Some weeks back Sam asked Jasmine to marry him. It was a question asked without doubt of the answer. It was a question lots of family knew was coming. I’ve had a few chuckles at how Natalie must be feeling. It’s a sobering thought when you realise that what she’s going through is what our own parents went through. Now if that doesn’t make you feel old I’m not sure what will.
I wasn’t sure if Jasmine and Sam would want a cake, and they certainly didn’t have to feel obliged to ask me, but if they did, I needed to know, and know quickly. Last Friday the email arrived with a picture of a cake they’d seen and liked the look of. And it was Friday I grabbed all the bits from the supermarket.
Before getting to the supermarket we had a bit of a quick discussion and we ironed out a few details and came up with some different ideas given limitations. The cake would be 2 tiers and not a double barrel meaning we didn’t have height to play with to taper in the bottom. I knew I would be practicing a few things to help Jasmine and Sam decide what they did and didn’t want. They just wanted to keep the cake fairly simple.
Friday evening I started out by colouring fondant. Jasmine and Sam had picked out from a colour chart the shade of teal they wanted. I used the ratios in the chart and ended up with something very dark, darker than jade. I spent a lot of time trying to lighten it by adding more and more white fondant. I really dislike colouring during the evening. Natural light is a must for matching colours. Jasmine didn’t want it too blue, or too green. But I had no real reference other than the little block of colour on an online colour chart.
While the colour seemed ok, in the light of day it was quite a greyish blue. I spent time using different impression mats and taking lots of photos to see if we could narrow down the pattern J & S liked.
After The Food Show on Saturday I nipped around with the mats and ribbon I’d bought at Spotlight to see if we could agree a few more details. I came home and re-did the fondant to make it more the colour of the ribbon and re-did the two choices Jasmine had narrowed the choices to.
I came home and baked an 8″ square Chocolate Mud Cake (The Planet Cake book) but it didn’t rise as high as the cakes rose when I used the same recipe for the 6″ circles (the recipe makes one 8″ square cake or one 9″ round cake. One 9″ round cake will make two 6″ cakes). No worries. I still had time to bake two cakes on the Sunday. I increased the recipe by a quarter and the cakes baked just as I wanted. The 10″ cake took around 2 hours to bake. I didn’t use a rose nail (to get more heat into the centre) so I was being very cautious with the slow long baking to ensure the cake was properly baked.
On Sunday I grabbed various green and blue shades of modelling chocolate I had in the fridge and had a crack at making teal. I was having a crack at making a brooch type thing. You see during Sunday morning I spotted my heart necklace. Going along with the theme of being slightly off centre and a little abstract, I thought my own necklace would be a good starting point. Anyway after I made the brooch, and used a fantastic silver paint to mimic the metal edges of the brooch, I decided it was a bit too old looking for such a vibrant young couple. Natalie arrived after lunch with the 10″ tin, at this point I’d moved onto getting a feel for making the hearts. I was using a lighter green colour of modelling chocolate. I wasn’t worried about the colour because I expected to have the framework completely covered in silver cachous. The first crack at the design was a bit chunky and I learnt that the cachous wouldn’t stay put. But it was all a learning experience. It’s not like I do this every other week. I’m glad I trialled everything I wasn’t familiar with. It meant that on Saturday I pretty much knew what I was doing and how I would do it.
Anyway, getting back to the fondant. Sunday morning I took the ribbon and the new Teal outside and it wasn’t a good enough match for my liking. I really wanted it to be brighter than it was. But brightness doesn’t necessarily mean lighter. I was a bit stuck and I was almost paralysed standing there trying to work out how I could brighten it. Finally I got the electric blue and electric green Americolor gels out and I began to add until I was finally happy.
Monday after work I dropped around again and took fondant strip samples of using the newly coloured fondant with the impression mat J & S had decided on, and I took the necklace and the first attempt modelling chocolate hearts to see if the concept was getting close to what they wanted.
Monday evening I went home and practiced covering a square cake dummy. I have to admit to feeling slightly unwell when I realised the cakes would be square. The christmas cake was the last square cake I covered in fondant but it wasn’t ganached. That would be awful on a fruit cake. The one prior to that was Cameron’s 21st cake. I wasn’t very happy with how that turned out, and the more I learn and better I become with different things the worse I feel about his cake. It was a very dense mudcake, the ganache covering was too thick and it was very difficult to ganache.
Talking ganache, I made the ganache on Saturday night. Jasmine has very strong feelings over her chocolate and she doesn’t like dark chocolate. I was making a milk chocolate, which means more chocolate because there’s less cocoa solids. Everything was going along swimmingly. Sunday I took it out of the fridge. It was a bit softer than I had been expecting. I smeared a bit onto baking paper, about as thick as I expected it would be on the cake to see if it would set up and dry out. After many hours it was still tacky and I knew that spell trouble and increase the chances of air bubbles after the cake was covered in fondant. A few questions online and I was back to melting some 60% chocolate and adding it to the ganache. I tried some of that and it was giving the results I needed. Phew.
I know I’m jumping about a bit, but I’m backing up to covering the dummy cake. I covered the dummy with Crisco and then I took my two 750gm packets of Bakels fondant and kneaded it like I’d read in The Planet Cake book. I think previously I was “pummeling” it, as described in the book. I was pretty much kneading it like dough, and overworking fondant can lead to the cracks and elephant skin. So I kneaded it like playdoh. Although I really can’t remember how to knead playdoh. But I wasn’t pummelling it, and that was a bit of a breakthrough for me. I also flattened it more by hand before placing it between the sheets of The Mat to finally roll it out. I was a little bit relieved when I covered the dummy well and without fuss or bother. Phew. The only thing is I was left with what I’m describing as pock marks. I didn’t have an answer for it. I’ve never had it before. I’d also bought Satin Ice fondant on the Saturday and I hoped that it would roll better.
Tuesday morning it was bucketing down so instead of going for a run I decided I’d hand pipe some hearts onto the dummy cake so that J & S could compare and decide which type of heart embellishments they wanted (which was really for my sake, in case I ended up with tears in the fondant and needed to disguise them). I also added some lustre to the cake. I was doing this all backwards. I had the cake covered, the embossed “band” attached and some cut out hearts and now I was trying to paint the base. That wasn’t going to go easily, and it didn’t. The brush strokes left too many streaks. And I was applying this at 6am with my running torch on trying to see what I was doing. In the dull light the silver was looking quite grey. So it was back to Natalie’s Tuesday after work as well. Jasmine wasn’t there so I had to wait to see what she and Sam liked. But more photos were taken and shared. We have a Dropbox album where I added photos to help them get a feel for things.
Word came back that they liked the hearts but would prefer the colour to the same as the band. I totally agreed, and it was my plan that if they liked the heart design I’d re-colour the modelling chocolate to get close to the teal colour. I couldn’t believe how much colour I had to add to the modelling chocolate. I was being as careful as I could to knead it in, but there came a point where the MC was becoming a bit too soft and I didn’t want to risk overworking it and have it crumble when it “rested” and then be completely unusable. I was very pleased the next morning to see it had hardened up perfectly overnight. I still needed to work the colour in a little more but we had a winner.
I wasn’t totally sold on the size of the hearts I’d made on Sunday, or the chunkiness so Wednesday I started over again. This time making the larger heart much larger knowing the MC covering would take up some of the distance that would be between the larger and smaller heart. I also used a heavier gauge of florist tape, and this time white. See, always learning :)
Before fluffing about with the MC I covered the cake board and used the same impression mat to emboss the fondant. I was using the left over Bakels fondant. As well as that, I was also ganaching the 10″ cake. It was going quite well. The corners weren’t perfect but I planned to work on them further once the sides had set so that I could use them to help guide the bench scrapers up the sides to achieve true corners.
Thursday morning I was up at 4:45am to head to Wellington. I touched the side of the cake and it had dried perfectly. I was thrilled. I flipped it over and pulled away the waxed paper from the top. The top was almost perfect too, but I knew I would need to do a little tidying up.
When I arrived home Thursday night I tidied up the top of the cake, made sharp corners (it was pretty simple after all) and then got stuck into preparing for the 8″ cake which Mr Fussy had collected from Natalie’s to bring home. The 10″ cake I’d pulled out of the freezer on Tuesday night and left in the fridge all day. So when I came to ganaching it, it was still quite a firm cake. I was very pleased I’d levelled the top Sunday night, but I left the top on, and it made it tricky to pull it away cleanly. The 8″ cake I’d instructed Natalie to leave out of the fridge when she got it from the freezer Thursday morning. It was room temperature when I was working with it. The only thing that was slightly nerve-wracking was lifting the whole thing and turning it upside down onto the waxed paper which had a thick coating of ganache (which is how I get the top to be smooth and level). The cake had some give it it because it wasn’t nice and firm from the fridge. But it wasn’t much of a bother. The 8″ cake covered as simply as the 10″ and I was sitting down by 8:30pm, even after covering the new hearts in silver cachous. That was a bit of a fiddly job. Those little round silver balls didn’t really want to stick to the piping gel that I’d brushed all over the hearts. Mostly because MC is waxy and trying to get anything liquid to adhere was never going to be easy. I knew there wouldn’t be a complete coverage, which is why it was important to get a pretty good match to the teal band/ribbon. At one point I even got the tweezers out to try and individually place cachous in gaps I thought were too big. Next was to wait and see if it would set up and firmly stick. I wasn’t really keen to give it a good shake to test things out.
Friday came and I knew it was D day, or F day, Fondant that is. I was fairly relaxed about it, slightly encouraged by my trial run on Monday. For all that a couple of packets of fondant made it into the shopping cart. See, I even went grocery shopping first. No rushing home in an anxious state slightly panicked by the ordeal ahead of me. I was quite proud of myself. Which is not to say that when I began rolling the first lot of fondant (I started with the 8″) I didn’t get a warm feeling from being either hot and bothered, or just hot from all that rolling.
The 8″ cake covered nicely, no problem getting the corners tidy, except that just one corner seemed to be a little bit thin and I could make out the ganache underneath. It was weird that it was the height of the cake. The thing with rolling fondant in The Mat is that it’s quite sticky. It doesn’t stick so much you can’t coax it off the mat, but once all is said and done and you’re ready to smooth out the top, the fondant smoothers just grab and don’t want to move freely. For that I have to end up dusting the fondant with cornflour to easy the stickiness and allow the smoothers to glide nicely. But the pock marks were there. Blah. No amount of smoothing was bringing them together to fill out. Oh well. Onto the 10″ cake. Eeek. Well the dummy cake and the 8″ cake went without any dramas, how about 3 for 3. And yes, I got 3 for 3. Again no drams. I didn’t have quite as much overhang which I worried might pull at the corners, but we were all good. The other thing that had worried me with the 10″ cake is that I took it out of the fridge on Friday morning and left it on the bench (at 5:30am) and it had condensated, I fully expected that. But I also expected it would dry out during the day and be dry as it was overnight after first ganaching it. But it was slightly sticky. I left my fingerprint in the top as I gave it a light touch. I wasn’t concerned it was a bit sticky, I needed that for the fondant to adhere, but I hoped it didn’t increase the chance of the fondant bulging. Though that’s usually from the difference in temperature and the cake relaxing as it comes to room temperature. The really odd thing is that it was cooler than the 8″ cake. I couldn’t understand it. Why would the cake be cooler when it wasn’t a cold day, and it had been sitting out for more than 12 hours by now. Anyway, all was good. I made sure I poked a hole into the top using a skewer so that if any air needed to escape it had somewhere to go (hopefully).
One of the questions I had for J & S was whether they wanted the hearts if I managed to cover the cakes without any tears or any elephant skin. The answer was yes. With the cakes covered I moved onto making the cutout hearts. I wanted them dry before fixing them to the side of the cake, it just makes it easier to touch them. And I figured if I were going to cover the corners like I had on the dummy cake, well I’d just roll some fresh fondant to be able to wrap them around the corners. In the end I had over 100 hearts in 3 sizes. I had no idea how many I had, but it filled up the turntable so it was time to call it a night.
For whatever reason, I found myself awake during the early hours of the morning. I got up and flipped each heart over to give it a chance to dry out on the bottom as well. And then back to bed.
I didn’t get out of bed until 8am, I thought I was doing well. But it was straight up and at it. I started with rolling the fondant and putting each strip through the pasta attachment to ensure I had an even thickness. The 10″ cake was bigger than the embossing sheet so I had to do a bit of careful matching up in order to make the strip as seamless as I could. I watered down the piping gel to make it smoother (piping gel, or at least mine, is a bit lumpy). I used a wide flat brush to brush it on. Rolling the strip up onto it self without it sticking meant that as I coiled it up I’d have to dust the underside a bit to ensure it unravelled freely and didn’t stick and subsequently stretch the fondant.
Even though the strips are pretty uncomplicated in design, they took a bit of time from start to finish. Then it was time to fix the silver cachous onto the seems where the fondant joined at the edges, and lastly to randomly place the hearts. I picked the spots that had the biggest pock marks. That’s how I managed random.
I had another acrylic 21cm square which I used to work out where the top layer would sit and then using the same acrylic square I traced it onto baking paper which I cut out, then went 1″ in to mark out where I’d put the supports. I placed the paper on the cake and using a pin I pierced through the paper at the points and gave the pin a bit of a wiggle to make the hole a little more obvious, then I pushed the plastic dowels in and cut them to size. Oh, what I should have mentioned earlier is that I fixed the bottom tier to the cake board using royal icing. I’ve never used it before and hoped that some 8 hours later it would have set to ensure the bottom tier wasn’t going anywhere.
One of the things I probably spent more time on than was needed on the Saturday was working out what to do with the hearts that were originally across the corner of the dummy cake. I really didn’t want to make it seem like I was masking a mishap like I had intended them to be for, and I felt the hearts didn’t quite blend as well on the corners as I would have liked. I don’t know if I’m sold on the way I used them on the cake either. It sort of reminds me of a curtain opening to reveal something else, that being the silver cachous (in my mind). Anyway it is what it is.
We took the cakes down to the hall for 4pm. I was a little nervous about the cake in the hatch and hoping that royal icing had stuck firmly and the cake itself wasn’t bouncing about in the back unseen to us. I nursed the 8″ on my lap.
I expected it would take an hour to set up, not because I’m slow, but there were decisions that still needed to be made. Did J & S want the left over cut out hearts scattered over the top of the cake. Should I add the ribbon to the cake board or not. How should I place the the heart toppers. I was keen to get the cake set up. Logan was moving around the bench where the cake was mostly on the bench, getting into the fridge. I was looking on nervously and didn’t want him to end up accidentally knocking it as he was putting drinks etc away. We had to go through the whole round or square table, black or white cloth, add the table runner or not. And then as I was getting it set up everyone was moving around the table getting photos hung. It was an interesting time. Once I decided on the height of the hearts I then had to add a little more florist tape and make sure no florist wire was exposed. Even though the topper was sitting inside of a plastic cake pop “straw” I was still being extra cautious. I think in the end the topper might have looked better sitting on the cake rather than a little above. It was a little higher before but as Natalie mentioned, it looked a bit like a lollypop.
Both Jasmine & Sam were really happy with the cake. I let them know that I was worried that the cake had turned out quite different to the cake they had originally seen but they both loved it. Jasmine let me know some of her friends had made positive comments about the cake too.
So the cake was cut, then I took it to the kitchen and cut it up some more. We had expected around 160 people, but knew they would be coming and going through the night. Initially we were going to make a 12 and 8″ cake but then I remembered how much cake we had left from Cameron’s 21st. Saturday morning I contacted Natalie and we agreed a 10″ would be more than adequate, and if we thought it wasn’t going to go the distance, we’d just cut them into 1×1″ squares rather than 1×2″ square.
With all the food that Natalie and Sam’s mum had prepared, there was no way there wouldn’t be enough sweet things, so I cut the majority of the slices into 1×1″ pieces. And you can see, there’s plenty left, more than 1/4 of the bottom tier. The top tier completely untouched!
Congratulations Jasmine and Sam, and thank you for the privilege of making your Engagement Cake <3