Monday, March 30, 2009

Mom's Birthday Cake: Part 2

The morning after baking the cake, I slumped out of bed around 6:30.  My dad came into the kitchen and said, "You know you're awake, don't you?"  Perhaps he thought I was having a sleep eating event since I was standing by the open refrigerator.
I sleepily replied, "Yeah, I'm just setting out the butter." Then I slumped back to bed.

By the time I actually woke up around 10, the butter was nice and soft and ready to be made into decorator's icing (aka the best icing in the world.)  The Mocha Cake recipe also had a Mocha Frosting recipe with it, but I didn't think that would be very pretty or fun to decorate with.  I got to work sifting five cups of powdered sugar, which is a ton of sugar!  I then got out the stand mixer and mixed 1/2 a cup of butter, 1/2 a cup of shortening, 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, and all the powdered sugar.  My mom said she actually burned out the motor on her old stand mixer (not a Kitchen Aid) making this icing because it gets incredibly thick when all those ingredients are finally mixed.  For the final touch, I added 3 tablespoons of milk and it magically went from "thick and clumpy" to "smooth and creamy."  Perfect icing every time.

I slathered it on the bottom cake, then plopped on the top cake and slathered it too.  I never work with chocolate cake, so I was frustrated with the amount of chocolate crumbs befouling my pure white icing.  I did my best and managed to get a crumb free section smoothed in the very center of the cake.

I borrowed from my mom's birthday cake two years ago (the best cake I've ever decorated) and went with a basket-weave technique all around the sides of the cake in a vibrant turquoise.  This took quite a while and I had almost everyone in my family looking over my shoulder jokingly saying, "Don't mess up!"  The bottom row was difficult because the platter that we chose for the cake, while beautiful, had a giant lip that came up, making it impossible for me to get the angle I needed.  I'll try to remember to think of that before I start decorating next time.

Once the basket-weave was complete, I moved on to the fondant.  I have used fondant once before, and I've seen it on a few wedding cakes.  The first time I encountered it on a wedding cake, I didn't know that you weren't supposed to eat it so I went chomping away and quickly figured out that it doesn't taste very good.  I am usually a buttercream purist, but for this particular design, I wanted to use fondant.

The design I chose was a quilted flower pattern from The Essential Cake Decorating Guide.  I didn't have an appropriate flower cookie cutter so I drew one and made a template with construction paper and then cut the flowers out with a knife.  I also didn't have a wheel tool that makes the little stitch marks so I did that with a bent paper clip.  I wanted to make the flowers seemed raised (like in the book) but it just didn't seem possible without the entire cake being covered in fondant (which I refused to do) so the flowers are a little flat.

We got all of the yellow flowers placed around the cake and then I decided that it needed some extra zing (and I wanted to cover up some of the places around the edge with chocolate crumbs stuck in the icing.)  We got out some neon pink fondant and I tried unsuccessfully to cut the tiny flowers out using a knife.  Thank goodness for Brett, who has more patience than me.  He was able to sit there and cut out all the little flowers perfectly, while I almost ruined the cake with my shaky handwriting.  Why is the writing always the most difficult part?!

Then, after some discussion about what would look best, I made brown centers on all of the flowers using my star tip.  This final touch really made the cake come together.

When it was finally time to eat the cake none of us were disappointed (except Brett who hates chocolate and therefore did not even have a bite.)  It was very chocolatey and still moist.  The coffee flavor that was so nice in the batter must have baked out because at first I couldn't taste it at all.  My dad claimed that he could taste it, and after careful concentration so could I, mostly as a subtle aftertaste.  Maybe if I'd have used espresso powder instead of coffee, the flavor would have been more prominent, we'll never know.


Nicole said...

Well done! What a pretty cake. And so much time spent. You have patience.

~kelly marie~ said...

This cake is so gorgeous! You are so talented!! Those flowers with the stitching details are amazing!