I made Dad a birthday cake using a recipe I’ve used before. I made this Dorie Greenspan Perfect Party Cake with the New Zealand/Waitangi Day Cake this February.
Since then my cake decorating skills have improved a little. I’m not ready to gloat yet, but if you were to compare the two cakes you’ll see that I’m making progress in the right direction.
This is what the finished cake looked like, but that came after me trying to use a fondant flower I’d made on the Saturday night, the first that I was actually pleased with. I really wanted to use it. But it made Dad’s cake too pretty. So let’s get that photo over with. And an apology if I flick between the two looks. It’s just at the different times I took photos.
I hadn’t totally settled on what I would make for Dad’s cake during our stay in Melbourne, but on the flight home, on the back of a sick bag, the design took place.
For the cake I knew it couldn’t be chocolate. Dad is not a fan of chocolate baked goods. He loves fruit cake, but I knew Ruth would probably make him a fruit cake. And when I think of fruit cake I think of almond and white fondant and then it starts to become a Christmas cake.
Then the idea came to me to use the Perfect Party Cake recipe again. But I’d fill the layers with Raspberry filling. Dad loves his raspberries.
I also knew the cake would be 8” in size. Since I was having my sister and her family over for an afternoon tea along with Dad and Ruth, I needed a cake that would comfortably serve 10 people.
The Friday night before the afternoon tea I made the raspberry filling. I used the same filling recipe as per the Double Chocolate Layer Cake. I wasn’t really sure it would stretch to 2 layers of filling. I had originally been thinking 3 layers. On Saturday I made Lemon Curd and changed plan to torting the 3 cakes and having 5 layers where I’d alternate between layers of Lemon Curd and Raspberry Filling, and using slightly less filling between the layers.
I torted the 3 cake layers following the tip that I got from the Craftsy free video, Modern Buttercream. Joshua John Russell instructed to tuck your elbow tight into your side and not move it while you cut around the side of the cake, cutting slightly deeper each turn until you finally reach the middle and have cut through the entire cake. I think I did not too bad really.
Then to each layer I piped a little dam of frosting using the Wilton 12 tip, and then filled the layer with either the raspberry filling or lemon curd.
One of the other tips I picked up was using a simple sugar syrup. I’ve used this before on layered cakes. Its use is to keep the layers moist since they can dry out when you’ve got lots of layers due to the amount of time the cake is out, with cut sides, and also the fridge can dry a cake out as well. I saw that Joshua had his syrup in a squeeze bottle. That seemed like a brilliant idea, and he certainly made it look sensible. I suspect he’s been using this method for a long time and is used to the angle at which he points it at the cake before squeezing. I on the other hand ended up with the syrup squirting beyond the cake where I was trying to start at the edge. In the got the hang of it.
In my planning of the cake (on the plane) I had assumed the cake would be 10cm in height. And I knew when I had the cakes cooled and measured the height that it wasn’t going to be close to it (another reason I went for 6 layers, using filling to bolster the height). The change in height meant my original design would need to change. I was going for 4 layers of fondant stripes. The plan was for graduating depths of colour creating a sort of ombre effect, as well as larger to smaller strips of fondant as we went bottom to top of the cake, with a gap equal to the size of the fondant before starting with the next colour/strip.
There was one other thing I forgot to do using another tip in the video. I should have put the pastry scraper into a pot that contained boiled water, let the heat penetrate the scraper, dry off the scraper and then scrape the side and top of the cake to help smooth everything out nicely. It was smooth but there were some imperfections which you could see. The heat from the scraper should have smoothed it out a bit.
I was expecting to use some of the texture sheets I bought from Bake Boss in Melbourne for the strips but decided at the last minute to use one of the fondant strip cutters (also purchased from Bake Boss, but available here in NZ). That was on the bottom layer. I pulled out a little fondant wheel I bought on eBay for the middle layer (1cm) but it was useless at actually cutting through the fondant. And it’s not like the fondant was hard, it’s just the edge wouldn’t cut nicely. In the end the middle layer is cut using a pasta cutter I have.
The top layer I did use one of the texture sheets. This actually a fish scale. It wasn’t too bad trying to join the pattern but not dead easy, and I could spot where the sheet started and finished and the next began.
I had measured the circumference of the cake and knew I’d end up having to make two stripes for each because a single long strip would be too difficult to hold and try to place with the weight of the rest.
I used another tip I had come across and that was to roll the strip so that in my hand I had a coil and then I uncoiled it as I pressed it against the side of the cake.
I also used a Wilton tool that marks the cake. This gave me my guide as to where I’d be placing each strip. Unfortunately the Guide is in inches and I needed the impressions around the cake at 4 and 7cm. With not having the correct position I then had to decide where the strip would lay, would the guide be in the middle of the strip, or just above the bottom, or just below the top. You can imagine that this got a bit fiddly to get the strip even all the way around.
I had cut out a 7 and 0 from the fondant cutter set I bought, but the size was too insignificant for the cake.
I used my new craft cutter (like a scalpel) to hand cut out the numbers. The 0 was more or less an O which I then squished a little to elongate it, but the size was still a little bigger than the 7. And I placed them too close to the edge of the cake.
Don’t expect that when you cut into a cake that’s got strips of fondant (or some other type of strip) that they will stay put as you cut through it. We nudged them back into place for the photo, but I can tell you categorically they will drag down from where you’d carefully placed them.
And one last note, I had wanted to have a white frosted cake, but with so much butter in the doctored Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe I downloaded from the Craftsy video, I just couldn’t get white, despite putting some Bright White food gel in it.
The colour palette I was using called for blue (100) with equal parts of yellow (40) and black. (40) I have kept hold of this colour guide.
I needed more blue, more than twice the amount of yellow of the butter, and then some black. I didn’t add any yellow obviously, that came from the butter.
I was thrilled that the colour I got was so close to the lightest coloured fondant strip. While it’s not what I had envisaged, it was still a pretty decent cake. And I can say that I’m happy with all the new techniques and tips I’ve picked up over the months and that I made a cake that looked good, but best of all, it tasted so SO good.
We ended up with 4 slices left, sadly Mr Fussy came down with an awful gastro bug which has seen him off work all week. He couldn’t eat anything Sunday, but he had a mouthful of one of the slices left over, on Tuesday. The cake still had that beautiful fresh flavour. The Lemon Curd offsetting the sweetness of the cake and frosting.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream – slightly adapted from Joshua
- 10 egg whites (I used 30gm egg albumen and 300ml warm water)
- 280gm castor sugar
- 843gm Butter or Kremelta (or a mix of the two as I did) – room temperature, chopped into 1 Tbls pieces
- 2 cups icing sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 Tbls vanilla extract
- Bring a small pot of water to the boil. The pot needs to be suitable for sitting a bowl on top, where the bowl does not touch the water.
- Turn the heat down to keep the water at a steady simmer.
- Place the egg whites (or the egg albumen and warm water), sugar and salt into a heat proof bowl. Place the bowl over the pot of water.
- Use a whisk to keep the egg white and sugar moving. You don’t want to leave it sitting or you’ll end up cooking scrambled egg.
- From time to time put your finger into the mixture to check if the sugar has dissolved. As soon as it’s fully dissolved take the bowl off the simmering water.
- Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg white/sugar mix until you reach stiff peaks. At this time the bowl should have come back to room temperature.
- Begin to add the butter, the meringue mixture will deflate a bit as you add more and more butter. You can keep adding butter before the previous has been added.
- As you add more butter the colour of the meringue will change and it may begin to look curdled. Keep mixing, it will come together. You will probably hear the sound of your mixer change as the texture of the buttercream changes. I didn’t add all of the butter/kremelta before the texture changed to buttercream. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t need all the butter. In fact I ended up with over 200gm unused. The temperature of your kitchen, and the amount of kremelta used (if used) will have an impact on how much butter is needed to reach the right consistency for buttercream.
- If you’re wanting to colour the buttercream now is when you should add the gel.
- Add in the icing sugar and vanilla essence and mix on slow until the icing sugar has been fully incorporated.
- Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.
- If you’re not using the buttercream straight away, cover the buttercream and either leave it on the bench (for a day) or in the fridge. If you leave it in the fridge you’ll need to bring the buttercream back to room temperature.
- Put the buttercream back in the mixer using the paddle attachment and beat it until you reach a soft fluffy texture.
I really recommend watching Joshua’s free Craftsy video so you can see how to make this buttercream. It’s great if you’re a visual person. Joshua’s recipe, which you can download uses 8 egg whites, and less icing sugar. I preferred a slightly sweeter frosting. The extra icing sugar also changes the consistency a bit too, it’s not quite so slippery, but it’s still silky.
I had too much buttercream than was needed, I think even if I had filled the cake with the buttercream I’d still end up with a little too much, but I didn’t want to risk have too little, especially since I had coloured it.
The remainder buttercream is in the freezer and will last 3 months.
If you’re using frozen buttercream, bring it back to room temperature before mixing.
The one thing that makes me screw up my nose when I look at the cake is the frosting that was used to create a dam. It would have been wonderful not to have seen this bit of buttercream in the side of the cake.
It’s still a great cake, and I would make it again, without a doubt.