On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Another practice cake–square cakes are not my friend


You might be wondering what all this practicing is about. I’m making my nephew’s 21st birthday cake (gulp). Because Cameron is currently working just outside of Sydney, and has a 6 week break between his work (he’s in outdoor adventure and they take a break half way through the year) his birthday is being celebrated early. In two weeks time. A month before his actual birthday.

Last weekend I had a go at an explosion design. I might try something different this week to see if I can pre-make the explosion, and use modelling chocolate as the interior colour. This will (hopefully) help with the interior colour bleeding along the edges of the cake fondant where the cuts are made, and get crisper slices.

I needed a cake recipe, and I was determined to use modelling chocolate in the decoration.

While Cameron has no ideas for what his cake should be, Natalie is keen on having two square cakes, one on top of the other, looking like boxes. The top having the explosion with stars bursting out the top.

My thought was to have it appear like the boxes had been covered in gift wrap. There wont be any fluffy bows, it’s a blokes cake after all Winking smile

The colour scheme is black, silver (grey) and red. Now you’re starting to see why last week’s cake used those colours, but I had no idea of design at that point just wanted to start using the colours.

This post is (meant to be) about the cake recipe I tried, the ganache recipe I used, and the the perils of getting nice crisp edges on a square cake.

I have enrolled in Jessica Harris’s Craftsy video, Clean and Simple Cake Design. It’s not one of the free classes by Craftsy, but from Jessica’s blog, Jessicake, you can get a 50% discount on the Craftsy class. Which is what I did.

The link to Jessica’s blog will take you to her post on the Mudcake.


Jessica had mentioned that this cake is best 3 days after baking. That suited me to a “T”. and in my mind, had me wondering how I might go about making the cakes for Cameron’s birthday where I wasn’t scrambling at the last might, completely exhausted and too tired to stay up past 9pm during his 21st celebration.

I made the cakes, 2 8” square cakes, on Thursday evening.

Got to love a cake that doesn’t require a cake mixer. And I’m loving my recently purchased Stevens milk saucepan. It has a teflon coating and a pour spout on both sides. And a handle, a proper handle, unlike my saucepan set, which I also love, but find it impossibly difficult to hold and pour from.

I used good quality ingredients for the cake. There’s Dutch processed cocoa and Whittaker’s chocolate. A mix of 50, 62 and 72% went into the cake recipe.

Batter consistency

This is what the batter consistency is like. It worried me a little because my cake pan was lined only with baking paper, and the bottom was a separate piece to the side. I worried the batter would leak out and some sit between the baking paper that was lining the side and the tin.

Jessica was very patient with me when I asked on her blog a couple of questions about the size of her cakes for the cake recipe. And I used that measurement along with the CakeOmetre website to convert the recipe from 2 8” round cakes, to 2 8” square cakes.

And I can say that the conversion worked beautifully. Though not all ingredients come out in a nice easy divisor. For instance I needed 3.8 eggs. Not going to happen Smile

Crunchy like a brownie

In the end, thankfully, I had no dramas with leaking batter and the sides lifted away easily, and the cake released nicely from the tin. Jessica had mentioned the cake is a bit like a brownie. I was hoping for that, and not the dense heavy type cake you get with Divine Cakes. Not that there’s anything wrong with their cakes, just that I don’t like how dense they are, and how sticky they become, especially with cutting them, which is my job, at work (my inability to observe people butcher the cake cutting without having heart palpitations).

See all those little holes?  That’s me testing to see when the cake was done. I started with 25 minutes, then went another 3, then another 3 and then a further 2. So 33 minutes all up for me. I was pretty confident that it was completely cooked, but you’ll nice I never actually tested the very centre.

Top and botttom

When I turned the cake out I couldn’t help but noticed that darker, slightly undercooked middle. And I should have turned the cake back up the correct way because that centre dipped, as you can see, and never came right after flipping the cake back up the correct way, once cooled.

The second cake, baked the same amount of time, after checking the centre this time, but still had a smaller section in the middle that looked a little undercooked. I wasn’t worried (other than the dip) because a brownie is meant to be fudgy and I’d see enough toothpicks come out clean that any more baking and I might have been overcooking the rest of the cake. I’m using the cake tin I use for making the Christmas cake, it’s proper tin and really retains the heat. I was keen to get the cakes out after 10 minutes of cooling because I was concerned the heat in the tin was continuing to cook the sides.

Even though the top of the cake is flat, it was still slightly raised to the sides, so I had to level it a little before ganaching. The top was lovely and crisp and I was having no problem snacking on it while I ganached the cakes on Friday evening.

Thursday evening I made the cakes, the modelling chocolate (in 3 colours) and made the Ganache. It was like having a full-time job, after my full-time job.


I’ve watched Michelle’s YouTube videos (set of 3) on making the ganache, ganaching the cake and covering the cake in fondant, several times. You can see Michelle’s video’s here.

I used another tool, found on CakeCentral’s website for working out the quantities of Ganache I’d need for the cake.

I used Michelle’s microwave method for making the ganache. It worked out just fine, except that my bowl is just some plastic bowl from the $2 shop and did heat a bit, where Michelle mentioned that hers don’t.

Whittaker's 72 percent chocolate Ganache

More Whittaker’s 72% chocolate. I was a bit worried the chocolate would be too bitter, but I really wanted the higher percentage.

It was a very late night on Thursday, waiting for the cakes to cool and the ganache reach room temperature before putting in the fridge. I put both the cakes and the ganache into the fridge before they were all room temperature, but most of the heat had gone from both. They were just slightly warm to the touch.

I used 5, 250gm blocks of Whittaker’s chocolate blocks between the cake and the ganache.

Thursday evening I dropped into Divine Cakes to look at their cake boards and grabbed quite a number of things, and got my own Cake Decorators discount card. I felt so proud. Well chuffed.

The board I bought was 9”. I really needed two 8” cards so that I could have trimmed the cakes to be a few mm shy of 8” and then I’d have been able to get the ganache on better with the sides being perfectly straight, and the edges square.

Friday night I kept working those edges. I would sit for a while, think, research and get back up and try again. It was an arduous task. I thought what I ended up with was pretty decent given how hard I’d made the job for myself by not buying the right sized cake card. I’ve put that right by putting in an order from CakeStuff this afternoon.

Saturday all I had planned was to cover the cake in fondant. Nice and easy.

I had to rush to Spotlight, I’d tried getting there twice during the week. They close at 5:30pm. Such unsociable hours for people who work until 5pm and have to travel there. It’s not like their shop is central. And it’s not like Christchurch has anywhere that is a hub anymore.

I rushed to Spotlight to see if I could get some piping gel, quilters ruler and stitching tool, amongst other things. And I needed to be back by 10am for taking the cats to the vet with Mr Fussy. I only decided to rush to Spotlight at 8:15am. That has got to be the quickest shower I’ve ever had. I promise I did actually stay in there long enough to get washed Smile

Fondant with The Mat

I also wanted to see if they stocked grey fondant. They didn’t. They stock Satin Ice (as to Divine Cakes) and it would appear it isn’t made in grey.

I had to mix a very small piece of black fondant, and an even smaller bit of yellow, into the white Bakels fondant. And I could tell that I’d overworked the fondant. It had a funny texture on the surface. I knew I should let the fondant rest for a while (probably overnight) but I didn’t have time. I did leave it about 90 minutes.

I seasoned The Mat and got ready to roll out the fondant. I didn’t knead it anymore, I didn’t want to keep re-working it.

But guess what?  You know that builders saying, ‘measure twice, cut once’?  Well I should have done that. I got to 14” relatively easily. But it wasn’t the size I was aiming for. I was aiming for 20”. I had my measurements wrong. I kept rolling and rolling and sighing and thought I was never going to get there. And finally I did. After almost having to undress because it was so hot, and I was almost burning my hands with the friction from rolling my wooden rolling pin. And when I finally got my 20” all round I finally stopped and my brain kicked in and I realised I’d just rolled the fondant way too thin. I had the right amount of fondant, but rolled it big enough for a 10” cake of 4” high. The fondant was way too thin. So I had to gather it up and knead it slightly and start over. Reaching the 14” was reasonably quick, but again I could see the funny inverted bubbling on the surface of the fondant.

The the thing about using The Mat, the fondant is, not sticky, but without any cornflour or icing sugar, the fondant smoother was catching on the surface and not gliding across it nicely. So I had to sprinkle a little cornflour over the top in order to use the fondant smoother on top.

As for getting nice sharp corners. It never happened. I pulled the fondant into the corners like I’d seen, which caused a little bit of gathering of fondant along the sides, but I more or less got it right. Again because I was using a cake board that wasn’t the right side I had to work around a bit of a lip which I think didn’t help me trying to get the fondant nicely against the very bottom of the cake. It was a real hassle and I was very disappointed with the finish. I’ve covered the Chrismas cake better than that, and not watched any videos on how to. But the Christmas cake is on the Tupperware base and which gives plenty of flat surface. I will say that there was no tearing or pulling on the top corners.

While I thought I did a pretty decent job of ganaching the cake with what seemed like straight sides, the fondant covering showed up every little imperfection.

I couldn’t wait to cover the cake so I didn’t have to see those awful corners. I was going to decorate on Sunday but I finished the cake off Saturday afternoon (next post).

Cake texture

Cameron got a quick lesson in cutting the cake this afternoon. And I warned him about the resistance he would feel when he got to the ganache middle. And explained the bottom cake (for his birthday) will have 3 layers, so there will be two points where there will be some resistance. And then he was instructed about how to hold the knife to get a nice clean cut. He did ok, but was probably really baffled about all the fuss.

The cake was good. Phew. I didn’t know what I was going to do with the recipe turned out a dud like last week’s Vanilla Cake disaster.

The Craftsy classes (even the free ones) have resources and one of them is a sheet that explains how much fondant you’ll need for the shape and size of the cake (and has been spot on for me on both cakes I’ve covered these past few weeks). I was using it as my guide for how big I needed the cakes to feed 80 people. This 8” square cake, of 4” high (mine is 3”) said it would be 25 pieces, and that’s cutting around 1” wide. I can’t see how you’d get 8, 1” wide slices and come out with 25 but maybe it’s been too long since I was at school.

I had been doing all sorts of combinations over the weekend and reckoned that I’d end up getting 8 x 1” x 2” slices. That would net 32 pieces. The 10” cake I’ll be doing for the bottom tiers will be 4” high given I’m making that 3 layers, too keep the proportions right, otherwise it would look a bit squat.

As I cut the cake to get 8 slices for lunch we decided that the cake was actually too rich and 1” x 1” would be plenty. It was a really nice flavoured cake, and my worries about the ganache being too bitter came to nothing. I shared that concern but Logan assured me it was just right, and I also didn’t think it too bitter. And thankfully it was just perfect with the fondant, the fondant didn’t come across as being too sweet. Though I had a 1” x 1” centre piece with just that size piece of fondant on it.

What I am pleased with is how even the fondant was rolled. Looks good to me. Not that anyone else would probably give it a second thought. And of course the cake is great. Three days on and it was still moist and had great texture and flavour.

The plan now is to bake the 8” and 10” cakes next weekend, ganache them and then they’ll go straight into the freezer. I’ll collect one of them on Thursday, with Natalie taking it out of the freezer during the afternoon, so that all up it will also be the equivalent of 3 days at the time it will be eaten.

I’ll cover one cake on Thursday evening, collect and cover the other on Friday evening, and probably start decorating Thursday’s cake (10”) on the Friday. That should alleviate most of the pressure of having to fully decorate and deliver the cakes on Saturday.

Of course I know there will probably be something that doesn’t go as smoothly as I would hope for so I don’t for a moment think I’ll be cruising through Saturday, but you never know Winking smile

Fudgy consistency

You can now see how fiddly it was to cover the cake when I ended up with a really tiny bit of cake board in the way making the job quite fiddly. Anyway, the inside, and yes you can see that the bottom cake is a little more dense where it could have done with a little more baking in the middle. No one said it was stodgy, or they were just being too polite.

And that’s a sneak peek of what the cake was decorated like. But there were 3 different “thoughts” of design. That’s the next post.


4 thoughts on “Another practice cake–square cakes are not my friend

  1. The cake was lovely, not bitter at all. The pieces definitely needed to be smaller so it was great to have this as a tester before the big day. If this is the sample; it’s going to be a winner! Looking forward to the end results with the colours and design. Anita you are amazing!!! Such dedication to your ‘craft’. We appreciate all the work you put into making what you do….and we love being able to sample lots of your creations 😉 THANK YOU!

    • You’re welcome, and I know you appreciate my efforts 🙂 I’ve just cut up the quarter cake I had left, into 12 pieces. It really does still cut nicely, even though there wasn’t the same stability of having more surrounding cake. We’ll see if the 4 x 3 is too much tomorrow. Not that I imagine anyone will say “gosh, that’s too much cake”. But you never know 😉 Did you end up with any left after your afternoon tea?

      • The cake was really appreciated at afternoon tea time too 🙂 Had lots left so continued cutting it up into 4×4 pieces as we thought at lunchtime. It’s held up well too so I have about 20 odd pieces to take into work for the troups 😉 PS: the explosion cake design you sent wouldn’t open on the e-mail.

  2. Pingback: The quickest yeast bread I’ve ever made, and I liked it, a lot | On to the plate

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