Some weeks back I had planned to use some cutters I ordered from Not Just Cakes by Annie. The cake I had covered had a big fat unsightly fondant blowout which put paid to my plans.
I’ve also been wanting to use modelling chocolate again. I’ve recently purchased Jessica’s new Craftsy class Simply Modern Cake Design.
Often I’m looking for excuses to practice cake decorating and what do you know, it’s Show Day this coming Friday. That’s Canterbury Anniversary for you non-Cantabrians. I made a his and hers cake for taking to work. You might recall last weekend I baked the White Chocolate Mud Cakes.
Initially I was going to stack the cakes, just for the purpose of taking photos. But I did away with that idea. I decided there was no need to poke holes into the larger cake just to satisfy my desire to have a two tiered cake to photograph.
As is usual, not everything went according to plan. And even though I’ve gone through spells of being happy with the outcome, then not liking it (I see Darth Maul and a Harlequin), to waking up this morning and having some sense of accomplishment, to deciding it’s still not what I had in mind.
This blog post is therefore a mix of happy moments, frustrating moments and a thankful learning experience. I realise that those mistakes I made have given me the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson(s), and for that I’m thankful, and it makes it all worth it.
A couple of weeks ago I made homemade marshmallow fondant. It’s a recipe that was included in the class materials for the first Clean and Simple Cake Design. And for your viewing pleasure, it’s also on YouTube.
Now apart from liking a good experiment and comparison to my first batch of homemade fondant (by Rose Bakes), I wanted the fondant for these cakes to be grey. I’ve “made” grey before by adding a touch of Bakels black fondant to white, but the grey always had a purple tinge. I didn’t want that. I spoke with Lindy from Cake & Sugarart asking what type of food gel she uses and she told me about the Liquorice Sugarflair food gel. I’ve got so that I’m loving the Sugarflair colours.
I was looking forward to having a lovely dove grey showing behind the cutters I was using.
After last weekend I was nervous the 8” cake would be tall enough. I made another 8” two layer cake. I was in two minds to cut one of them down to 6” and add another layer to the 6” cake. I was intending to put a cake card into the cakes, basically so the 8” would feed everyone from my floor (over 30 people). Using just the one layer for each cake would give me 5 layers each cake. That was problematic when I was going to put a cake card half way. I’d end up with a double layer and 3 layer cakes. I like everything to be nice, neat, and EVEN. The 6” ended up remaining as 4 layers and the 8” 6 layers. That’s two, three-layer cakes.
What I did was torte and fill the first 3 layers (ending in Italian Meringue Buttercream), then put bubble straws in before putting the cake card on top. The layer on the top side of the card is resting directly on the card, just as if it were the cake board.
I then had the worry of covering it in fondant. When I covered Mum’s cake for her birthday I had no end of trouble with the fondant tearing, and that cake wasn’t as tall as this one.
In Jessica’s latest Craftsy class she has a lesson on covering a double-barrel cake with fondant. Now the 8” was only 6” tall, so it was only 1.5 times (in the USA the normal cake height is 4” high, a double-barrel is therefore twice the height). Jessica had said that if the diameter was greater than the height of the cake, the draping method would work best, the alternative is the panel method (which is what I did with Mum’s cakes).
I did everything the same as Jessica showed. I used shortening over the cake for the fondant to stick to.
I did find the fondant was a bit sticky. It stuck to the table as I was rolling it out. It took quite a bit of cornflour and plenty of turning the fondant as I was rolling it to keep things tick along nicely.
But guess what? No, it didn’t tear. I just didn’t line it up right and one side was way too short. Thankfully I saw that about .8312 seconds after having just placed the fondant over the top of the cake. I was able to peel the fondant off really easily, just pull it away from the cake and I was back in business. There was a tiny bit of ganache on the fondant but it just sort of disappeared as I rolled it out again.
Second time was pretty perfect. I still had one little tiny bit where the fondant didn’t reach the bottom but fondant stretches and by the time I got to that (having smoothing the top and adhering the very top/sides to prevent any tearing), the fondant had already stretched and covered the cake completely.
I was pretty happy with how the cake covered. Even though I was going to end up covering pretty much every inch with the decorations, I still worked to get the top crisp without tipping the cake upside down to achieve it. I did enough that it encouraged me that I could do it better/properly if I spent a bit more time.
Before I got to covering the cakes in fondant I’d spent the morning rolling out the modelling chocolate and making the panels for the 6” cake. My first idea was to try and make the ITM Canterbury Rugby teams jersey. It’s stripes graduating in thickness from red going to black. But I’d have had to cut some stripes 1/2 cm which was just asking for trouble. And trouble I did not need. So I stuck with graduating thicknesses (1cm, 1.5cm and 2cm), and laid the pattern diagonally meaning I didn’t have to cut such long strips (going around the cake) which would likely have been very fragile.
I forgot that working with modelling chocolate is back breaking work. Honestly I could barely stand up straight by the time I was finished. And my head hurt too. I had to calculate how tall I thought the cake would be covered (which I did get right) and how much bigger the circumference would be. Which I didn’t get right. I was about 1.5cm too short which I had to laugh at as I put the last panel on the cake. Then I had to come up with some way to “disguise” my faux par. I decided that I’d add a black panel and then use my new First Impressions pearl silicone mould for red “beads”. I was going for a bit of a zipper/button type look. I decided it could almost pass for being the back of a dress. Use your imagination 😉
I wished I was certain I had enough fondant. It would have been easier to complete one cake before moving onto the next.
One down, one to go.
I mixed modelling chocolate (the same as I used for the 6” cake) and fondant together for the decorations of the 8” cake. The mix was so soft and I thought I was doomed. Well not doomed. I had plenty of fondant. It was another moment of frustration and disappointment. I decided that I might as well use that soft stuff to lay out my pattern.
I had already drawn the pattern out using the cutters last weekend and now I had two more layers. I had been giving it some thought during the week and decided that I’d really like the one cut out pattern to sit above the height of the cake. I had hoped I could cut out that bit that peeked above the cake, so that it would be a bit of a loop look, but I didn’t have anything to cut a semi-circle so that idea went out the window. But while I was fluffing about with the pattern layout and assuring myself I had the right number of pattern repeats for the diameter of the cake, the fondant/modelling chocolate was firming up. Yippee. Back in business.
And here’s yet another very important lesson. When you’re using a pattern, it wouldn’t hurt to put your ruler up against it to make sure you’re keeping things nice and straight. The gap, the bit where my nice grey fondant was to show through, was obviously not even all the way around. I built one pattern up to the very top and it looked good, then I started to continue with the layers from the bottom now going all the way around, and when I got to the back I realised I was out of space. Crap.
I managed to ease some of the pattern off and try and squish up as much as I could. But that nice grey that I wanted to see peeking through, well that’s no more one section of the cake.
We live and learn and I’ve learnt a lot from making and decorating these cakes.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I wasn’t even sure that I would be decorating cakes. I took the cake I baked on Monday from the freezer Thursday morning and put it in the fridge. I was out of town Thursday and Mr Fussy was collecting the other cakes from my sister who had made room so I could freeze them. However my sister had forgotten to take the cakes out when I was expecting (I’m just grateful she helps me out the way she does) and the cakes were frozen still when I arrived home from Nelson. I knew I couldn’t torte and fill them as I had planned. Then I felt the one I had left in the fridge all day. It was also really solid to the touch. I got on with making a batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream. I added ½ a jar of Salted Caramel sauce to it (my usual recipe). It was glorious stuff.
Friday morning I checked the 6” cakes and they were still solid. I took one out of the fridge and left it on the bench while I went for my run. When I got in I torted it. My word it was so solid and difficult to cut. It was dense, hard, cold and unforgiving. But I finally got there. Then I used the spray bottle I’d filled with a simple sugar syrup and then sprayed all cut surfaces and wrapped it back up while I showered. When we left for work 30 minutes later it had just enough give that I hadn’t completely ruled out cake decorating, but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
Thankfully when I got home from work it had returned to the same density as it was when I wrapped them for freezing. Phew. But be warned, if you do make these cakes, don’t be surprised when they’re so rock solid that you’re wondering if even the birds would eat it, if you had to throw them away. And they are difficult to cut from the fridge.
Usually people prefer to torte their cakes from the fridge when they’re firm, which does make it easier to cut straight, but these were so difficult I would recommend leaving them out of the fridge for a good 30 minutes before waving a sharp knife at them.
Ok, have I left anything out? Bound to, even though this is already a novel.
Of course I always have doubts when I decorate. My one nagging question is have I used too much sugar syrup on the layers that the cakes might be a bit soggy? I hope not.