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.

  

 

 

 

 

Descendants Themed Cake

It’s my Blogiversary! I started this blog 6 years ago and my very first post was an Elmo Cake I created for a friend’s daughter, aka my niece. Since then the cakes have gotten a bit more elaborate and 3 years ago they turned into fondant creations. I normally ask her a month or so in advance of her birthday what theme she’s thinking of. When she told me Descendants for this year I was stumped. I had only heard of Descendants, but had no clue what the deal was behind them. So, it was off to Pinterest to get some ideas. Once I had my idea down it was time to get my supplies and test out a few.

I needed to make sure that the icing was easily pipeable and also to test how thick the piping would be with the tip it came with. I opted to go with a smaller tip.

I also needed to make sure that the flower cut-out I purchased would make nice roses. Thankfully it did.

One more thing, I opted to purchase a dummy cake for the top tier of the cake. I normally do bake the cake, but, it usually doesn’t get eaten because it’s too much cake, so, to avoid waste and a little bit of stress on my part I purchased a dummy cake. In case you are wondering, it’s made out of Styrofoam. No one knew it was a dummy cake once it was covered and decorated.

To prep the dummy cake I covered it in frosting

I then covered it, as well as the actual cake, in fondant.

And after some piping, fondant rolling and cutting the cake came together. I have definitely learned with making these cakes that it’s important to walk away for a few minutes and then come back to truly appreciate the way it looks. So, I take a lot of mini-breaks, if not, I would probably drive myself crazy. One thing I did decide, I am going to avoid covering a cake with black fondant. I find that it tends to dry out fast and inevitably it always breaks. I had a few challenges trying to cover up the imperfections from it.

So, what will my next themed cake be…? Not sure yet. I’ll have to ask my other niece what’s she’s thinking of for her June birthday!

 

Halloween Sprinkle Cake

Happy Halloween! So, will any of you be dressing up today? I can’t remember the last time I dressed up. These days I prefer to dress-up my baked treats with a Halloween theme. And this year, I made a Halloween themed Sprinkle Cake. If you’re wondering, a sprinkle cake is exactly what it sounds like. A cake covered in sprinkles. What’s fun and great about them, they work for any occasion… you just have to change the color of your sprinkles and you are all set.

I started off by baking, crumb coating and frosting my cake – getting it as smooth as possible. I opted to use a box cake mix – Pillsbury’s Halloween Funfetti Cake Mix – and store bought vanilla frosting – Betty Crocker Vanilla Frosting. Since I wasn’t all that sure how many ounces of  sprinkles I was going to need – I had a rough idea -and because I was planning on rolling the cake in a bed of sprinkles I opted to keep it small – 6 inches.

Speaking of the sprinkles… I order nonpareils – basically tiny balls of sprinkles – in purple, orange and black from NY Cake. I did a little research and they had the colors I wanted at the best price. I also ordered the green cupcake liners I used for the Cupcake Bouquet I made back in May from them. I went to their shop once in NYC and at the time I was just wandering around aimlessly looking at things. Since I decorate cakes more often now I am sure I would make the most of my next visit.

Next, I emptied the sprinkles onto a rimmed baking sheet and mixed them together. Let me just apologize now for my pictures. I need to stop baking and decorating at night and also on rainy days. Well, I can’t control the rainy days, but, I could definitely pick better times to start my baking/decorating projects.

To efficiently cover the cake in sprinkles I opted to roll the cake in the sprinkles. To do so, I placed a cake board on top of the cake, as well as the bottom, and simply rolled the cake in the sprinkles back and forth until it was covered. I used a spoon to cover any small spots I may have missed. To cover the top, I carefully removed the cake board and spread more frosting on it and poured handfuls of the sprinkles over it. To remove any excess sprinkles, I carefully tilted the cake to the side and tapped the bottom cake board so they could fall off.

Now it was time for a little more decorating. I’ve been seeing a lot of cakes on Instagram with a chocolate drizzle and I have been wanting to try it myself. I decided that this cake would be perfect for that. I made a chocolate ganache – the same one I made for the Pumpkin Crepe Cake – and poured it into a decorating bottle. I let the ganache sit for a few minutes so it would thicken up but still be pourable. You don’t want to pour it too soon or you’ll end up with a runny mess on your cake. I put it in a decorating bottle because I was only planning on decorating the edges of the cake and the sides, but, if you want to cover the entire top of the cake you could pour the ganache in the middle of cake and then use an offset spatula to smooth it out and let it drip down the sides.

After that, I tinted some of the remaining vanilla frosting a light orange color and piped a border around the bottom of the cake and used a large star tip to decorate the top. And finally placed a bat and a few creepy crawlers – spiders – on the cake for a final touch.

 

I love how this cake came out! I can’t wait to make another one with a completely different theme.

Happy Halloween!