Spring Themed Palette Knife Painted Cake – Tutorial

Happy First Day of Spring! To celebrate I decided to try my hand at a Palette Knife Painted Cake. Using a spatula and buttercream frosting you basically paint a picture, design, flowers onto the sides of a cake. It’s definitely a lot more forgiving that piping a design on a cake and cake easily be fixed with a little more buttercream and some extra strokes of your spatula.

I used a yellow box cake mix to bake a two layer 6-inch cake. While the cake was cooling I whipped up a batch of my go-to Fluffy-Vanilla Frosting from Martha Stewart. I reserved about 3/4 cup of the frosting and then applied a thin crumb coat to the cake and then refrigerated the cake for about 30 minutes. While the cake was in the refrigerator I tinted the reserved 3/4 cup yellow and tinted the remaining frosting teal, for the background of the cake.

I then applied a generous amount of frosting to the cake and smoothed it as much as possible. I wanted a fairly thick layer of frosting around the cake for the next steps.

Next, using the tines of a fork I created a basket weave pattern around the cake. To begin, I placed the tines of a fork at the base of the cake and dragged them upwards about 1-inch. You don’t want to press so deeply that you are touching the cake though, hence, having a thick coat of frosting on the cake. Then, holding the tines horizontally above the first set of lines on the left I dragged the fork to the right stopping when I reached the last line from the bottom set of lines. I repeated this pattern up the side of the cake until I reached the top. I then started the next row with a set of horizontal lines, and then vertical and so forth. Continuing the alternating pattern until the entire cake was covered.

I then reserved about a tablespoon of the teal frosting and then tinted the remaining frosting green by adding in green gel food coloring. Using a tapered spatula and starting at the base of the cake I began dragging the tip of the spatula through the buttercream to create stems. Making sure not to press too deep as to touch the cake, but, going deep enough to create a channel. I passed the spatula through a few times to make sure it was deep enough making sure to wipe the spatula between each pass. I did this around the cake and even added in a few smaller channels between the larger stems.

To paint these channels, I picked up a small dollop of the green frosting and then using my fingers I round the frosting onto the tip of spatula so it was smooth. Next, I simply dragged the frosting through the channels. I repeated this step – making sure to wipe the spatula between each pass – until all of my stems were painted with frosting. At this point I placed the cake in the refrigerator for about an hour.

After the hour, I removed the cake from the refrigerator. Using the reserved yellow buttercream I painted flowers onto the cake. Using a rounded spatula I picked up a small dollop of yellow frosting and once again smoothed it with my fingers. I then pressed the dollop onto the cake and pulled the spatula away to create a petal. I continued doing this around the cake. I’ll admit, my petal didn’t come out exactly as I had hoped. This step actually reminded me of the pulled dot design on a cake. I actually wondered afterwards if it would have been easier to create the petals using that technique, although then the cake wouldn’t completely be a palette knife painted cake then.

I got the idea for this cake from The Cake Blog, for more detailed instructions click here .

 

YouTube Themed Cake

My blog started with an Elmo Cake for my niece’s birthday, and throughout the years there have been other character themed cakes, Minnie Mouse, Frozen, Trolls and last year’s Descendants. As you can see the themes aged as she did and by whatever was popular at the time. Well, fast forward 7 years and for her 9th birthday she requested a YouTube Cake. Initially she said she wanted the Cookies and Cream Cake I made a few months back (her younger sister will only eat Oreos in mini form thanks to that cake) but I guess she wasn’t ready to let go of a themed birthday cake just yet. Who knows what next year will bring, or what I will be making for my younger niece come June. I am thinking she’ll still want some sort of character.

Now, a YouTube cake sounded easy enough. It didn’t require any special decorations, the colors were simple (white, black and red) and I pretty much had all of the tools I needed to make it. But, there was one thing. While looking at some cakes on Pinterest and Instagram, I noticed that people opted to make their YouTube themed cakes round, but, I felt it really should be a square cake. Not that that was an issue, but then I wondered, how would I cover it in fondant? I sometimes have mishaps when covering round cakes (they seem to always tear) so I could only imagine that covering a square cake would be even more difficult. Especially trying to get the edges sharp. So, I thought, isn’t there a way I could panel the fondant. And of course a quick Google search assured me that yes, fondant paneling was possible and from the looks of it easier – I am actually thinking of trying the technique on the next round cake I make that needs to be covered in fondant. I decided to watch a few videos just to pick up a few tips and tricks. And I quickly learned that one of the keys to fondant paneling is to freeze the fondant for a few minutes after rolling and cutting it so it’s firm and easier to trim and place on the place.

I began by baking two 9-inch square chocolate cakes. After letting the cakes cool, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and left them on my kitchen counter. The following day I made a chocolate mousse filling for the cake and I took a major short-cut and used store bought chocolate frosting. I haven’t quite mastered making chocolate frosting myself. Anyone have a good foolproof recipe they can share? I leveled, filled and frosted the cake and then placed it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day it was time to cover the cake in fondant. Normally I use confectioners’ sugar to dust my rolling mat and pin, but, opted this time to use cornstarch and what I found was that the fondant didn’t get as soft. I began by cutting a square piece for the top of the cake. To leave room for error, I cut the fondant about a quarter of an inch larger than what I needed it to be. To place it on the cake, I matched it to one corner of the cake so all I would have to trim was two sides. Now, I didn’t place this piece in the freezer since I thought it would be easy to trim it since it was just lying flat on the cake, a mistake. While I was able to trim it, it would have been easier had it been frozen.

Next, I covered the sides of the cake. Before I started though, I decided which sides of the cake would be the front, back and sides. This is important as you cover the sides of the cake first before the front and back. Since the cake is a square, all of the sides were the same length and width. I rolled and cut two pieces for the sides and placed them in the freezer on a cookie sheet for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes I removed them and before placing them on the cake, I lightly brushed the cake with water so the fondant would adhere better. As I did with the top piece, I lined the fondant piece with one bottom corner of the cake and then used my fondant smoother to smooth (and stick) the fondant onto the cake. I then trimmed the fondant. I used a small knife that I sharpened. I think next time I will purchase an X-Acto knife to get a cleaner and closer cut. I repeated this three more times and was pretty happy with my end result. It wasn’t perfect, but, I was happy that I didn’t have any mishaps and that my fondant actually stuck to the cake and that I had clean edges and no fondant tears! I would have benefitted from trimming my cake prior to frosting it so it would have sharper and cleaners sides. Each time is a learning experience so I am sure next will be better.

Then it was time to make this square into a YouTube cake. I cut out letters and a triangle (for the play button) using white and black fondant. For the red pieces, I actually used a band aid cookie cutter I purchased to make a Doc McStuffins themed cake a few years back.

And to cover up the unfinished edges around the cake, I decided to put a black trim over it. To adhere all of these pieces I lightly brushed the back of them with a little water. And that was it. This cake was a hit with the Birthday girl and everyone who saw it!

This is the recipe I used for the chocolate cake. I have been using it for years now and haven’t had any issues or complaints. As for the chocolate mousse, I used the mousse recipe I made for the Spice Cupcakes and instead of using a box of pumpkin spice Jell-O mix I used chocolate.

Sugar Skull Cake

Feliz Dia De Los Muertos! Today is the final day of the three-day celebration to remember and honor loved ones who have died. If you want a little more info on the holiday check out my Dia De Los Muertos Cupcakes blog post. In celebration of the day I am sharing with you a Sugar Skull Cake. Sugar Skulls, or Calaveras, are often used to decorate the ofrendas (offerings) & gravestones during the three-day celebration. They got their name because they are traditionally made of clay molded sugar and then decorated with colorful adornments. The sugar skull I created definitely has sugar in it, but, not molded sugar. I opted to make a chocolate cake, frosted it with buttercream frosting and then decorated it with fondant and confetti sprinkles.

To begin, using the same skeleton pan I used to make my Mummy Cake, I baked a chocolate cake – I used a box cake mix. After letting the cake cool I covered it in plastic wrap and refrigerated it overnight.

The next day, I made a batch of Brenda’s Bakery Buttercream – also the same frosting I used for the Mummy Cake. After removing the cake from the refrigerator, I used a large circle cookie cutter to cut out larger eyes for the skull. I used the cookie cutter to make an indentation in the cake and then used a butterknife to carve out the eyes.

Next, I crumb coated the cake and placed it back in the refrigerator so the frosting could set, about a half hour.

After 30 minutes I finished frosting the cake. I added a little extra frosting in the cheek area so the skull would have a more defined look. I then placed it back in the refrigerator so the frosting could firm up.

Once the frosting was firm, I removed the cake from the refrigerator and attempted to smooth the spatula swipe marks by laying a piece of paper towel on sections of the cake and then gently rubbed the sections with my fingers. This worked for the most part, except I then had the imprint of the paper towel on my cake.

Then, the fun part began. I brought my skull to life using fondant & sprinkles. Luckily, I had left-over fondant from the Trolls Cake I made last year. Don’t worry, the fondant was un-opened and still good. Using black fondant and the same round cookie cutter I used to widen the eyes I cut out eye sockets. For the mouth, I actually had a band aid cookie cutter from a Doc McStuffins themed cake I made last year that was the perfect size. You could easily cut out a rectangle using black fondant though. For the nose socket, I cut out a pink heat and then placed it on the cake upside down. And for the rest of the cake I used daisy cutters to cut out different sizes to decorate around the cake along with confetti sprinkles. This was probably one of the simplest cakes I decorated (I feel like I say that about a lot of cakes these days!)

For a more detailed instruction on creating your own Sugar Skull cake check out The Cake Girls

 

Mummy Cake

Are you looking for an easy Halloween cake to make? Well, this Mummy Cake might be the one. It’s simple, doesn’t take a lot of time and you don’t need any fancy cake decorating skills to make it. I got the idea and directions from The Cake Girls. They have an online shop with a bunch of cool baking supplies, recipes and step-by-step tutorials with detailed pictures. I first came across their website on a blog I follow, The Cake Blog. A blog that has an array of wonderful recipes and cake decorating ideas and instructions from various bakers and cake designers.

I purchased a skull pan from The Cake Girls website to create the mummy. Now, if you are a good cake carver you could simply bake a box cake mix (or your favorite cake recipe) in a 9×13 inch pan and then carve out the shape of a skull. Or, if you already own one here’s a new idea to put it to good use. I own quite a few shaped pans that I’ve only used once, but I won’t part with them just in case.

   

To begin, I sprayed the cake pan with baking spray and then poured my cake batter (I used a box cake mix) into the pan. I placed the pan on a baking sheet and baked it in a 350 F preheated oven until a cake tester inserted in the middle came out clean. I let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes and then inverted it onto a cake board to cool completely. Don’t worry if your cake has a small dome on it and doesn’t lay completely flat. You will be able to hide this minor imperfection with the frosting design. Once the cake was cool I lightly wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer overnight. Having the cake cold makes frosting it much easier. This was my first time freezing a cake and while I know bakeries and a lot of home bakers do it all the time I have always been apprehensive to do so because I fear the cake will end up having a weird taste/aftertaste once it defrosts. But, I am happy to say that this was not the case.

Before removing my cake from the freezer I made the frosting. I decided to make the frosting that was recommended on The Cake Girls website, Brenda’s Bakery Buttercream. It involves using butter and Crisco, which I am sure some people will frown at, but, when I took the Wilton Decorating Classes a few years ago there go-to frosting recipe included Crisco and I recall it tasting great and holding its shape well when it came to decorating. Something else new I tried… Using chocolate frosting (store bought) to make black frosting. I recently read that making black and red frosting is easier to create when starting with chocolate frosting. I can attest that that is the case for black frosting, but, will have to test the theory for red frosting. Perhaps with a Christmas themed cake. Oh, one other thing I tried, Wilton’s new Color Right Performance Food Coloring, for some reason I thought it was only for chocolate (don’t ask me why) but after doing a little research I learned it can be used on frosting. I believe I saw a video on Instagram of someone using it and that prompted me to find out more about it. I must say, I definitely liked the dropper bottles a lot more than their usual gel color containers. I always seem to get the gel on my hands and they get all clumpy and what not after being opened. I think the dropper bottles are the way to go. They are also supposed to be more concentrated so you can get the color you want a lot quicker and can easily mix the colors to get different hues.

Okay, so once my frostings were ready it was time to get to work. I started by applying a thin coat of white frosting on the skull leaving the eye socket area uniced. I iced the socket area and the sides of the cake in that area with the black frosting. At this point I placed the cake in the fridge for a few minutes because I found that the black frosting wasn’t smooth as I was getting a lot of crumbs mixed into it. While the cake was in the refrigerator I prepped two piping bags with two different tips, Ateco #128 (an XL rose decorating tip) and # 45 (a flat decorating tip), and filled each with the white frosting. Also, I prepped the eyeballs for the cake. I purchased Styrofoam eyeballs from my local craft store and using a sharp knife sliced them in half so they would sit flat on the cake.

 

Once the cake had chilled for a bit I added more black frosting to the cake and was able to smooth the icing.

Now it was time to decorate…Starting with the larger tip, I began piping stripes of icing across the cake. Not just merely on top of the cake, but on the sides as well. I covered up some of the black icing, but, left enough of a gap to place the eyeballs. I kept piping until the cake was covered. Don’t worry about minor imperfections or the frosting not laying completely flat, you can cover up anything and everything with the next step.

Once the cake had been covered in the large stripes, I used the smaller tip to fill in any gaps and to give the cake more definition. To give it a more ragged look, I started these smaller stripes from different points on the cake, not just edge to edge. I also added some pieces to the sides of the cake on the cake board as well. And finally, I placed the eyeballs on the cake. I covered the back of them with the black frosting before placing them on the cake so there wouldn’t be the chance of any small Styrofoam pieces getting stuck to the cake and accidentally eaten. What’s really nice about this cake is that there is no right way or wrong way to decorate it. You could go crazy with adding the stripes to give it a real ragged look, or keep it clean and simple with the stripes. Either way, your cake will look perfect.

Cookies and Cream Cake

If you love Oreos then this is the cake for you… A Cookies and Cream cake that has crushed Oreos baked into the batter as well as crushed Oreos folded into the buttercream.

I took the easy route and opted to use a box cake, a Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix to be exact. I made one minor adjustment to the batter, I added in an extra 1/4 cup of water so that the Oreo crumbs wouldn’t thicken the batter too much. Once the batter was ready, I then folded in a cup of Oreo crumbs. To create the crumbs I placed a bunch of Oreos in a Ziploc bag, sealed it and then rolled it with a rolling pin. I left some of the Oreos in fairly large crumbs so that the cake wouldn’t just be speckled with little pieces of Oreos, but have some noticeable pieces. I then divided the batter between two 8-inch round pans that I sprayed with baking spray and baked it in a350 F preheated oven until a cake tester inserted in the middle came out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. I let the cakes cool for a few minutes and then inverted them on wire racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, I made the frosting. My go-to frosting is a Fluffy Vanilla Frosting that I got from a Martha Stewart cookbook and have been using for quite some time now when it comes to decorating my cakes. It tastes good (not overly sweet) and holds up well to piping and tinting. If frosting is too soft when you tint it it will only get softer and when you try to pipe it it inevitably droops. While I love using the frosting, I am not a fan of making it. It involves adding the confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at a time and raising and lowering the speed of my stand mixer. What ultimately happens, even though I cover the mixer with a kitchen towel, is sugar dust gets everywhere on my counter. I was also concerned that the recipe wouldn’t yield enough frosting to fill, frost & decorate the cake. So, while doing a little research for this cake – I couldn’t decide in the beginning if I should make the cake from scratch or use a box mix – I came across a buttercream frosting that incorporated crushed Oreos that I decided to try. I began by beating the butter in my stand mixer until it was light and fluffy and then added in confectioners’ sugar and heavy cream and mixed it on low speed until the sugar was incorporated and then slowly raised it to medium until everything was well blended. Using a rubber spatula I folded in Oreo cookie crumbs. You may be tempted to make the frosting in advance and then store it in the refrigerator. I suggest not doing that. Doing so will allow the cookie crumbs to soften and when you go to use it your frosting may end up looking more gray than speckled with Oreos.

Once the cake cooled I torte both to remove the small dome that formed during baking and then spread some of the frosting on one the cakes and then topped it with the other. I then crumb coated the cake and refrigerated it for about 15 minutes so the frosting could set and then finished frosting it. I had some remaining Oreo crumbs so I pressed them along the bottom of the cake.

Next, I made the chocolate ganache that I poured on top of the cake and spread around. Using a squeeze bottle I tried to create a chocolate drip around the cake. Unfortunately it was a bit warm in my house so the chocolate didn’t set well (even after refrigerating it for a few minutes) so it was a bit runny, hence the chocolate drizzle running down the sides of the cake. Oh well! Finally, using a Wilton 1M tip I piped dollops with the remaining frosting on top of the cake and place a mini Oreo in each one. A little tip, if you plan on piping frosting that has crumbs in it make sure your tip is large enough for the crumbs to pass through. I actually had a few instances of the crumbs getting stuck.

And there you have it… A Cookies and Cream Cake.

 

Cookies and Cream Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

1 15.25 oz. white cake mix

3 large egg whites

1 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup Oreo crumbs

 

For the Frosting:

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/3 cups Oreo crumbs

1/4 cup heavy cream

 

For the Chocolate Ganache:

1 cup (8 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate (can use chocolate chips or a baking bar chopped)

1/2 cup heavy cream

 

*You will need 1 package of Oreos and 1 small container of mini Oreos

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray or butter and flour.

In a large bowl combine the cake mix, egg whites, water and oil. Prepare according to box directions then fold in the Oreo crumbs. Divide the batter among the two pans and bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tested inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes and then invert them on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling make the frosting. Beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and heavy cream and beat on low speed until incorporated and then raise the speed to medium and continue beating until well blended. Using a rubber spatula fold in the Oreo crumbs.

Once the cake has cooled, torte, fill and apply a crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake for about 15 minutes.

While the cake is in the refrigerator make the chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Warm the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat until steaming and then pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes and then stir until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and finish frosting. If you have Oreo crumbs remaining press them along the bottom of the cake. Once the ganache has thickened, transfer to a squeeze bottle and squeeze some of the ganache on the center of the cake. Using an off-set spatula gently spread the ganache towards the outside of the cake, careful not to let it spill over. Add more ganache is necessary. With the remaining ganache in the squeeze bottle drip the chocolate the chocolate along the sides of the cake. Place in the refrigerator so the chocolate can set.

Once chocolate has set use the remaining frosting to pipe dollops on top of the cake. Add mini Oreos to the dollops or cut larger Oreos in half and add those to the dollops.

Frosting Recipe from the Preppy Kitchen

 

Zebra Cake

It’s one thing when a cake is appealing to the eye on the outside, but, when you cut into a cake and reveal a hidden surprise on the inside your eyes widen in wonder and delight. That’s the excitement behind a Piñata Cake. Who wouldn’t want to cut a slice of cake to only have sprinkles and candy come cascading out? A smile (and squeals from little one’s) is sure to follow. The same can be had when the cake itself reveals a pattern or design. Think of a Checkerboard Cake (Sorry for the pictures in both of those posts – Nighttime baking is not a blogger’s friend when it comes to taking pictures.)

I recently made a cake to celebrate a friend’s daughters (aka my nieces) dance recital performance – it was their first. Since I was making a cake for one of their birthdays the day before I didn’t want to make another chocolate cake for their recital celebration. And since I was making a themed cake for that birthday I also didn’t want to make a cake that I would have to heavily decorate – I was actually able to find doll-sized versions of their dancing shoes to top the cake with so I figured that was perfect enough decoration. So, I figured I should do something special with the inside. After a little thought I decided to make a zebra cake with a Nutella mousse filling since they both like the hazelnut spread.

To make things super easy I went with box cake mix – a yellow cake mix and a chocolate cake mix. I prepared both per the box directions. Whenever I use cake mix I normally use Duncan Hines. One of the reasons, and it will sound silly, is because it has a Wilton approved emblem on it. Truth be told though, Duncan Hines is perfect for making a zebra cake because they do not have pudding in the mix which can make the cake batter thick and not ideal for making this cake.

Once my batters were prepared, I poured a ¼ cup of the yellow cake batter in the center of two 8-inch cake pans that I sprayed with baking spray. Next, I poured a ¼ cup of the chocolate cake batter in the center of the yellow cake batter, and then a ¼ cup of the chocolate cake mix in the center of the previously poured yellow cake mix. I continued in this pattern until the pan was about 2/3 full. You won’t use all of the batters, but, just about.

I gently tapped the pans down and then baked them in a preheated 350 F oven for about 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle came out clean. I let the cakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then inverted them on cooling racks to cool completely.

One cooled, I torte the cakes to remove the dome that formed on both. The zebra pattern was instantly visible and I was quite excited that it worked.

The pattern was even more visible once the cake was layered and cut into.

You could really customize this cake. Use a white cake mix and tint it colors to show your team spirit, someone’s favorite colors or even a gender reveal cake.

And here’s a pic of the birthday cake I made the same weekend – An Elena of Avalor themed cake.

Russian Decorating Tips

If you’ve been perusing decorated cakes on Instagram or Pinterest lately you may have noticed an influx of cakes decorated with some fancy and elaborate looking flowers. You may have thought to yourself that they require some advanced skill in cake decorating to create, but, the truth is, they only require specific types of decorating tips, a little patience and the right frosting consistency to replicate.

When I first started seeing them I did a little research and discovered that the flowers were being created with decorating tips known as “Russian Decorating Tips.” After a little more research I discovered that these tips have nothing to do with Russia. So, how did they get their name? Per another blogger, I Am Baker, they got their name because they were being sold by a company called Ali Express and they named them “Russian Tips.” At the time I didn’t feel like ordering a set over the internet, but, not too long ago I discovered that my local AC Moore began selling a set of 8 (along with an extra-large coupler to use with them) for less than $10. Truth be told, you don’t need the coupler. You can just cut your decorator bag and drop the tip in. I would suggest using a 16-inch decorator bag with these tips as opposed to a 12-inch one.

 

Unlike traditional decorating tips from Wilton & Ateco, these tips do not have numbers on them. The tips have a laser cut design on the end that allows the frosting to be piped through and form the different flowers. I will say that some of the tips are easier to use than others. Some of the designs, especially those that have detailed centers meant to emulate the stamen & stigma part of the flower, take a little more practice to master. One other thing that is different is the way you pipe them. With your usual tips you sometimes have to add a little wrist twist to get the flower design, or, you have to hold the bag at a 45 degree angle. But, with these tips you hold the bag at a 90 degree angle about an inch or so from your cake (or cupcake) and squeeze for a few seconds to form the flower. Before piping the next flower I would suggest wiping the tip clean to get a nice flower for the next pipe.

Like I mentioned earlier I purchased a set of these tips from my local AC Moore store. I can’t remember how I knew they carried them; I probably saw something on their Instagram feed. I decided to hold off on using them until I made my Mother’s Day cake. I did test them out using store bought vanilla frosting and as I had suspected and had read a little bit about, the frosting was too thin to get a well-formed flower. All of my test flowers looked like little blobs of frosting as opposed to a flower.

So, using my go-to Fluffy Vanilla Frosting that I then tinted in 4 different colors I began decorating the top of my cake. I was soon a bit frustrated with some of the tips. The flowers weren’t piping well and even though the frosting was a stiffer consistency the centers of the flowers weren’t looking nice. So, I decided to switch the tips I had chosen to use. Soon enough I got the hang of it and ended up with a flower topped cake I was content with. It wasn’t until I added in leaves (using a Wilton 352 tip) that I piped around the cake and in between the flowers to fill in the gaps that I was truly happy with the outcome.