Last minute birthday cake!

After the cake pop fiasco, I was happy to be home and able to relax. I was looking forward to getting a good nights sleep. As I sat on my front porch after taking my dog for a walk, I got a text from my sister. A teacher of my niece’s wanted to see if I could make a birthday cake for the next day. I thought she was kidding me at first. No way, right? But yeah… Way… While I sat there for a moment wondering if I could do it, or if I even wanted to do it… I decided I had to. But then I remembered it would probably be easy! I had cakes in the freezer! A 6″ chocolate, an 8″ chocolate, and about 5 pounds of buttercream. I was told the person ordering wanted to try something different (usually orders vanilla with vanilla buttercream). So I figured I could make my normal vanilla cake, but maybe try a custard. If that was the case, I really didn’t have much to make! Easy peasy! Let’s go for it!

ImageI’m not sure why I haven’t learned by now. Disaster traveled with me the rest of the night. God. Will it ever be easy? I started the evening off with making the vanilla cake. I made it like I always do. I put the bake even strips on, oiled the pan, put down the parchment paper, everything normal. But for some reason, they didn’t rise correctly. And then when I tried to pull the parchment paper off, chunks of the cake came with it! I was baffled. No idea why this was happening. I didn’t trust making the cakes with these, so I started over. But again, flashing forward another hour and a half, the very same thing happened. No idea why! Why would it stick to parchment paper? Why? I still can’t figure it out. Just looking at these pictures makes me upset about it all over again.

ImageAfter I had my broken vanilla cakes sitting all sad looking on their wire racks, I set up my chocolate cake. My plan for the birthday cake was a two tier: 8″ and 6″. Since I already had an 8″ chocolate and an 6″, I just cut the 8″ down to a 6″ so I wouldn’t have to make another chocolate cake. Bonus!

ImageI made a chocolate buttercream for the filling in the top layer of the cake. I figured this would be different for them, but I was told that someone at the party hates chocolate and I wanted to keep all the chocolate in one layer.

Below, you can see my attempt at filling the bottom layer with a vanilla custard. I found a recipe that seemed easy to make. It took an extremely long time to cool after I finally got it at the right consistency I needed as a cake filling. It tasted okay, as I expect a custard to taste. I piped a buttercream dam around the edge. A little voice in my head told me I should make a bigger dam (in fact, I should get a bigger round tip, going to make a note of that). Anyway, I filled in the cake and I knew it was already a bad idea. But I figured, hey! Maybe I’m wrong. Let’s stack it and see.

No, no no. Horrible. As you can see in the picture below the buttercream dam started to push outside of the crumb coat. I waited longer to see what would happen, and the custard began to leak out of the cake. I was very upset. I tried plugging the holes, and wiping away the custard, anything that I thought would work. Things were going wrong one after the other and at this point and I was again questioning why I do this to myself. I should admit, I even threw a spatula across the kitchen at one point. I was pretty angry.

14bdaycake4So here is where a slightly positive thing happened. I had to toss the cake with the custard. There was no way I could hope the custard would stay in place so I had to make a new bottom for the cake. Now earlier in the day, I made an extra two vanilla cakes because of that parchment problem. So luckily I was able to level and fill those extra two cakes and fill them with buttercream. I really wanted the custard to work. But if I think about how things ended up, maybe it was a good thing all these bad things happened because I was told that the custard and cake didn’t taste great. I’ll have to work on that at some point. On weeks that I don’t have anything to do, like this week because I had a canceled cake, I should be practice more cakes. Ah well, soon enough I suppose.

Anyway. I used a 1M tip and piped swirls on the cake. I made a ton of purple buttercream and then the two lighter colors. I took purple fondant and cut out two circles and a heart. Shaped it with a toothpick to make a little dress. I decorated it with royal icing and a flower. I set it up to dry until right before I had to deliver the cake. The dress was easy to make actually. I should make more of these for simple decorations.

14bdaycake5Below is a closeup picture of the little dress I made. I wasn’t sure how to use it as the cake topper since I didn’t want the bottom to sink into the buttercream. I ended up making a large ball of fondant and sticking it into the cake, then taking a toothpick and attaching the ball inside the cake, and the ball under the dress (that was helping to shape it). This held the dress just above the buttercream.

14bdaycake6I then took another piece of fondant and wrote out happy birthday on it. I’m not a big fan on my handwriting, but if I had more time, and more fondant I would have practiced this more. Also, this would be good to add to the cake before the buttercream crusts so it doesn’t make any of the flowers crack.

14bdaycake7The cake almost made it there without fault. I didn’t think to “glue” the bottom cake board to the larger board. It ended up sliding into the large box I can it in and smashing a flower. So, something else I’ve learned is to make sure that cake is glued with royal icing, or buttercream, or both! Just make sure it can’t move.

It ended up being a very long night for something I thought I could do in a few hours. Oh well.

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Making Houses

A couple of posts ago, I showed my attempts at making modeling chocolate for the cupcakes. Well the first of two nights, I actually used the modeling chocolate to make the little houses. It was two long, long, long nights. When I signed up to make these cupcakes, I didn’t really imagine how long it would take to make all the tiny details.

To start out, I picked up the white chocolate that I dried out and then tried to put back together again? Yeah, it didn’t quite work out. When I broke off a piece to being rolling it out, it just immediately crumbled. So, no dice. Impossible to work with. I threw it all out.

ImageIt’s a good thing I had the good block of the vanilla chocolate chips. I broke off small pieces of that, zapped them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds, and then used the heat from my hands to roll it out. Below, you can see the three things that I made with the modeling chocolate that actually worked. First, the little huts. Just making simple squares was easy enough to do. The great thing about the modeling chocolate was how fast it dried. I figured out earlier that I couldn’t just drape the roof over the square shape. I would need a little cone to attach to the top. So I then spent another hour and a half making all the little cones. Finally, the easiest part was making the little chimneys to attach to the roofs. I just took a small block and rolled it out. This entire process took about 4 and a half hours. Very tedious work. I left these to dry overnight just to ensure they were solid and ready to be manipulated for the rood attachment.

Image The next night, or the final day of putting the houses/cupcake decorations together was extremely long. I mean, two episodes of “Friends,” nine episodes of “The Office,” and two episodes of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Yep, that’s right. I spent about 8 hours finishing up the rest of these houses. Holy bananas. The only good thing during this part was how monotonous it was. I say good, because I was able to focus on other things (like the television) to distract myself from cutting out circles.

To start, I used royal icing to glue the cones to the boxes and make the start of the little houses.

ImageI left these to dry while started working on the walkways for the cupcakes. I took out the block of milk chocolate modeling chocolate I made, zapped it for five seconds, and tried to roll it out. I was not successful.

ImageI’m not sure what the issues was. Every time I tried rolling the chocolate into a small ball, it would just crumble apart. I tried kneading it, refolding it, but nothing stuck. I was able to make a couple of strips for the base of the steps, but it was just too difficult to mold. I wrapped up the rest of the chocolate (maybe I can find some use for it in the future?), and decided to go with fondant.

ImageI took some royal icing and dyed it brown to use as an adhesive for the walkway. I made more strips to attach the “rocks,” and then I rolled out very small balls, and flattened them with a cup. I then used the royal icing to attach the rocks to the strips. Now I had my tiny little walkways, and the base of my houses.

ImageI started making the roofs for the houses. Earlier in the day, I went to the store and bought more white chocolate and made fresh modeling chocolate. I forgot to dye the chocolate when I added the corn syrup, so I had to kneed it in. This is supposed to be easy, but as you can see below… No. The chocolate kept crumbling as I kneaded it, and it took an exceptionally long time. I made one circle and tried to put it on one of the houses and it just immediately cracked. This was just not worth it.

ImageI broke out the fondant and decided this was the best course of action. I didn’t want to fight with the modeling chocolate anymore. I’m not sure what was the problem with this batch, or if it didn’t work well being draped, but I didn’t want to take the time to figure it out anymore. I took a ball of fondant and dyed it pink. I couldn’t find any circle cookie cutters the size I needed, so below you can see that I used a metal shot class to cut the circle out. I just had to dip it in cornstarch to make sure it released the fondant.

ImageThe circles were just a tiny bit small, so I rolled them out a little more after they were cut. I kept them stacked under a cup to keep them from drying out too quickly. I put a bit of royal icing on the cone of the house, and then draped the fondant circle on top. I took me about an hour to figure out how to get the roof on correctly. At first, it would crack, and the cone would pop out the top. I finally figured out the best way to put the roof on was similar to how you would cover a cake in fondant, and push up on the sides. It took about 5-7 minutes per roof to make sure it was on correctly. Once I got the roof on, I would dip the chimney in the royal icing and stick it on the side of the roof. Possibly in the future, I would use pink icing just to make it blend more, but it the long run it didn’t matter.

ImageOnce all the houses were done, I used the same pink circles and cut out very small ovals to make little doors. I attached these with royal icing as well. Now I had my army of houses.

ImageThere was only one last thing to do, and that was to add the dots on the roof and the doorknob. I spent some time debating if I should actually go through with that. The houses looked fine the way they were, and I already spent so much time making the details so far I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I finally decided that if I went this far, I might as well stay up and go all the way. I don’t really have any pictures of making the small dots, but that’s because I reached a point of exhaustion I can’t describe.

ImageI’m glad I actually put the dots on. I think they completed how the house looked. Really added something. Once they were done, I crawled into my bed and passed out.