Memorial Day Stars

May 31, 2010

May 2010

Faced with a lovely 3 day weekend, I decided to tackle a cake experiment. Covering a cake with rolled fondant. Yikes. I had numerous issues with this cake, but overall I’m happy with my first attempt. My husband says it looks like a 4th of July cake. Yes, I suppose it does, but Memorial Day is a patriotic holiday too!

I used my standard yellow cake recipe (Wilton’s) and substituted lemon extract for the vanilla extract for a lemon flavored cake. Note: overfilling cake pans is a very, very bad thing. I used two 6″ round pans and filled them to about 3/4 full and they rose and spilled on the bottom of my oven. Hot mess. But, the cakes came out in one piece (sort of) and they were delicious, so no serious harm done.

Next I made up a batch of buttercream icing (Domino’s recipe) and again replaced the vanilla extract with lemon extract. I also added the zest of one lemon.

I was planning a raspberry filling – just seedless raspberry jam. When it came to filling and icing this cake, I had the same problem I had the last time I made lemon raspberry cake: raspberry jam is very slippery.  I did pipe a ring of buttercream around the filling to keep it in the middle, but it did leak out the sides a little. Had I not been planning to  cover the whole thing in fondant, I would have been angry – it was looking messy! But, because I planned to cover it all up, I didn’t have to worry about crumbs in the frosting, etc. After frosting it, I popped it in the freezer for a few minutes. When I took it out it was much easier to smooth the sides and get a flat (ish) finish.

I used Wilton’s ready-made fondant for this. I used about 1 package (24 oz). I tinted most of it blue, and then a smaller part red, and left a tiny part white. With the red and white, I cut out some stars with cookie/fondant cutters and skewered some of them on lollipop sticks.

Next came rolling out the fondant. This took 3 attempts. I dusted my counter top with powdered sugar and rolled out the fondant to about a 16″ circle. I lifted it over my cake and it cracked around the edges. So I took it off, put the cake back in the freezer, and headed to the interwebs to find out what to do. I read tips about using shortening to fix cracks and using cornstarch to dust the work surface (especially in a humid climate – and today its VERY humid!). I rolled it out again and it was better – much less dry. But I tore it. So onto attempt 3. One more time and it seemed to be working. I lifted it over the cake and it didn’t crack (as much). I smoothed the top and sides with a fondant smoother and my hands and it was working pretty well. Except  for the folds on the sides. I wasn’t sure how to get rid of them. Should I cut them? (No.) I think my fondant was still a little dry so it wasn’t standing up to the stretching that it should have. I assume that a little stretching would have smoothed out the folds. Luckily I was planning to cover the cake with fondant decorations, so the imperfections were covered!! I attached the stars to the cake with water. I brushed a little onto the back of the stars with a tiny paintbrush and that seemed to work.

Happy Birthday Mom & Dad!

February 28, 2010

February 2010

January through March is birthday season in my family! First my birthday in January, then my both of my parents in February, and then my sister’s in March. We had a combined birthday celebration for my parents and since there are two of them, naturally we needed two cakes! My dad loves and always requests spice cake with vanilla buttercream icing, so that was a given. And for my mom I decided to go with chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.

My parents are avid bridge players and when I discovered I owned heart, spade, club, and diamond cookie cutters when I was making my Valentine’s Day cupcakes, I knew I had to do something with a bridge theme!

I made two 9×13 sheet cakes – one was spice cake and one was chocolate cake (both box mixes). I also made a double (or maybe it was 2 1/2, I can’t remember) batch of Domino vanilla buttercream. And in addition to the peanut butter filling, I also decided to whip up a 1/2 batch of chocolate buttercream. When the cakes were cooled, I cut them each in half and put one half on top of the other and trimmed them into playing-card-shaped rectangles. I filled the spice cake with vanilla frosting and the chocolate cake with the peanut butter and the chocolate. I covered both cakes with the vanilla icing.

For the decorations, I used marshmallow fondant again. I made a small batch, split it in half and tinted half of it black and half red. I used my cookie cutters, plus my brand new letter/number fondant cookie cutters to put each of my parents’ new ages on their cake.

In my last post, I was saying how I was so pleased to have given the Domino buttercream another chance with such great results. And now, I’m iffy on it again. For the first cake, it was too thick and I was having real trouble spreading it on evenly. So before I started the second cake, I thinned it with some milk. And that helped a lot and it was much easier to frost. But it was too thin – later I noticed the icing was sliding off the cake!! Ugh, I can’t win. I really need a good all purpose vanilla buttercream recipe that can be piped and spread.

Valentine's Day came early this year…

February 7, 2010

February 2010

On February 6, 2010, we all made it through the “snOMG” event of our lifetime – the Blizzard of 2010. We got 28″ inches here at my house and it was a very good excuse to stay inside and do some baking! So since Valentine’s Day is next weekend, I decided to go ahead with these little treats a week early 🙂

So far I have tried only one chocolate cake recipe from scratch and it was kind of “meh” – not too chocolatey. So I Googled and came up with this recipe from Hershey’s. A batch of cake mix always makes far more mini cupcakes than I am expecting, so I ended up quitting after 4 dozen, but I probably could have gotten another dozen out of it.

Next, I was going to experiment with homemade marshmallow fondant. I have never eaten, worked with, or made fondant of any variety before and I was definitely excited to try! I found this recipe from Wilton for rolled marshmallow fondant and followed some instructions to make a smaller batch. I found it very easy to make and work with. Once I was done kneading, I divided it into 2 parts and used Wilton’s Red-Red color to tint one part pink and one part red. This is probably the first time I tinted something red and had it actually come out RED! I wrapped each part in plastic wrap and put them in a ziplock bag until the next day.

When I was ready to work with the fondant again, I popped it in the microwave for about 7 seconds to soften it up again. I kneaded it and rolled it out and cut out some hearts with a tiny heart cookie cutter. I kept the little hearts in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap overnight and they hardened a bit, but they weren’t brittle.

This morning I made up some vanilla buttercream icing following a basic recipe from Domino (if you buy the 1lb box, the recipe is on the box, but I bought the store-brand 2lb bags, so I had to look up the recipe here). This is the recipe my mom has always used. Last May when I made my first try at piping icing, I made this recipe and it did not hold up to piping and it melted. I blamed the icing, and switched to a shortening/butter recipe after that. But I have since learned that it really wasn’t the icing’s fault afterall – I had added too much milk and made it too thin and that’s why it didn’t hold up! So today, with many more months of experience under my belt, I gave the recipe another go and was able to identify the right piping consistency. And I’m so glad I did, because I think this all-butter recipe has a better taste than when shortening is used.

As an experiment, I also made up some of my usual cream cheese icing because I wanted to see how it tasted with chocolate cake. The verdict is not in on that yet. Also, I split the cream cheese icing into two batches and added some cocoa powder to make chocolate cream cheese icing. The combination sounded a little weird, but I wondered how it tasted. My husband thought is was really good, and I have to agree! I will add this to my recipe book.