me completely off schedule as I couldn’t run to the store that instant, in fact not until 4 hours later.
– The white SatinIce was a nightmare… It kept tearing, overstretching, and doing all kinds of weird things, and after the third roll, I decided it was going on the cake regardless – as you can see, it looks like a cheese cloth all over, not like fondant…

 

Our guests were terrified of losing the cake and wanted me to take it apart right away. I knew its structure had the strength to hold on for a few more minutes, even with the abyss widening, and I was very amused to see their fear of not getting to taste it should it fall over… Well… for a second topsy-turvy (my first was only two tiers) I think it did ok…

 

Moral of the story for me: I should stick with ganache and buttercream for the topsy-turvies, pastry crème is too much of pain for them, dam and mortar and all, and still a mud slide in the end… But there’s nothing that goes so nicely with vanilla cake as pastry crème, is there?! Maybe next time I’ll throw in a couple of sticks of butter into it, it’s going to keep it firmer, and butter cannot possibly spoil a cake, can it now?! :-) 

 

Topsy-Turvy with pastry creme abyss!

Little pirate cake!

Pirate Cake

 

For some reason I absolutely love this cake… It was very fast and easy to decorate, I actually copied someone else’s design, because I thought it looked adorable… Made for a little 7-year old pirate – there is a an inquisitive picture of him poking away at the eye patch at the party - boys!  :-)

8” round, 3” thick cake, baked in a Pirex container (honestly I just wanted to experiment the difference in baking between the glass and my regular cake tins). Chocolate cake, with chocolate pastry crème filling and Ghirardelli chocolate buttercream frosting, all covered in fondant.

I’d make it again in a heartbeat!

Flower Mound

Flower Mound

 

I was in a flowers mood, so decided to play around with some flowers for a 3-year old princess’s birthday, who’s not very much into dolls and frills. Those were some contemporary girlie colors I already had and needed to use them up creatively… Carved the top alike the ballerina skirt cakes just to add some dimension, unfortunately not that visible from this angle…7″ round, 3” thick vanilla cake in 3 tortes, with cream cheese filling and fresh banana slices (yum!), covered in fondant, with flowers 50/50 gumpaste/fondant. It was so much fun to make, I hope she liked it as much as I enjoyed making it! Now that I’ve mastered those flowers… next?!

Title is pun… We used to live in a town called Flower Mound, in fact right behind the so-called place of interest, which while a mound, all right, had very little flowers to speak of, more like an alfalfa meadow, securely fenced off save someone would disturb the town’s namesake… I like my little pink-teal-and-brown rendition a lot better!

 

Vertical Tiramisu!

Vertical tiramisu

Ever since I saw a “vertical” cake (a thin sheet cut in 3” strips, then layered standing up with ganache around the inside of a cheese cake pan) I have been thinking of turning my tiramisu vertical. It was a little challenging to do the first outer layer, as the biscotti kept falling in, a smudge of mascarpone fixed that. I like the result very much! I do need to use an 8” instead of 10” pan, as it took 6 packs of biscotti instead of 4, it was HUGE and I didn’t have enough filling… Vertical tiramisu it is!

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