Monday, November 28, 2011

Make It a Double

I interrupt this regular scheduled post about cupcakes to bring you 2 things...

First, I'm putting Project Cupcake on a brief hiatus for December. After some contemplation I have decided that keeping up with cupcakes and my holiday baking while working full time, plus my normal everyday life responsibilities is just too much at once. And, since I can't quit my job, and the house still has to be cleaned one of my baking items had to go. Since I give Christmas cookies as gifts to friends and family not baking for the holidays just wasn't an option, so I decided to take a little break from cupcakes. But don't worry, come 2012 we'll be back on track.

Second, since I've been sick the past couple days (I have a head cold that is getting the best of me) I haven't baked anything. I don't want to potentially infect anyone with my germs. Therefore, I'm bringing you a blast from the fairly-recent past. If you can't have cupcakes... why not have cake?

As I've mentioned before (I think) co-workers occasionally ask me to make cakes for birthdays, bridal showers, etc. This request was for 2 birthday cakes, one for a 6-year-old (I think) boy, and a 2-year-old (I'm positive) girl, brother and sister. Their birthdays are about a week apart and I made their cakes last year as well... repeat customers! Trevor wanted a Lightning McQueen cake (a character from the movie Cars for those who don't know), and Kate doesn't care because she's 2, but her mom asked for something pretty and girly and sent a picture of a cake she liked to serve as inspiration for me.

Before starting each cake I did some Google image searching to learn everything there is to learn about what Lightning McQueen looks like. I had a base knowledge of what he looks like, but I needed specific details. I found some good images and saved a few on my computer of Lightning McQueen from several different angles (yowza!). I continued my Google searching to see what other people had done to make Lightning McQueen cakes because this would be my first attempt at truly sculpting a cake and making it 3D. I didn't want it to be a complete failure and ruin Trevor's birthday party. No cake equals no fun, at least it does at my birthday parties.

After completing my research I decided to make 2 9x13 cakes and layer them. Then I would sculpt from there. Plus with using 2 9x13 pans I knew exactly how many batches of batter I would need. The cakes were both chocolate, so I used the same recipe for both cakes and just tripled it to have enough batter for both. It worked out perfectly.

I wasn't sure how to start sculpting, but I know from my sculpture classes in college that once you take something away, you can't really put it back (Mom and Dad would be so proud that I'm using those tuition dollars!). There's a little more wiggle room with cakes, since frosting is a baker's form of glue, but still, I'd rather not have to go that route. In my Google research someone suggested drawing out the form of the car on a piece of paper and then putting it against the side of the cake and carving along the edges of that to get the shape. This seemed like a great idea, so that's what I did. It worked out great and I got the basic shape of the cake. I did a little more carving around the edges and "touching up" to get as close to the shape of the car as possible. To be honest, it looked a little wider than I liked, but overall I was pretty pleased with my first attempt at sculpting a cake. Once the sculpting was complete I threw on 2 layers of vanilla buttercream frosting and popped that baby in the fridge.

The next day (after 8 hours of my day job) I came home to do the remainder of the decorating. Two days prior I made the frosting and fondant and left them waiting patiently in the fridge until I was ready for them. I made 1 batch of red marshmallow fondant for Lightning McQueen and 2 batches of white, one for Kate's cake, and then another to have for the details of both cakes. I ended up having more fondant than I needed, but I'd rather have too much than not enough.

First, I covered the cake with the red fondant and watched it start to sweat. That's what happens when you take a buttercream-frosted cake out of the fridge and cover it with with fondant in a non-air conditioned, humid house. But, I wasn't too concerned because I knew at some point it would stop sweating once the temperature evened out, and the fact that it was wet made it easier to stick on all the details (the next morning when the cakes were picked up they were both sweat free thanks to sitting in their respective cake boxes in a dehumidified basement overnight). I made several different color fondants from one of the white batches for the windows, wheels, lightning bolts, numbers, headlights, taillights and any other detail I can't remember. For the wheels I had previously made rice krispy treats and cut them into circles using a cookie cutter. I covered those with fondant and stuck them to the cake using toothpicks so they wouldn't flop over. Lightning McQueen won't be lightning fast if he's missing a wheel. I finished up some of the small details, such as outlining everything and the wording by piping on some of my leftover buttercream icing. Finally, Lightning McQueen was finished. I'm very proud of my work, and Trevor loved it, which is the most important thing. Being the perfectionist that I am, I think it could be better, and I'm sure the next one will be.

On to cake No. 2 for little Kate. Hers was much easier which is why I saved it for last. I knew Trevor's cake would be a lot of work and I wanted to have as much energy as possible to tackle it. Kate's cake was a 6-inch round, 3-inch deep cake. I cut it in half so it would have layers and frosted it with 2 applications of buttercream before I started decorating. I covered it twice with white fondant because the first pass was a little thin in some places and I didn't want to risk it ripping. Especially with the moisture issue I was facing and the fact that I had more than enough fondant. I made several colors of fondant for the flowers on the cake; yellow, orange, blue, pink and purple. I bought Wilton flower cookie cutters from Michaels and used those to make the flowers. They worked great. I cut out about 6 flowers in each color, more then enough since I was working with a small cake, but I didn't want to have to go back and make more flowers later if I needed them.

Before I put any of the flowers on the cake I wanted to get the number 2 on it. This was the only specific request that was made fore the cake, everything else was up to me. I used some pink fondant and rolled it into a rope, made it into the shape of a 2 and put it on the top of the cake. Next, I put on the flowers in a not so organized or patterned fashion. I didn't want to use too many, because I wanted the cake to look pretty and dainty, but I didn't want it to be to sparse because I didn't want the cake to look naked. For the finishing touches I attached white pearl sprinkles to the center of the flowers with some of the leftover buttercream frosting. It was a really nice touch and made a difference, it made everything look complete and finished. I don't know if this is my favorite cake that I've ever made, but it's definitely high on my list. It's so dainty and pretty and lovely... just like the birthday girl.