Slowly, I twirled the cake on it’s turntable so I could inspect my work.
I thought to myself if this cake were to be enclosed in a time capsule and uncovered many years from now, it would still be identifiable. And without almost a single word.
The discoverers would see the candles and know it’s a birthday. The number and the name would tell them it was Olivia’s 9th.
They’d see cookies with white puffy pillows and a corner of the patterned covering downturned, which would tell them it’s some kind of bed.
They’d soon realize that ice cream sundaes were a part of the celebration.
And with all the sleeping bags punctuated by tiny little teddy bears, they’d soon realize that the little outfits were pajamas.
Then, they’d know, without so much as a whisper from me, that today was Olivia’s 9th birthday, and that she had a slumber party.
I snapped out of my little daydream, because it then struck me that it would, in fact, be terrible if this cake with all its cookies went into a time capsule.
Because then Olivia and her friends wouldn’t get to deconstruct and devour the cute chocolate cake layered with milk chocolate ganache. And they’d never realize the joy I took in making it and the many hundreds of other birthday cakes I’ve made over the years.
Happy 9th Birthday, Olivia.
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I don’t play golf. I don’t putt. I don’t drive balls or carts.
And, I certainly don’t watch golf, although I do get a chuckle out of hearing the analysts whisper their comments to the television viewing audience. I don’t listen to what they say, I just hear the whispering and wonder if they really think the players will be distracted if they speak normally, or scream when a player gets a bogey or an eagle.*
So, it’s not surprising, when golf is an element on the list for a biography cake (yes, I’m still bellyaching about that), that I take matters into my own hands, and twist it all up so that (a) the outcome is unexpected and (b) I’m entertained.
There are only so many cookies 8 inch and 6 inch round cakes can hold, no matter what the theme or subject matter is. On a biography cake, I start by assuming that all the elements are of equal priority, otherwise, they wouldn’t be on the list to make it to the cake. Then, how do I transform something into a cookie that will hold its own with the other cookies and tell the story, hieroglyphically speaking?
Back to golf. Golf clubs are problematic in that their handles are very thin. A cookie golf club is a cookie that’s destined to break easily. Balls are round and one dimensional.
And, don’t forget, the age of the birthday person is always depicted on the cake, too. If ever I needed a cookie caddy, it’s now. I do what I always do when I can’t think, when I’m failing, when I’m considering returning the deposit check. I search images and print them.
Suddenly, it dawns on me, and I figure out my way out of this sandtrap.
One set of cookies with two meanings aced it, don’t you think?
* I have no idea what these terms mean.Read More »
Sometimes an idea seems so simple and so obvious to me, that I just assume everyone knows the same trick.
And that’s why this post has been collecting dust in my draft pile for months.
But last night, when I got an urgent DM from Cathy, I decided it might be time to edit and push publish.
If the woman who butchers, cures, preserves and cooks doesn’t know this trick, then maybe you don’t either? Especially when you’re in full Thanksgiving mode and like me, you’re making this seductive, 3 layer temptress, created by the pastry wunderkind, Stella.
No need for pencils, crayons or compasses, or rulers. No math formulas either. And by all means, no need to stockpile precut parchment circles in all sorts of sizes that you may or may not use.
Start with your cake pan, a pair of scissors, a sharp knife and a piece of parchment paper.
Fold the parchment in half lengthwise and slice it in two with your knife.
From the rectangle you’re going to fold one corner up to meet the top of the parchment sheets and form a sharp angle. (Layer both sheets and do cut two at once for additional time saving.)
Now, fold that rectangular piece of paper over the triangle and make a sharp crease.
Again, use your knife and slice through that excess flap.
Now, begin folding that triangle as though you were making a paper airplane.
After all the fold have been made, place the point of this folded paper at the center of the upturned pan.
Grab the scissors and cut the excess edge away, following the curve of your pan.
Now, unfold the triangle into the perfect circle and try it on for size. Give it a trim if it’s still a little too large.
The next thing you know, you’ll be making origami birds and grasshoppers.
But for now, go make cake.
Happy Thanksgiving!Read More »
The other day, finding myself in a bit of a pinch, I ran over to the cake decorating supply store on 22nd Street. It’s the store where all the pastry chefs, cake decorators, culinary school students and confectionary geeks resign themselves to going to at one time or another. It’s different from all other supply houses in the area in that in addition to selling every baking pan, tool and gizmo available on the market, they also sell edibles, like chocolate, cocoa powder, and fondant. And, their legendary service is fodder for urban folklore.*
As I maneuvered around the young mother intently studying the menu of available edible cartoon images for the top of a cake, I overheard two ladies asking about a particular cakebox that the store didn’t carry. Panic set in. ”OH NO! What will we do? How will we carry the cake?” Before I could even think, I heard the sound of my own voice. ”How big is the cake? How big is the base?” In a few sentences accompanied by sweeping arm gestures usually reserved for a rousing game of Charades, I described to these damsels in distress how to transform the boxes they already owned into one tent-like covering that would shelter the cake during its transport to its final destination.
As I explained the process, I watched the panic on their faces melt away, quickly replaced by relieved smiles. ”Thank you so much”, cooed the younger of the two women. ”You should be online”, said the other lady. I returned the smile, turned away and thought YES! BLOG POST!
If I could help these ladies with their packing dilemma, surely this post will help you, too, right?
Begin with 2 cake boxes the same size as your cake base. 10 inch base? 10 inch cake box. Grab a pair of scissors, too. And, have a roll of cellophane tape handy for sealing the sides as you’re finishing.
Line one box inside the other and cut off the front flaps of both boxes. I save these flaps to work out templates, as well as a bridge for the occasional gap on the finished top of the box.
Separate the two boxes and face them toward each other, their newly cut sides fitting one over the other. I’ve folded one of the box tops down, so I’m not showing a sea of muddy brown.
Turn the box around so you can identify the tabs on the side panels of the box. Insert them into their corresponding slots. Do one side only. You’ll want the other side open so you can slide the cake into the box easily.
You should now have something that resembles this:
Now with that one open side, you can slide your cake right into its temporary home. Yes, it’s a Halloween cake. And, yes, that’s how long I’ve been sitting on this post.
Once the cake is pushed inside the box as far as it can go (See why it’s always good to have a cake base larger than your actual cake? The base behaves like a protective bumper.), you can start closing up the box by inserting the two remaining tabs into their respective slots.
It’s beginning to look like a tent, right?
Now take those big flaps and bring them up together to form the pitched roof of the tent.
Fold the side flaps down and adjust them so the cake is fully shielded, but not so close that the box touches or rests upon the cake. Use a bit of cellophane tape to hold them in place. Swivel the box around and repeat on the other side.
You should have something that looks like this. A tent!!!
There. Snug as a bug in a rug.
Commandeering potholes along the way, of course, is another story entirely.
*Legendary is yours to define.
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You know J, don’t you? She’s my partner in everything, and this week she celebrated a major birthday. M.A.J.O.R.
I’ll give you a hint. The number doesn’t start with a four, or a five. Impressive, right?
J doesn’t look her age at all, does she? This photo was cropped only, not adjusted, manipulated, tampered, tinkered or monkeyed with in any way shape or form.
Tonight we’re going to a dinner party given in J’s honor by her business partner, which is a really lovely gift. I was asked to make something for dessert. Of course, since this is a birthday party, cake is the obvious choice.
The problem is that J doesn’t share my love for all things sweet. Cookies can disintegrate in their jar before she’ll cast an eye at them. J would rather have a big bowl of broccoli. Chocolates can go completely white with bloom before she’s even interested in what they might taste like. Cheese, however, will never grow moldy in our refrigerator. Pie will get a mildly raised eyebrow, but it must have very little fruit filling with no sugar and a thick, double crust. A head of cauliflower will much more likely capture J’s full attention. Cake? That’s usually a big fat ‘no’.
Until this week. All of a sudden J decided she must have birthday cake. Not too sweet (preferably no sugar in it at all, but we all know that’s not going to happen), and not too much of it. Chocolate? Maybe. Vanilla. Nah. Mocha..how about mocha?
Okay, so mocha it is. Now, on to the decorations.
J, as you know, is a fashionista. She’s been in the biz for 38 years and still loves to get dressed up. Magazines and websites are scrutinized s, stores are shopped for wardrobe updates. All that attention to detail pays off; J always looks like a million bucks.
Notice the skirt?
Back to the cake. What kind of cookie theme could I concoct that would really do her justice? What would I come up with that just screams ‘J’ the minute everyone lays their eyes on it?
I scoured the apartment looking for some kind of clue, some kind of recurring theme. As I began opening drawers and flinging open closet doors, it came to me.
The belt drawer:
It doesn’t stop!
The pièce de résistance!
Working at home:
Or working at another’s home:
Oh, for crying out loud! The dog’s not even immune!
Clearly, there was only one way to go on this cake!
In the immortal words of J, ‘leopard goes with everything’.
I think she just might be right.
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As we settled into the den this past sweltering Friday night to have a cold cocktail and watch a movie, the phone rang. It was Julie, our downstairs neighbor.
“Hi Gail, I was wondering if I could ask you something?”
“Sure Julie, what is it?”
“Can you make a wedding cake for Sunday?”
Dumbfounded, I replied as I always do in situations like these. ”Are you crazy? I can’t possibly do that, Julie. I’m so sorry.”
Ignoring what I just sputtered, Julie went on trying to win me over.
“Let me just tell you about whose getting married”, she began. ”Two of my oldest, dearest friends who’ve been together for ages got their wedding lottery notice earlier today. The guys just got a slot in the Manhattan same sex marriage lottery for Sunday. I’ve been busy with them all day arranging their wedding…we have a friend who is a judge performing the ceremony, 20 family members and friends are coming in for the wedding and even though Aureole was already booked, they were nice enough to suggest Ai Fiori, who is happily taking care of the whole thing. All we need now is the wedding cake.”
Now, could anyone say no to this? I certainly couldn’t. Especially while listening to this shpiel while wiping the tears that were streaming down my cheeks. ”Okay, Julie, what do the guys want?”
“Well, they want a tradtional tiered cake with fondant and fresh flowers.”
[a moment of silence on my end] ”Oy. Julie, I don’t do fondant cakes. Or fresh flowers. Buttercream and cookies are what I do.”
We take a few minutes to simultaneously review the photos of my work on my website.
“Well, let me have Ken call you.”
I spoke with Ken about flavors and cookies and buttercream and heard the ‘ohmygod, I can’t believe I’m doing this’ in Ken’s voice. Planning a dinner party on the fly is one thing. But, a wedding? A wedding that’s part of a history-making day? No wonder Ken sounded like an automaton hopped up on Redbull.
I thought and I thought, I sketched, and I use that term loosely since I have the drawing skills of a 4 year old (picture big sheet of paper, drawing in one corner of the paper, rest of the page is blank. And that’s on a good day.). Finally, I had the idea in my head. I’d do the cookies and bake the cake on Saturday, make the buttercream and assemble the whole thing on Sunday. Pick up at 3:00 p.m., delivery by 4:00 p.m., ceremony begins at 5:00 p..m.
On this day, July 24, 2011, in all five boroughs of New York City 823 same sex couples will have been married by the time you read this. History will have been made as New York becomes the 6th state to change its laws to allow same sex marriage. We are all celebrating. We’re celebrating the first portion of the end of a social and legal injustice (the federal government will be obviously be the next hurdle). And, in a time when our state’s economy is pretty much in shambles, the money brought to the state in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors will be very significant. Which, in and of itself could be the reason(s) other states might want to reconsider changing their laws.*
But, let’s get back to the mushy stuff….wedding talk.
As I measured and mixed, schmeared and smoothed, I thought all day about my own state of marriage. J and I have been together for 29 years. Waaaay back in the ’80′s, when we met and fell in love and decided to be together, a real marriage was not an option. ’Gay’ and ‘marriage’ were words that would never be written in the same sentence. But, that didn’t stop us, or other couples like us, from
needing wanting the ritual of a wedding. Reciting our vows in front of friends and J’s family (my parents refused to come; a decision they ultimately regretted) who loved us and wanted us to be happy. We wrote the vows, selected rings, got very dressed up, hired a caterer and had our ‘commitment ceremony’. That’s what pioneers like us had in 1982. A commitment ceremony.
For all intents and purposes, we’ve sailed through life as though we were happily, legally married. We built a home and a life together. Saved and invested money together, bought life insurance policies and had wills and medical powers of attorney drawn up. We behaved responsibly.
In 2008, when the New York State Assembly failed to pass the same-sex marriage amendment, we feared we might never see same-sex marriage in our state. On a particularly frigidly icy December day, we trained to Greenwich, CT (where same-sex marriage is legal) and applied for a marriage license. After waiting the requisite number of days, we trained back, once again, to Greenwich to get married.
No friends accompanied us; we told them not to bother. And, in sharp contrast to they way we entered our commitment ceremony 27 years earlier, we neither dressed up or wore makeup. The Justice of the Peace wanted to marry us in her own home, and again we said thanks, but don’t bother. We’d be fine with getting married in City Hall in a random room beneath the photo of the current head of The Department of Sanitation. It was just a formality. We got married years ago.
Wearing our warmest jackets, gloves, scarves and Uggs, we trudged into the courthouse, with a Starbucks coffee in one hand, and my Mitzi bag in the other (you didn’t think we’d leave her out, did you?). Pleasantries were exchanged with the loveliest J of P, and we were ready to begin.
We stood in front of a podium with the state seal of Connecticut painted on it. The Justice of the Peace began to read from her book.
And, I began to sob. No tears slowly welling up in my eyes, no single salt water trickle out of the side of my eye, but the kind of ugly sobbing that explodes from the bottom of your soul and makes your shoulders practically convulse. I thought I’d never get through the 3 minutes of ceremony to mumble the “I do’s”. But I did. And, in that moment when J and I faced each other and sort of heard something about being recognized as a married couple in the state of Connecticut, I fully comprehended the enormity and the importance of being equal. Married. Not a civil union, but really, honest and truly, married.
So, to Ken and Terry, and the other 822 couples who, hopefully cried a lot prettier than I did while they got married, I say “Congratulations!”
Now, who wants cake?
* Did you know that lesbian and gay couples earn roughly 45% more than their heterosexual counterparts?
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You’re familiar with the halo effect, right? The theory that (and I’m paraphrasing) if something is packaged beautifully, its contents will be looked upon more favorably. A term paper, for instance, neatly assembled in a beautiful folder with fancy writing, might be thought to be better than the paper that’s been written in crayon and stuffed into a back pocket before being turned in. Or, that a present wrapped within an inch of its life in gorgeous paper and tied up with an abundance of silk ribbon will contain a similarly spectacular gift, rather than a gift given in a wrinkled brown grocery bag.
This theory can be applied to cake, in my opinion.
Picture if you will, a very special celebration cake, tiers stacked expertly, or carved into a sculpture that would wow Jeff Koons. The fondant or buttercream is as smooth as satin, the gumpaste decorations, the buttercream flowers, have been modeled to a level of perfection that even Kerry Vincent would die for.
Except for one thing.
This beauty is sitting on naked foil cake drum.
Why, oh, why would a cake decorator spend all that time sketching, baking carving, piping, schmearing only to cast a blind eye on how to display this masterpiece?
It’s like wearing a ripped hose with a cocktail dress (that’s IF one wore hose these days.). Scuffed shoes with a tuxedo. Grandma bloomers with a bias cut charmeuse dress (I’m not making this one up. I have seen a MAJOR TV star in the flesh flaunting this glamour don’t).
Cake people, if you do this, in my opinion, you’re devaluing your own work. The presentation is flawed. You want the cake to be a centerpiece that is oohed and aahed over, right? You want ‘the halo effect’!!!
Now, if you’re planning on using a cake pedestal like any one of these, in the words of the great Rosanne Roseannadanna, “never mind”.
If you are not using these and are using a gold or silver topped cake drum for your base, here’s a look at what I do to set up my cakes so they look like this:
I attach my ribbon around the circumference using Magna-Tac. It’s a wonderful adhesive that doesn’t seep through to leave wet dots on the ribbon.
After the ribbon has dried for at least an hour, I shpritz about 1/4 – 1/3 of a cup of royal icing with water so it’s pretty runny and pour it on top of the cake drum, evening it out with a offset spatula. I’m not worrying about spreading it all over the board, just the perimeter that will show. Working like greased lightning is key here; I don’t want the royal to begin to form a crust at all.
Now I heavily sprinkle AA Confectioner’s Sugar onto the wet royal while holding the board over a bowl. AA Confectioner’s Sugar is a very, very coarse sugar that I think is best used for decorating. Then I deftly (I use the term loosely) turn the board over and knock the excess off into the bowl, just so I can scoop it up and resprinkle it again.
This is far from a beauty shot, since I’m holding the camera AND trying to sprinkle the sugar at the same time.
But, you can see the bowl catching the sugar, which is being sprinkled from the container in the upper right corner of the photos.
Now, let the board set up over night and by the next day, you can start building your cake.
Oh, you don’t have to use the sugar, I just like how it looks. I like non-pareils, too. Piped royal decorations, like leaves or grass are also sweet. Use your imagination and explore other options.
If you cover your cakes with fondant, schmear a little piping gel on your board to act as glue, and cover the board with the fondant. Affix the ribbon after it’s dried.
When your cake is the center of the dessert table, believe me, no one will say “Now THAT’S a nice cakedrum!” But that cakeboard will enter their brains in the most subliminal of ways and those guests will think your cake is the most gorgeous creation ever, beg the hostess for your info so they can book you immediately for their next fete. And, you can raise your price now, too, since you’re so in demand.
And you know what that is? That’s the halo effect.
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Dry cake should be against the law. Maybe even exact a fine, too, for the perpetrator.
But, it’s not, so this crime against confectionary just goes on and on.
Why do I care so much, you ask? It’s only cake. To that I say, cake is more than just the ending to a celebratory meal. Cake seals a fate. What? You don’t believe me? Think about the couples you know who are divorcing. Now, think back to their weddings. Dry wedding cake, right? I knew it.
Children’s birthday cakes. Your child’s birthday cake. How can you live with yourself knowing that underneath the cloud of billowy frosting is a cake that’s more like particle board patched together with buttercream. This is the cake that holds the candles your sweet, trusting child is wishing upon. What kind of mother are you?
You don’t have to live like this; making dry cake or worse yet, buying a round of sugary sawdust from your local bakery. I’ll let you in on my secret to moist cake. And, no, I’m not drenching the layers in a flavored simple syrup to fool you into thinking the cake is moist. All you get from that is a fraction of an inch’s worth of soggy cake. Blech.
Bake your cake. Remove it from the oven after it’s done. Don’t over bake it, either, please.
Let it sit on a rack til you can touch the pan without dropping it like it’s hot.
Now, tap it on the counter top to loosen it from the bottom of the pan. Run a knife around the edge if you must. Turn it onto the rack, bottom up. Place your cardboard cake round on top and flip the cake right side up. You can trim the top of the cake now, or later. I trim quickly now.
The cake will still be warm. Very warm.
Now, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. Just do as I say.
Then wrap it in aluminum foil* and put it in the freezer. Don’t wait til it cools. Do it now.
Moisture from hermetically sealing the cake rains down, literally, on the cake, providing extra protection from a normally de-hydrating freezer stay. Just move it from the freezer to the refrigerator the the night before you want to frost. A slow thaw is a good thaw. And, we all know a cool cake is a much easier cake to frost, too.
Now that you know my little secret, you’ll never cause another republic to fall again because the coronation cake was dry.
* I save the aluminum foil and use it at least twice before discarding.Read More »
The time has come for this lesson, people. You’ve learned how to make the buttercream in your sleep. You’re a black belt in wielding a spatula to smooth a cake. And, of course, you’re getting your cookie on.
In order to assemble that towering monument of bricks and mortar,or as it is in this case, cake and frosting , it is imperative that you follow a few simple rules to prevent an impending cake disaster. My confectionary superhero, Antonin Careme, once said confectionary was the first cousin to architecture. He should know, he created the first sugar showpieces ever invented in the world for Marie Antoinette.
If that isn’t enough to scare the wits out of you, I don’t know what is. Imagine having created a perfect homage to the birthday; a wonderment of confectionary genius. You’ve worked yourself into a lather for hours, maybe days, to create a gateau that would have the likes of Kerry Vincent weeping tears of joy.
Then the cake is transported to the venue. Gently set upon its glorious throne in the ballroom, it glows under the spotlight where the revelers assembled can cast their gaze upon your handiwork and collectively swoon over the majesty of your crowning achievement.
Then, before your eyes, the tiers begin sinking one into another. Slowly at first, then pancaking one layer on top of another, like a has-been Vegas hotel being imploded to make way for a new-fangled monument of Hedonism.
Such an outcome needn’t happen. Not if you do as I say AND as I do.
Prepare your cake drum for the cake. I always decorate my drums as I’m not a fan of the foil only look. Squeeze out a few circles of glue in the center of the drum. Be careful and think about where the glue is going. Overgluing will result in it squishing out under the first tier of cake. Despite the fact that Elmer’s Glue is non-toxic and gazillions of children have eaten it through the years, it’s not what I want as one of my final cake flourishes.
Gently transfer the first tier of the cake to the prepared drum with a wide, sturdy offset spatual and nudge it into place. Make sure you wash the spatula now because it’s covered with glue.
Admit it, you’re feeling a little like Cake Boss now, right?
Now, you can’t just set another small cake on top of this one. Would you build a two story house without support columns on the first floor? I hope you’ve said “Of course not”, expressing shock and horror at the same time.
You need to insert your supports. That’s where the straws come in. Straws? Yes, straws. I use drinking straws, but my real faves are bubble tea straws. Straws insert easily into cake, are easily trimmed, and are probably in your kitchen now.
This is an 8 inch cake that will be topped with a 6 inch cake. Supporting the center will keep the upper cake from sinking into the bottom tier. Those plastic straws are also very strong. They bend in the middle when pressure is applied sideways, not when weight is mounted on top. Really. I do this all the time.
Now that you’ve gotten over the shock of inserting the straws, pull the straws up about a quarter of an inch, so you can see the ‘cake line’. Snip at that line and push the straw back into the cake. It should be even with or below the surface of the cake. Repeat with all 4 straws. And, remember the larger the cake, the more straws you’ll have to strategically insert to hold the weight.
Schmear a bit of buttercream ‘glue’ on the top of the cake. Once chilled, it’s another great way to ensure that the cake won’t go slipping out of place.
Get the big CLEAN spatula under the smaller tier and again, center it on the first tier.
Stand back and gaze adoringly at your mountain of cake. Oh, and remember to breathe.
Unfortuntately, that little shmear of buttercream between the tiers is just not enough to keep that cake from slipping and sliding. You’re going to have to hammer the big dowel down through the top of the cake. Yup, that’s what you have to do now. The center dowel is keeping the tiers of the cake forever linked. Or at least until you choose to unlink them.
SO, grab the dowel and the carpenter’s sharpener. Sharpen a point on the end of that dowel. Use the sanding block to smooth the point.
Place this dowel next to the stacked cake and roughly measure where it will be cut to fit. I’m using a food writer to mark the dowel.
Use the saw and cut the dowel where it’s marked. Smooth the top of the cut dowel again with the sand block.
Place the pointed end of the dowel in the middle of the top tier. Get the mallet and gently pound the stake through the heart of the cake. You’ll feel a little resistance when you reach the first cardboard cake round, but keep gently pounding. It’s fun, in a strangely theraputic way.
It’s looking great, but it’s not finished.
Pipe on your decorations…I like dots or stars.
Don’t forget the tippity top!
Good. Because you are.
Unlike the great cathedrals of Europe, this cake won’t last for centuries, not that you want it to. But, it will make it across the potholed streets of a city like New York without incident.
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Tell the truth. Don’t you sort of swoon when you lay your eyes o a beautifully frosted monument of cake? Whether it’s a cake that’s been smoothed out to planes of perfection or swirled in billowy clouds of buttercream decadence, the little devil in you is dying to sink a finger deep into the side of that cake to steal a taste of of heaven before the first slice has been cut. I know. I’ve been there more than once.
I treat my buttercreamed cakes as my blank ‘wall’ for the hand-decorated cookies that will adorn them. The sides are smooth and even, all the way up to the top, when the buttercream takes a sharp 90º turn and continues enclosing the whole package in sweet glory. Achieving such cake nirvana can be a bit intimidating and time-consuming, if you let the cake get the best of you. And, if you’re like me, and have numerous cakes that need to be dressed up all in one day, there’s no real time to spend slathering, smoothing and chilling, over and over again. I need to take control of the cake, do it once, and do it right.
I like to frost a cake that’s cold. Not frozen, but cold. It’s the first step I take in cake domination. A cold cake also ‘sheds’ crumbs less.
See how the cake doesn’t come to the edge of the cardboard? That’s where your buttercream’s going to be. See the green frosting ‘dam’ around the fluffy white filling? I always pipe on a dam, no matter what color, no matter what filling I use. The dam’s job is to prevent filling leakage from ruining the final coat. Eeewwww.
Put the second layer of cake on top. Adjust it. Move it, look at it. Make it even. Make sure it’s even.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a level, sturdy cake. More about that in a future post.
Time to crumbcoat the cake. Consider this the primer or the base coat of this project. A good crumbcoat sets the cake up for final coat perfection.
If you don’t have a cake turntable like I do, place your cake on top of an inverted pot to give it some height. It’s not as easy to turn, but it’s better than nothing. Plop a big blob of buttercream on top of your cake. I mean a BIG blob. Now, start spreading it out with your spatula. Spread it out til it’s beyond the edge of the cake.
Start working that excess buttercream around the sides of the cake, adding more when necessary. Don’t be afraid that you’re adding too much. You’ll be smoothing the extra off in no time.
Once the cake is completely slathered, start evening out the frosting. IF there are crumbs coming off the cake, make sure you scrap your spatula off in a separate bowl. Crumbs are not welcome in the finished product. Not one.
Now, what to do with that lip of frosting that’s been built up around the top edge: hold an offset spatula parallel to the top of the cake, slide the spatula across the top and shear off the excess. Repeat around the entire circumference of the cake.
Now, stand back and admire. Chill cake for about 20 minutes. Then it’s on to the final coat.
Start with another big plop of buttercream. Repeat and continue with same steps til the cake is fully covered in frosting.
Once you’ve slathered buttercream all over the cake, it’s time for my secret weapon.
The plastic bowl scraper. Holding the scraper parallel to the cake, with the edge of the cakeboard as my guide, I slowly begin revolving the turntable, removing the excess buttercream (an oxymoron in my book, but that’s another subject) while smoothing the side of the cake. Magic, isn’t it?
After one go around the cake, take a look. Take another swipe, if necessary, angling the scraper so that it removes less of the buttercream, and just smoothes out what’s there.
Shear off excess around the top again, making sure it’s even all the way around. Chill the cake.
WHAT?????? YOU NICKED THE SIDE OF THE CAKE??????????
There. Boo-boo all gone after a careful schmear with the offset.
Take a bow. You deserve it.
And, no fingers dipping in the frosting, okay?Read More »