For Norah's first birthday, I had a vision: chocolate cake, bright blue-green frosting, white lazy-daisies piped artfully on top of that, and a beautiful lacy 3-D butterfly made of chocolate perched prettily among the daisies. Can you see it? It was beautiful.
...but as with all creations, it changed once it came out of my head and into real life. I ran out of ingredients, messed up techniques that were beyond my skill, re-designed on the fly, and generally had a deliciously fun time.
Typically, I make a 13"x9" cake from a box, slap some canned frosting on top, and call it a day. This time I was trying to do things properly and expand my skill set, so here's what I did:
Item: While I was piping out white chocolate petals, I also piped out a beautiful outline of butterfly wings, veins and all. I covered it with sprinkles while the chocolate was still wet, so that when it was hardened, it would look like a butterfly made of sprinkles. This butterfly broke as soon as I picked it up. So I tried again, making the wings solid this time; this butterfly also broke. I'm not sure why--maybe my kitchen was too warm?--but I'm going to read up on this technique and try again.
Ganache is amazing. It's a liquid when it's warm, a gooey frosting-like texture at room temperature, and several sources say it can be whipped into yet another frosting-like consistency. I want to play with this some more.
Frosting mistakes can be hidden by strategically placed decorations.
3-D chocolate should probably be kept cold if you're working in a warm kitchen. I might have had better success with those butterflies if I'd let them sit in the freezer for ten minutes before trying to place them.
Melted white chocolate seizes up if you try to color it with liquid food coloring...but you can get away with a drop or two. I have since read that, for white chocolate, you should use an oil-based food coloring. Good to know.
Doing a relatively elaborate cake like this takes a LOT of time! It's fun, and totally worth doing, but it's not something you should start half an hour before the cake needs to be done. Happily, cake is the sort of thing you can make in advance.
That's it for Cake of the Month number one! For next month: I'd like to try one of the cupcake ideas from those books we mentioned last week. The duckies are haunting me.