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Cake of the Month Challenge: Report

Whitney M.

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:

This butterfly broke as soon as I picked it up.
  1. Cut off the tops of the (four!) layers to make them level
  2. Layered the cake with ganache instead of frosting (this changed my world)
  3. Crumb-coated the outside before putting on the final coat of frosting
  4. Dipped the frosting spatula in hot water between strokes to get a smooth effect
  5. Piped melted white chocolate onto wax paper to make candy flower petals for decoration

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.

Here's what I learned

Side view.

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.

The aftermath.

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.

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You are doing great chef! Keep up the good work. To be a great baker you've got to be patient, and I know that's in your skill-set. Your cake looks amazing, thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of the world. Don't ever buy box cake again, it's too expensive. :-)
6 years ago
Great article whitney! My 40th is in four months. I like cake. Hint hint. ;) kelli
6 years ago
Hey dear, what a lovely idea. And to think my great grand daughter is such a celebrity. I am so impressed!
6 years ago
I think your cake is awesome. The Daisy petals are very clever and personalizing your cake with the beautiful initial was the cherry on top, so to speak. :) PS: I like cake, too.
6 years ago
Wow, Whitney! I love it! I am inspired! Lex's birthday is next month and I can't wait to be brave and try some new technique. P.S. I've worked with ganache and you're right - it rocks one's world. ;)
6 years ago
It looks really cute, I love the flowers and the design on the side. I like the idea of ganache. I think I'll move on to that and take a break from fondant since I don't like the taste of it. Ganache looks really tasty.
6 years ago