An Ombre Cake, the Fall and A Few Other Things

With Labor Day weekend over summer has unofficially ended. The weather is also signaling the end of summer as well. Looking at the extended forecast there doesn’t seem to a day in the 80’s in sight. I am not complaining though. Fall is my favorite season and I very rarely complain about the cold temps the winter brings. While I am not a fan of hazy, hot & humid days of the summer I will rarely complain about them as well. Truthfully, I love being able to enjoy the 4 seasons in my neck of the wood. Although, it seems like Spring happens in the blink of an eye. It’ll start off super cold, then a few rainy days (possibly even snow) and then finally a few Spring-like days and then bam, there will be days of crazy heat before the Summer has truly began.

Labor Day was a rainy one by me. The weekend was beautiful, although, I spent half of it in the kitchen baking, decorating a cake and making floral centerpieces for a bridal shower. The alternative would have probably been yardwork so it’s all good.

I started the day by making Cheesecake Brownie Bites. I’ve been making these for years and while they are always a hit, I probably have tried them once of twice. Crazy I know. Well, I had extra brownie and cheesecake batter so I made a few extra that I ended up snacking on throughout the day and I will definitely be eating them the next time I make them.

After running a few errands I came back home and got to work on the cake. The plan was a two-tier blue ombre buttercream cake decorated with fresh sunflowers. To save myself time (and stress) I baked the cake layers a few days before, let them cool and then wrapped them in plastic wrap to store in the refrigerator. I started by making my short-cut chocolate mousse and then refrigerated it while I whipped up a batch of vanilla frosting. Once the frosting was done I then torte, filled and crumb coated the two tiers. Each tier was a three-layer cake – chocolate cake sandwiched between two yellow caked. Once 6-inch, the other a 9-inch.

I then placed the cakes in the refrigerator and whipped up two more batches of vanilla frosting. Yes, this cake took about 12 cups of frosting to complete. I’ve learned that it’s best to have left-over frosting as opposed to barely enough, especially when tinting the frosting. One time I was decorating a cake with a ruffle design in pink frosting. Well, by the time I got to the top of the cake I had run out of the pink frosting so I ended up having to frost the top of the cake with white frosting. It didn’t look bad, but, I was definitely kicking myself. Once I was done making the frosting it was time to tint it. I used three Wilton colors to create the ombre effect – Royal Blue, Cornflower Blue & Sky Blue. Once the frosting was ready I started by frosting the top of each of the cake. The smaller tier with while frosting and larger tier with the cornflower blue frosting. I filled piping bags with the remaining frosting and snipped the ends off the bag.

I began by piping the bottom of the larger tier with the royal blue frosting. I then switched to the cornflower blue frosting to finish piping the sides of the cake. Next I used a straight edge icing spatula to smooth the sides of the cake. And finally I used a small spoon to create stripes on the cake by dragging it along the frosting while spinning the turntable.

After placing the smaller tiered cake on the larger one and securing it with a wooden dowel I repeated the frosting and decorating process using the sky blue and white frosting. At this point I popped the cake in the refrigerator overnight so the frosting could set (and I could take a break).

After resting and taking a dinner break I got to work on the centerpieces.

The next morning it was back to the cake. Here’s a pic of the cake before adding the sunflowers…

And with the flowers added…

And finally on display at the bridal shower.

So, now that Fall is right around the corner it’s, dare I say, time to think about the holidays, especially if you are planning on doing any crafting for it. Earlier this year I started crocheting hexagons to make a Christmas tree skirt. I completed about 2/3 of the hexagons but I put the project on hold as I couldn’t find 4 skeins of the same dye lot of the green yarn I wanted to use. I finally got them so that project is back on. Fingers crossed I will get it done. I started working on the hexagons again and for some reason the size is not matching up to the ones I made earlier. I keep ending up with an extra side, so instead of hexagons I am making heptagons. Not sure what I am doing wrong. I made so many hexagons already that I thought making them would utilize muscle memory but something is off. Ugh! I also started looking at Christmas card designs on Pinterest during some downtime. I think I know what I am making this year. I always wait until the last minute to make my cards and I am doing by best this year to start early so I am not scrambling in mid-December. If all this talk about the holidays has you stressing out, I apologize. At least I haven’t started shopping. Back to Fall though, I started decorating with some pumpkins around the house, nothing outside though. I will wait until it’s actually Fall to do that. I was almost tempted to put up my scarecrows but I held off. And of course there is baking… I’ve got some ideas for Fall treats and I am already looking ahead to Christmas cookies. Sorry, I brought it up again. But, my fellow crafters and bakers know where I am coming from. You’ve got to be a season ahead with these things, especially when you are blogging about them. For now… Happy Fall Y’all (albeit a few weeks early!)

Sprinkle Fault Line Cake

Earlier this summer a new cake trend began flooding my Instagram feed… A Fault Line Cake. Initially I thought it would be extremely difficult to create. And I am sure some of the ones I have seen are – ones with macaroons, lemons, edible decorative paper and so forth – but, the one that caught my eye and seemed somewhat easy to practice on was a sprinkle one. Essentially, the center of the cake exposes a design between two thick layers of frosting. Sort of like a fault line separating after an earthquake and exposing the ground beneath.

I first attempted this trend a few weeks ago and it was a complete DISASTER! Since I was just trying out the technique I attempted to take some short-cuts… mainly use store bought frosting. Chocolate frosting at that and I really should have known better. Not that there is anything wrong with store bought frosting – I have used it quite often to decorate – but, it was hot outside (and inside my house) and I have learned that store bought frosting just doesn’t hold up as well in the heat as homemade. Also, I made a six inch cake using boxed cake mix thinking that would give me enough height for the cake and I was wrong on that account as well.

Here’s what happened… I baked a yellow cake mix into a two-layer 6-inch cake and it came out just fine. Then, I started to frost it and the issues began. Like I said it was hot on this day so I decided to refrigerate the frosting for about 20 minutes so it could firm up a little. Once it was firm, I started by crumb coating the cake and it just wasn’t going on smooth, but, I plowed ahead. Once I finished with the crumb coat I placed the cake in the refrigerator so it could set. After about a half hour I removed the cake from the refrigerator and attempted to add more frosting to the middle of the cake to adhere the sprinkles and it was a mess. The crumb coat never got a crust on it so when I added more frosting it was all just coming off. I continued and finally got a layer of frosting around the middle of the cake and then added the sprinkles. But, since I had to add such a thick layer of frosting to the cake to get it to adhere my sprinkles got swallowed up by the frosting. It was such a fail. At this point I just gave up. I realized that the frosting was just not going to cooperate and that the cake didn’t have enough height to look good.

Fast forward a few weeks later and with a free weekend ahead of me I decided to try once again. I made some tweaks this time though. I decided to make a three-layer 8-inch cake and for the frosting I whipped up two batches of Martha Stewart’s Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. It’s my go-to frosting whenever I have to decorate a cake. It has a great consistency that makes it perfect for frosting, piping and/or tinting.

I opted to go with a box cake mix again. I used a yellow cake mix to make two 8-inch layers and then a chocolate mix to make one 8-inch layer. I used the remaining chocolate batter to make 6-inch cake.

Once the cakes were done I let them cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely. I then wrapped them in plastic wrap and placed them in the refrigerator overnight. I used to just leave my cakes out at room temperature, but, I have found that refrigerating them makes it easier to torte, layer and frost.

The next day I made two batches of vanilla frosting and my short-cut chocolate mousse (beat a package of Jell-O chocolate pudding mix along with a cup each of heavy whipping cream and whole milk until thick). I then torted and layered the cake, filling the layers with the chocolate mousse. Next I crumb coated the cake and placed it in the refrigerator for about a half hour.

After the half hour I removed the cake from the refrigerator and added an extra layer of frosting in the middle of the cake…

And then added sprinkles to that layer of frosting.

I then placed the cake back in the refrigerator for another half hour so the frosting and sprinkles could set.

I transferred frosting to a piping bag and snipped the end off and piped the frosting around the cake, except for the part with the sprinkles.

I then smoothed the frosting and added some 1M swirls on top of the cake and sprinkled them with sprinkles and my cake was done. I finally created a successful Fault Line Cake. I wonder what new cake trend will be flooding my Instagram feed next.

L.O.L Surprise! Themed Cake

This year for my youngest niece’s birthday she requested an L.O.L Surprise! themed birthday cake. And just in case you don’t know, L.O.L Surprise! are mini dolls that come in a toy ball. You have to peel away the layers of the ball to get to the doll. The layers include stickers, the dolls clothes and accessories and finally the doll. The surprise is not knowing what doll is in the ball. Oh and a little FYI the L.O.L stands for Lil Outrageous Littles. Granted, they have evolved into more than just a mini doll in a ball. They now come in different sized balls, big surprise balls, pets, and so forth. These toy makers have to strike while the iron is hot on any toy. The first themed cake I ever saw for the toy was a round ball similar to the ball the dolls come in. I wasn’t going to attempt something that extreme. I opted to go for something a bit simpler, but, still echoing the whimsical and fun nature of the dolls.

Initially I was planning on decorating the cake with fondant lollipops. I pretty much knew how to create them but I watched a few tutorials on YouTube just to be sure. I bought fondant in different colors, not my usual Wilton brand fondant, but one that I had used before, but, when I started making them it turned into a bit of a disaster (Insert the emoji of the girl with her hand to her head… LOL!). I am not sure if it was because it was warm that day or the fondant was just too soft, or a combination of both, but, my fondant kept thinning out when I tried to twist the fondant together as I created the lollipop. So much so that it would break before I was done winding the lollipop. I ended up with a few decent ones, but, I wasn’t happy enough with them to use them for the cake. Also, even after leaving them out for a few days the fondant never hardened.

My back-up plan was to buy lollipops I saw at my local party store if all else failed, but, I decided to try one more thing… Meringue Lollipops. To make the meringue I whisked together room temperature egg whites and sugar in the bowl of my stand mixer over boiling water. Once the sugar had completely dissolved I placed the bowl on my mixer and added in vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Using the whisk attachment and setting the mixer to high I whisked the mixture until stiff peaks formed. Next, I divided the meringue into three bowls and tinted each one using gel food colors, gently folding the colors into the meringue. I spooned the three colors side-by-side on a piece of plastic wrap, folded the plastic wrap in half and then rolled the entire thing to create a cylinder shape, making sure to tightly wound the ends of the plastic wrap. I snipped one of the ends off and then dropped it into a piping bag I had fitted with a Wilton 1M tip. I then piped 1M swirls on a parchment lined baking sheet to create the lollipops and then gently inserted a lollipop stick into each. I baked them in a 200 F preheated oven for about 2.5 hours. The meringue has to be baked at a low temperature for a long period of time so it can properly dry out. I let them cool inside of the oven with the door slightly open and ended up with perfect (and edible) lollipops to decorate the cake with. I kept these stored in an airtight container until I was ready to use them.

Now, for the cake. I had every intention of baking the cake from scratch, but, box cake was on sale the week before and when you are planning on decorating a cake the same weekend you have a long list of other things to get done around the house the easy road is the way to go. I wanted the cake to have some height so I baked four 9-inch cakes using two boxes of Devil’s Food cake mix. I opted to use three of them and kept the fourth one to snack on. I made the cakes the night before and then wrapped them in plastic wrap and stored them in the refrigerator.

The next day I made two batches of my go to Fluffy Vanilla Frosting and an easy and quick chocolate mousse for the filling (I beat 1 cup each of whole milk and heavy cream along with a packet of Jell-O Instant pudding until creamy). I then torted the cake, filled it, and crumb coated it. I placed it in the refrigerator for a half hour while I tinted the remaining frosting.

 

I fitted three piping bags with different sized round tips and filled each with the tinted frosting.

Once the cake was ready I piped the frosting around and on top of the cake, smoothed it and then sprinkled some sprinkles on it. At this point I placed it back in the refrigerator so I could finish decorating it the following day.

 

The next day it was time to decorate. I had searched online for L.O.L Surprise! cut-outs and while I did find some that cost about $10, I also found a website with free clip-art. So, I decided to save my $10 and printed the clip-art out on cardstock and then cut out the dolls myself. Here’s a pic of my very technical way of getting the L.O.L Surprise! paper dolls on the cake. I place a piece of double-sided tape on the back of them, placed a lollipop stick on it and then used regular tape to hold it all together… it worked! I also placed a few of the cut outs on the front of the cake. For those pieces I taped a piece of wax paper behind them before adhering them to the cake with left-over frosting.

After a little positioning I got everything on the cake and was very happy with the final outcome.

   

For transporting purposes I had to remove all of the decorations…

But, I am happy to say that everything went back on just fine once it reached its destination. The Birthday Girl was very happy with it. What will the next themed cake be???

Mess Free Piping

I’ve been seeing people use plastic wrap inside of their piping bags for some time now- on other blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.- especially when piping two or more colors together to create a fun swirl on a cupcake or to pipe flowers. I haven’t had a reason to try it until this past weekend when I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting to go along with the carrot cake I made for Easter. Carrot cake is usually not a hit amongst kids so I decided I should bake something that was more kid friendly and you can you can’t get more kid friendly than a chocolate cupcake with colorful frosting.

After tinting the frosting I placed small amounts of it on a decent sized piece of plastic wrap as below.

Next I folded the plastic wrap in half and then simply rolled the entire thing to create a cylinder shape and tightly wound the ends of the plastic wrap so the frosting couldn’t “escape.” I quickly realized that I may have placed too much frosting on the plastic wrap since I didn’t have too much plastic wrap on the ends to wind together.

I then snipped one of the ends of the plastic wrap off and dropped it into a piping bag that I had already fitting with a Wilton 2D piping tip.

And I simply piped a large rosette on the cupcake to get this beautiful and colorful top.

I used the same technique to decorate the top of my Easter cake, using pastel colors to match the Mini Cadbury Eggs I placed on top of the cake. Instead of rosettes though, I simply decorated the cake with drop flowers, once again using the Wilton 2D piping tip.

In all honesty I think I will be using this plastic wrap method going forward with all of my cake decorating / piping. One of the things I dislike about using piping bag is no matter how tight I wind the top of the bag or use a rubber band to seal it, frosting always seems to seep out. And also, I just find it super messy having to refill the bag with more frosting while I am decorating. With this method I can simply remove the plastic wrap wrapped frosting and drop in another. Yes, I may be using extra plastic wrap doing this, but, it’s worth it.

Hidden Heart Cake

Are you looking for something fun to bake for Valentine’s Day but are thinking that it’s too late? Well, this may just be the cake for you. All you need is 2 boxes of cake mix (I used white & chocolate), a loaf pan, a 2-inch heart cookie cutter and pink (or red) food coloring. While I used a white cake mix tinted pink for the hearts inside of a chocolate cake, you could try pink hearts inside of a white cake, red hearts inside of a white cake, red hearts inside of a yellow cake and so forth. It’s really up to you.

To begin, I prepped a box of white cake mix per the directions and then tinted it pink with a few drops of gel food coloring. I poured it into a loaf pan that I sprayed with baking spray and baked it in a 350 F oven for 40 minutes, the cake wasn’t quite done but was browning considerably along the top so I dropped the temperature to 325 F and baked it for another 10 minutes. I let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in the pan and then transferred it to a wire rack to cool completely.

After the cake cooled, I sliced it into approximately 1 inch slices. Some of the slices were a little thicker, some a little thinner. In the end, it didn’t matter.

Next, using a 2-inch heart cookie cutter I cut hearts from the slices of cake and set them aside. Those mini hearts were for a different baking project that turned out to be a fail… Oh well.

You will have a bunch of cake scraps left, I ended up snacking on a few pieces and then tossing the rest. If you make cake pops, or have been wanting to make cake pops, save these scraps for just that.

I then prepared the chocolate cake mix per the box directions. I spread about a 1/2 inch layer of the batter into the bottom of my loaf pan that I prepped with baking spray.

Next, I arranged the 2-inch hearts in a row down the middle of the pan, leaving a small space between the first and last heart and the pan, but, making sure the hearts in the middle were close together. This is why I said that if your slices aren’t exactly 1-inch thick it won’t matter. Once you line them together it will all be good.

I used a ladle to slowly pour the rest of the batter along the sides and on the top of the hearts. You don’t want to just pour the batter into the pan, this could disturb the hearts and you could end up with chocolate in between them. I did make sure that the hearts were completely covered with the batter. You don’t want a heart peeking out of the top of the cake… that would ruin the surprise.

I then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about 40 minutes. I inserted a cake tester and the inside was still a little underdone so I lowered the oven temperature to 325 F and baked it for an additional 10 minutes, similar to what I did with the pink cake. Once again, I let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in the pan and then removed it and let it completely cool on a wire rack.

Once it was cool it was time to slice and see if my hidden heart cake was a success (and it was)!

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.

Yule Log Cake

Each day this week I will be bringing you a cake / cupcake idea that is perfectly festive for this time of the year… It’s Holiday Cake Week.

To kick off Holiday Cake Week a traditional cake seen around the holidays… A Yule Log Cake. It originated in France and is a sponge cake rolled and then frosted with chocolate frosting to resemble a tree bark. Customarily a small portion of the cake is cut off and either placed on top of the cake or protruding from the side of the cake to resemble a chopped off branch. The cake can then be furthered decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow, fresh berries, mushrooms made of marzipan and so forth.

I opted to go the easy route with my cake and used a box cake mix and a container of vanilla frosting for the filling. Also, while the recipe didn’t call for it, I ended up a slicing off a portion of the cake and placing it on the side to get that traditional branch look. And to top it off, I sifted confectioners’ sugar over the cake and placed some decorative holly berry picks I got from a local craft store around it.

Yule Log Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

6 eggs

1 box of Devil’s food cake mix

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

 

Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Filling:

1 container whipped vanilla frosting

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 F. Line the bottom of a 15x10x1-inch (Jelly Roll Pan) pan with foil or waxed paper, spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl beat the eggs with an electric mixer on high until the eggs are thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes. Add the cake mix, water and oil and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 1 minutes. Pour about 2 3/4 – 3 cups of the batter into the prepared pan. Use the remaining batter to make cupcakes, or as you wish.

Bake 14 to 16 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Turn the cake out on a clean kitchen towel sprinkled with the confectioners’ sugar. While the cake is still hot, carefully roll up the cake and towel together from one shorter end to the other. Cool completely on a wire rack from 1 hour.

While the cake is cooling make the chocolate frosting… In a medium pot heat the whipping cream over medium heat until the cream starts to boil. Remove from the heat and add in the chocolate chips and corn syrup, let stand for 3 minutes. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth and then add in the vanilla. Refrigerate for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until it’s a spreadable consistency.

After an hour, unroll the cake carefully and remove the towel. Spread the vanilla frosting evenly over the cake and roll it up once again. Place the cooling rack on sheet of waxed paper and return the cake to the wire rack and frost the cake with the chocolate frosting. Drag the tines of a fork through the frosting to give the cake a log look. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes and then refrigerate loosely covered until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature prior to serving.

*If you want to make the log resemble more of a branch, prior to frosting with the chocolate frosting, cut a piece of the cake off and place on the side of the cake or on top and then frost.

Recipe from Betty Crocker