On to the plate

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

Imperial vs. Metric–it does my head in


This weeks post (there’s only this one) is a tale about an 8” and 10” cake. Last week I made a practice cake. You can read about that here. I used the same Chocolate Mudcake recipe for Cameron’s 21st birthday cakes.

I guess we should back the truck up. Some weeks ago I asked Natalie how many people she was expecting for Cameron’s party. She thought about 80. And I knew she wanted 2 square cakes.

Using my chart from the Craftsy classes I figured we needed a 10” and 12” cake. Then came the practice cake in an 8” tin and we realised that we only needed what is called a coffee serve due to how rich the cake was.

8 inch ganached cake

With that in mind, it was an 8” and 10” cake. All this time, no matter which sized cake, I was thinking there was a 2” difference. And I pictured this being all the way around the cake. But no. I needed to engage my brain because it is only a 1” difference around the cake.

After having decided on the size of cakes last weekend I put my order in at Cakestuff and ordered the 8” and 10” cake boards. I ordered a lot of stuff, as I usually do. And I’ve since put in a second order.

Donna was fabulous and sent me the tracking number as I’d requested so I could keep and eye on when the order would arrived. Sadly the tracking number never worked but the order was at home Wednesday for me. Yay!

I grabbed the cake boards out and used the ruler to see if they were a true square. I wasn’t expecting them to be a metric “equivalent” of inches.

The cake boards were 23 and 25cm. That’s shy of 8” and 10”. It’s not like I could shrink the tins, nor could I stretch the cake boards. The best I could do was use some cardboard to make an inlay to the cake tins to try and make them a little smaller all the way around.

It sort of worked. I made the 8” cakes Friday night and knew from measuring that I would still have to trim the cakes. Bugger. I stood in the middle of the kitchen not wanting to waste cake by trimming, but what could I do with the 10” cakes. Light bulb time. I put the 8” card inside the 10” cake tin against the side and then placed the 10” cardboard (which was now trimmed a little smaller) against the 8” cardboard. Feeling relived and clever I set about on Saturday baking the 10” cakes.

The 8” cakes were again a little undercooked looking in the middle, so as I’d read from someone else, I put a rose nail into the middle of the cake tin to help draw heat there to cook the cake more evenly. It worked. But looked what it produced on the underside.

More craters

This was the second cake. The first had a much deeper crater. I knew I’d have to fill it somehow. I couldn’t make another cake. And I needed on layer to have a perfectly flat bottom, so the final layer I did away with the rose nail and hoped that it would cook nicely.

I used some of the cake trimmings and some ganache as a sort of bog to fill the gaps.

Plugged the hole

That photo is of the first cake layer. You might also notice from the photo where I showed the crater, there’s a crack through the cake. I was having a bit of a mission turning the cooling cakes over onto the glad wrap. It wouldn’t slide nicely off the cooling rack like the first cake did, so I flipped it over quickly, but my hand was underneath it to try and guide it to the table. And yeah, as you’d expect, I ended up with a crack, but it didn’t break the cake, thankfully.

After trimming the cakes (which was really easy given how dense a mudcake is) I set about getting everything sorted. It’s no quick task organising everything.

Preparing the work area

I’m glad I never got rid of my original cake turntable. I sat it on top of some non-slip mats, then put a thin layer of ganache on it. I’d bought some really large cake boards at Spotlight’s 30% sale and then covered it with waxed paper, covering it on the diagonal. It took two pieces of paper, so there’s a join from one corner to the opposite corner. I placed the board on top as centred as I could. I would spin the board around and see how it lined up against the edge of the bench. With the cake board in place then came the cake boards.

Time for a small diversion. After dropping the 8” cake off to Natalie, so she could store it in the freezer, we went to Lincraft trying to look for something that was flat. The original cake boards were slightly bowed. Not much, but enough that I knew it wouldn’t sit flat on the top. My intention was to have a cake board top and bottom, precisely lined up, which would be my guide to getting the sides straight. I’d ganache and then run the scraper along the side guided by the edge of the cake boards.

But with a bowed board I knew I had to come up with another idea. I’d been reading about the Torta method (which I did use for the 8” cake) and the lady spoke about having Perspex cake boards. This saved her having to trim the cakes because all her Perspex boards were already 1/2” more than the tin size.

We found something at Lincraft, presentation board, which I was going to cut to size and I reasonably satisfied it would work, well work better than the bowed board. As we were nearing home I spotted a sign, a sign I’d seen before but it never meant anything to me. A guy cuts Perspex to size, from his home. Mr Fussy quickly indicated and pulled into the side of the road and then we back tracked and got 10” Perspex cut on the spot, with an order put in for 8 1/2” square, 8 1/2” circle and 6 1/2” circle.

Perspex cake boards

Sadly though something got lost in translation. I had explained to the man why I wanted the Perspex and that the cake board was meant to be 10” but was 25cm. My false 10” cake tins were reduced to produce 23.5cm square cakes, but between Mr Fussy and the guy talking 25cm and what that converts to in inches, I ended up with perfectly cut 10” Perspex squares. So ore than 25cm for 23.5cm cakes. I had almost a full 1cm gap all the way around the cake that would need filling with Ganache, when usually you’d have just a 1/4”.

I had to make more ganache. At least I realised that ahead of time and made it Saturday evening ready for use Sunday morning.

Ok, back to the cake. Even though I took out the Ganache that I had pre-made Friday night, there was so much of it that it was still too thick, I couldn’t even make an impression with my finger. It took quite a bit to bring it back to a consistency to use. And it set really fast on the cakes.


Look how ugly those sides are! I had to constantly remind me that there was still a bit of work to do and not to be disheartened by the look of it. It really was doing my head in. I couldn’t stand how awful those sides looked.

Now a reasonable person might have stopped and asked themselves if they really needed a 3rd layer of cake. I was trying to get the same box look as I would get for the 8” and expected to need 3 layers to achieve that given it was a bigger cake. Again going back to the dreaded 10” not being 10” and then making a false side which meant the cakes were higher to begin with, 2 layers would have been almost spot on. But no, I had it in my mind I needed 3 layers, and I had baked 3 layers, and I was on auto pilot.

So I have a behemoth of a cake! It’s over 5” tall!  So I’ve made things really difficult for myself now. What I had begun with for decorating the sides and the small 1” gap all around the top of the cake (the gap from the 8” to the edge of the 10”) was now only just going to be enough to cover the sides of the cake.

I’d started the modelling chocolate decorations Saturday evening, and I spent all evening kneading, rolling, putting through the pasta machine, laying out, cutting, and cutting and more cutting. My back was extremely sore.

Flat smooth top

Going back to that Torta method. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that due to the size and weight of the cake (I knew that Saturday without having seen how massive the cake was). Even though I put a lot of ganache on the top before putting the top Perspex on, and getting the top even, it still wasn’t enough. I knew I had to get the edge spot on so that I could fill in the gaps on top. Didn’t it look awful! But it came right.

As for that 8” top, I liked how smooth it was. I had tipped the cake upside down and used waxed paper with ganache smeared on it before laying the cake upside down on it. But then I thought about the fondant settling into those little ripples left by the crumpled waxed paper so I tided it up, which meant it no longer looked beautifully flawless (other than the wrinkles).

Smoothing over the top

See, they are both about the same dimensions. We wont be short any cake, that’s for sure!

The 8” we carted over in a 10” cake box, but the 10” was carted on the massive cake board I used as the base for which to ganache on. I put a bit of the non-slip mat between the cake and the board thinking that was being overly cautious, but this is Christchurch, and we live on the East side and the East side is still a total mess and there were pot holes and bumps and uneven surfaces and detours and Mr Fussy took off a little too fast at the round about and the cake slide back into me. I’m pretty sure everything I didn’t say was written all over my face.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I no longer have the cakes. But I’ll pick up one on Thursday and cover it in fondant Thursday evening, and the 8” on Friday and cover it and if time allows (depending on how well I get it right) I’ll start decorating the sides of the 10” cake.

Modelling chocolate stripes

This is what I’ll be putting on the sides, the slight diagonal stripes. The two pieces you see at the top of the picture are 2 of 4, and they will be in the middle of each of the 4 sides of the 8” cake.

What you’re seeing is the side of the stripes that will end up against the cake, so don’t panic that you can see cornflour or some not quite smooth surfaces, this will be hidden.

Extra embellishments

With some of the left over black modelling chocolate I cut out some stars, I’ve already got 22 stars of 3 different sizes already on florist wire and sprayed with a silver lustre spray, but we thought it would be nice to add some of the other colours too. I’m hoping to cut out a fairly solid 2 and 1 with the red modelling chocolate later in the week, so I’ll use the scraps to make some red stars. The other teeny tiny stars were made with my new fondant plunger set that arrived this week. Modelling chocolate cuts much more crisp than fondant. These are very tiny stars. But what we’ve decided is that little 1” gap around the top of the 10” cake will have a scattering of grey and red small stars. The 10” cake will be covered in black fondant.

One thing that is worrying me is the drag and likely pulling of the fondant in the corners of the 10” cake. While out running tonight I decided I’ll panel the fondant on the 10” cake. You’re not going to see the sides anyway since they’ll be covered. Do you think that’s cheating or a perfectly reasonable thing to do given the fondant will be hidden anyway?

I can’t wait until Cameron’s party, it means the cake will be complete and delivered, and the aroma of chocolate will finally dissipate from the kitchen. I’m a bit over the smell of chocolate now.


5 thoughts on “Imperial vs. Metric–it does my head in

  1. You have written a really comprehensive post, but I just can’t get what you mean about putting the 8″ cardboard into the 10″ tin and vice versa. I guess you had to be there!

    BUT…. what I would love to see is a photo of your collection of cake decorating “stuff” it sounds like you have a massive “stash” as we would say in quilting!

    I really admire your attention to detail and pursuing just the right tool, colour, cutter etc for each job.

    Looking forward to seeing Cameron’s finished cake.

    • Hi Alison. I cut cardboard out to fit the inside of the 8″ and 10″ tins. The 10″ tin ended up with double thickness of card around each side. The 8″ card followed by the 10″ card. Does that help? Yes I’ve got oodles of bits and pieces. So much stuff, but all of it gets used 🙂

  2. Got it! Thanks.

  3. Looks good! I have yet to try this technique. The whole flipping the cake business scares me.

    • Hi Ev, I’ve just made a 6″ and 4″ round White Chocolate Mud Cakes. I reckon at these sizes flipping them shouldn’t be too much of a drama (famous last words!). What beautiful photography on your blog. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Cheers

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