Monday, September 19, 2016

Planet Cake

When my son requested a space party for his birthday this year, I rubbed my hands together with glee - finally I had an excuse to buy some cool tools from the Evil Cake Genius

My grand idea for a cake was something that looked like Jupiter. I had seen a hand painted one on Pinterest, and I wondered whether I could create a similar effect with swirling fondant. 

So I ordered the hemisphere baking tin and spherical cake combs and waited with baited breath until they arrived. You have got to love a fellow cake baker who shares their secrets with you - the Evil Cake Genius sent extensive instructions on how to create a flawless sphere. I was saddened to discover the bottom of her sphere is made from rice crispy treat. Straight away I knew I was going to be one of those smarty pants cooks who deviates from the well trodden path. 

The instructions said to fill the tin to almost full to ensure you get a complete hemisphere. My first attempt was too short. I had to bake again to get it right. Once I had two hemispheres, I carved out a hole in each and filled one side with blue chocolate rocks. Then I stuck the two halves together with chocolate ganache. 

Then I transferred the ball to my turntable. I knew it would sit in the almost 1cm depression in the middle - I wanted that so it wouldn't roll away while I coated it with ganache. 

It was obvious very quickly that my sphere was too small to use the expensive and dangerous combs I'd bought especially for this occassion. Apart from the fact that I hadn't made the bottom out of rice crispy treat or impaled it on nails on my cake board, I wasn't going to build up as much ganache on the exterior as The Evil Cake Genius does with her buttercream. 

I did, however, use the comb to pick away as much ganache as possible on the under side of my sphere to make room for the fondant covering. I set about smoothing the ganache using a hot palette knife. I even covered it with plastic wrap and smoothed it with my hands. 

Then it was fondant time. I cut 1cm thick pieces of orange, white and chocolate fondant. I layered them next to each other in an offset fashion, then rolled them up like a snail shell. I stood the roll on its end, then began rolling the fondant out into a big circle. 

Once I had the fondant rolled out enough to cover my sphere, I painted the ganache with sugar syrup, then carefully cloaked the cake with the fondant. Talk about exciting! I smoothed it down until all that was left was its "feet". 

I trimmed the excess off with a scalpel several times, then manoeuvred the cake to the edge of the turntable to tuck the fondant edge underneath. Once that was done I began smoothing and smoothing and smoothing with my plastic flexible smoothers. This bit was fun!

I stuck the sphere to a black cake board with royal icing and let it sit until it dried.

Next day I was convinced the whole thing would roll off the board in transit. So I made some black royal icing and piped it around the board close to the bottom of the cake and stuck purple chocolate rocks in the icing to act as breaks should there be any movement. 

Next, I cut an eight inch round out of the middle of a 10 inch cake board. I covered it with purple fondant, then sprinkled it with silver edible glitter. With the ring positioned on the cake, I added a giant lollipop to look like an orbiting moon, and a black glitter candle in the shape of a seven. And voila: planet cake!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Drip Cake - the low down on the learn!

If you love cake as much as I do, you were probably astounded by the mergence of Katheryn Sabbath's drip cakes last year. Her use of candy colours combined with common candy decorations are a visual feast that has sent cake aficionados wild all over the world. 

I thought I'd have a go at creating a drip cake myself, after seeing a tutorial this week that uses watered down candy melts for the drip component. 

I had three seven inch vanilla buttercakes in the freezer. I set out to build a mega tower, which would let me take my 30cm Perspex scraper out for a spin. As I built the layers I quickly realised I'd end up with a cake so high, it wouldn't fit in my fridge and I would have trouble getting someone to eat it. So I went for three layers of two centimetres each. 

I painted each layer with raspberry jam, then scattered a few frozen raspberries across each. Then I spread 3/4 cup of what I'm calling royal buttercream - royal icing made from meringue powder with 500g of butter combined into it - onto each layer. Yep - that's half a kilo of butter. The amount of butter in this cake is staggering. 

Then I made up a batch of chocolate buttercream. It's really important to state I don't put shortening in my buttercream. While adding a half a cup of vegetable shortening will make the buttercream slide better when you smooth it, to me it gives a horrible mouth feel and even more horrible aftertaste. If a cake doesn't taste good, what's the point, right?

So I began smoothing on my chocolate buttercream. I found anywhere it connected with the royal buttercream it separated. I put the cake in the fridge to firm the chocolate buttercream up, but my first attempt just didn't quite cut the mustard. I decorated this one with chocolate wafers and sent it to a good home. 

I put a really bad crumb coat on my second cake and left it in the fridge overnight. When I finally plucked up the energy to plough on today, the buttercream was super solid. I had left the remainder out on the bench over night, covered in glad wrap. It was nice and soft so I beat it with the Kitchenaid and smoothed it onto my chilled cake. I find my buttercream recipe will not smooth easily. It's more suited to piping. The more I try to smooth it, the more dents and grazes and take off marks I get. So after a while I just took a hot knife to it. 

I put it in the fridge and prepped the topping. I put a whole bag of blue Wilton candy melts into a mixing bowl with a quarter of a cup of water. Terrifying!  This is what the tutorial said to do, but you can't trust anything you see on the internet! 

I gave the candy melts three 30 second zaps in the microwave. I had to stir the mix so much to melt the chocolate, it ended up with a lot of air bubbles. If you've ever used candy melts for cake pops, you'll know they are gloppy when melted. The water thinned it out well. But not well enough, I think. 

At the ready I had one piping bag of pink royal buttercream and one of mauve, plus some pink pearlescent bubblegum balls and some pink sixlets. I considered silver cachous, but they can turn black in the fridge and can make a cake look unsightly. So I left them out. 

I spooned the warm candy melt onto the edge of the cake and pushed it over the side as the tutorial instructed. Because of its thickness, it didn't drip like Kathryn Sabbath's. In fact, it wanted to set really quickly, so repeated attempts to push it over the side only caused bulges. 

I piped some royal buttercream puffs onto the surface and placed the gumballs and sixlets in a considered pattern on one side. The result is OKAY but I couldn't give this cake to anyone and feel good about it. 

The lesson here, I think, is that a cake design which can seem thrown together is actually art in disguise. Kathryn Sabbath clearly has a secret drip ganache recipe that I'm not privvy to. If I were to do this again, I'd cover the cake in ganache, not buttercream. The interior looks spectacular, but this is an intensely sweet cake.