Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Trial Cake

For my birthday, my hubby gave me a Calphalon bakeware set, a non-stick set which included two new 8” pans. This year we were each extraordinarily busy on each other’s b-days, and ended up making our own respective birthday cakes. This has less to do with insistence on birthday ritual and much more to do with a family love of cake.

Anyway, I decided to try a few things out. I’ve been loving some of the rainbow cakes I’ve seen floating around…. perfect for a few parties and showers coming up….. I also have a Wilton set  that *ahem*… I may have…possibly…. been excited to have opened last Christmas, only to have not touched it since. In all fairness the last 12 months have been one giant transition that has just been winding down, but still.

So here we go!!!!!

I picked green cake because if I did something dumb with the color gels I figured I could always throw in some blue or yellow. My favorite cake is butter yellow with chocolate, so that’s what we’re having.

Some tips for smoothing out any baking experience…

If it says the pan needs to be lightly greased, I just use a stick of butter from the freezer…

Then it can go into the fridge for later cooking or, as in the case of butter cake, be softened for use.
Then the wrapper becomes a disposable spoon rest:

Set the box from the mix on the counter as a catch-all for trash.

Use your whisk to mix the dry mix first and break up some of the big clumps.

Add water, then soft butter, then eggs to minimize the clumps of mix as well.

Divide out your batter depending on how many layers you’re making. I only used one bowl to mix the color in while keeping the rest of the batter in the original bowl, but it also meant that I was not measuring my batter and my layers won’t be perfectly even. I don’t mind that, honestly, I think part of the charm of these colored cakes is that they look homemade.

After each layer is baked you can put them on cookie racks on the back porch to cool, if it’s cool outside near you, too. Then take a bread knife and cut off the top of each layer, keeping the blade level and lined up with the edges.

Mmmmm, cake for munching on in the meantime. Notice those bubbles? I shouldn’t have stirred that batter so much since I was going to have to stir it again to add the color. woops.

*Note: I thought about grabbing a lazy susan from the dollar store and putting my stand on it, but then I couldn’t find my cake stand anywhere! I’m really hoping I didn’t lose it in the moveL So I ended up using the bottom of a corningware dish. What do you do if you don’t have a cake stand?*

Add a thin layer of icing on top of each layer of cake.

When your top layer is on, begin adding a “crumb layer” of icing to the cake. This is to go underneath the layer of icing that will show once the cake is done, and it does exactly what the name says: catches all the crumbs.

Honestly, when I do this, I cheat… 1 - I totally use store bought icing. 2 - Before icing the cake, I totally put it in the microwave to make it soft and a little melty. It’s way easier to smooth that way. If you’re a cool think-ahead-type, you can put the icing container on the stovetop while you’re baking your cake layers and the oven heat will melt it enough, just remember to turn the container every once in a while.

Crumb layer, check.
Time for the cake to sit in the fridge.

Tick tock. Go eat some dinner or read a blog or something :)

Once the icing seems as hard as it’s going to get it’s time for the outer layer of icing, and then back in the fridge to chill a little more….. this is a good time for cleaning up your dishes and preparing your decorating icing.

Finally the fun part! Like I said, it’s been a busy year and this was my first time using my new decorating set! So I filled up on youtube videos and gave piping and roses a try. And the final product?


Not bad for a first try, right? The piping is uneven with the flowers on top, next time I’ll remember to make hashmarks in the icing before I actually go to town.

The roses flattened out and I couldn’t get the dots not to leave little tails, but I also used a store bought whipped icing because it’s what I had on hand. I tried adding some crisco and powdered sugar to stiffen the icing, but next time I’ll just use actual decorating icing and see if that helps. Do you have a go-to icing you prefer for cake decorating?

And the final cut?

It actually showed the colors! The gels were tons easier to work with than I thought, I can’t wait to try this again with more layers for a pink or purple inside.. or maybe pink to purple? Oh, the options! Happy baking!

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