Maryland Terrapin Birthday Cake

January 31, 2011

I got an email from a friend with a link to a picture of a MD terrapin cake. She wanted to know if I thought it was something I could do and if so, she’d put me in touch with her friend, Kim, who was planning a birthday party for her fiance. I gave it a good bit of thought before I told them I could do it because I wanted to make sure that I could do it. I had read about tracing designs onto cakes like this and filling them in, but I’d never done it before.

Kim asked for a full sheet cake with red velvet cake and cream cheese icing. The first issue I came across was how much red food coloring I would need for a quadruple batch of cake – 24 tablespoons, or about 12 ounces. The normal little bottles are about $2.50 for 1 ounce. Time for plan B. I use gel colors for coloring icings since they are so much more concentrated so I thought I’d give that a try here.

I used a red velvet cake recipe that I’ve used a few times before. I made 4 batches – all 9×13’s. I replaced the 6 tablespoons of red liquid color in each batch with a heaping half teaspoon of red gel color. I was concerned about replacing the liquid also, but I wasn’t sure how much to add. I ended up adding 1 tablespoon of water (I probably should have added more).

Kim asked for cream cheese icing, so I made up 4 batches and tinted it using Wilton’s Lemon Yellow color. I also made up another double batch, divided it up and tinted it red, black, and brown. For the terrapin design, I had planned to trace the design onto a piece of wax paper and then lay that on top of the cake and trace it with a toothpick. But that would only work with a crusting icing and the cream cheese icing doesn’t crust. Hmm. So I decided to make up a half batch of vanilla buttercream and use that to crumb-coat the top of the cake so that I could draw on it.

The tracing of the design onto the cake went pretty well. I found that it was better to initially omit the detail in the drawing – like the mouth, the claws on the toes, and the details on the arms. I drew the outline and then with these two pictures on my laptop behind me, I slowly filled in the color (using open star tips) and added in the details kind of freehand. I am NO artist, so this made me nervous and I was checking the pictures constantly to make sure I wasn’t messing it up!

[The first picture is the picture that Kim emailed me to copy. The second one is from a Google image search.]

After the terrapin was done, I put the top coat of yellow icing on the top and sides. I couldn’t get as smooth of a finish as I normally would since I had to work around the design in the middle. If I had been using a crusting buttercream, I would have done the final coat of icing first and then put the design on top. But since I was using the cream cheese, I had to improvise.

I was really pleased with how this cake turned out – especially because I’d never used this technique before! I heard that the cake was a hit at the party too, so that is always wonderful to hear!

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Happy Birthday Nicki (a little late!)

December 13, 2010

This blog post is ridiculously late – it should have been posted about a month ago, but that just didn’t happen. But better late than never, right?

My very good friend Nicki turned the big 3-0 in early November. She had a party at her home with a few friends to celebrate and I was more than happy to make her a cake for the occasion.

Nicki is a cake lover and if we didn’t live 45 minutes away from each other I’m sure she’d be happy to take my “experiments” off my hands on a regular basis 🙂 But for her birthday we decided on her two favorite cake flavors: carrot cake and red velvet cake. Both would have a vanilla buttercream icing and filling.

I made two separate cakes since carrot and red velvet don’t really go together. I ended up making an 8″ round carrot cake using my usual carrot cake recipe. I also made a 6″ round red velvet cake using a red velvet recipe that I had used once before for cupcakes (also for Nicki). I made a half recipe and I was delighted that it was the perfect amount for two 6″ round cake pans. The halved recipe called for 3 tbsp. of red food coloring and I had to skimp a little because my 1 oz. bottle, plus one of those tiny squeeze bottles (the ones that come in the 4 pack of liquid coloring) only yielded about 8 tsp. of coloring and that’s all I had on hand. But the cake was still decidedly red, so no harm done.

For the “theme” we were going with martini glasses – inspired by the invitations for the event. I picked up some mini plastic martini glasses at Party City and I made some olives out of red and green fondant and skewered them on toothpicks. My original plan had been to make the numbers “3” and “0” and skewer them on the tooth picks with the olives, but it didn’t quite work out. So I just used the numbers for decoration on the smaller cake.

I made a triple batch of vanilla buttercream icing that I used for the filling and the icing. I had planned to do a pale pink for the icing and do white Swiss dots or a quilted pattern on the sides of the cake. But truth be told, I ran out of time and ended up doing a basic bead border in a darker pink color. I wasn’t pleased with the shades of pink I ended up with – they were a bit too Pepto-Bismol-ish for my taste. But the cakes themselves were tasty and it seemed to go over well. Nicki’s 3 year old daughter even ate some of the cake and apparently she only ever eats the icing, so I’ll take that as a good sign 🙂

This blog post is ridiculously late – it should have been posted about a month ago, but that just didn’t happen. But better late than never, right? 

My very good friend Nicki turned the big 3-0 in early November. She had a party at her home with a few friends to celebrate and I was more than happy to make her a cake for the occasion.

Nicki is a cake lover and if we didn’t live 45 minutes away from each other I’m sure she’d be happy to take my “experiments” off my hands on a regular basis 🙂 But for her birthday we decided on her two favorite cake flavors: carrot cake and red velvet cake. Both would have a vanilla buttercream icing and filling.

I made two separate cakes since carrot and red velvet don’t really go together. I ended up making an 8″ round carrot cake using my usual carrot cake recipe. I also made a 6″ round red velvet cake using a red velvet recipe that I had used once before for cupcakes (also for Nicki). I made a half recipe and I was delighted that it was the perfect amount for two 6″ round cake pans. The halved recipe called for 3 tbsp. of red food coloring and I had to skimp a little because my 1 oz. bottle, plus one of those tiny squeeze bottles (the ones that come in the 4 pack of liquid coloring) only yielded about 8 tsp. of coloring. But the cake was still decidedly red, so no harm done.

For the “theme” we were going with martini glasses – inspired by the invitations for the event. I picked up some mini plastic martini glasses at Party City and I made some olives out of red and green fondant and skewered them on toothpicks. My original plan had been to make the numbers “3” and “0” and skewer them on the tooth picks with the olives, but it didn’t quite work out. So I just used the numbers for decoration on the smaller cake.

I made a triple batch of vanilla buttercream icing that I used for the filling and the icing. I had planned to do a pale pink for the icing and do Swiss dots or a quilted pattern on the sides of the cake. But truth be told, I ran out of time and ended up doing a basic bead border in a darker pink color. I wasn’t pleased with the shades of pink I ended up with – they were bit too Pepto-Bismol-ish for my taste. But the cakes themselves were tasty and it seemed to go over well. Nicki’s 3 year old daughter even ate some of the cake and apparently she only ever eats the icing, so I’ll take that as a good sign 🙂


Sam & Greg's Engagement

April 12, 2010

April 2010

My good friend, Nicki, was going to a birthday brunch for her friend, Sam. Sam’s boyfriend was planning to surprise her by proposing at the brunch! The plan was to top some cupcakes with fake diamond rings – all except Sam’s which would be topped with her real engagement ring. Nicki asked me if I could make the cupcakes and I was happy to!

Half of the cupcakes were carrot cake with cream cheese icing, tinted green. The carrot cake recipe I used is one that I had used before for Nicki’s Christmas cake. I halved the recipe this time and ended up with 12 cupcakes. For the rest of the cupcakes, they requested red velvet cake. I had not ever made red velvet cake from scratch before so I needed to find a good recipe. I posted a request for a recipe on The Nest and my fellow Nestie, Mary, highly recommended this recipe. I only needed about 6 cupcakes, so I made only a third of the recipe (and I got 10 cupcakes). I was very pleased with this recipe – the red velvet cake was delicious!

I made up a double batch of my go-to cream cheese icing recipe and tinted half of it with Leaf Green color and half with Lemon Yellow color and voila – surprise engagement cupcakes 🙂