Living in D.C., it’s not always easy traveling back home to the Midwest to see family, but this year I decided it had been too long-too long since I’ve seen those I love, and too long since I’ve had the chance to make something for people other than my gracious coworkers.
Thank god I have a mother who takes pleasure in baking, because really, if I had told any other person “Hey! Can’t wait to see you after all these months-let’s celebrate by spending at least 4 days meticulously making and decorating a giant cake!” they would have told me to kiss their you-know-what.
But even after receiving at least 12 boxes of baking supplies, being the best “marmiton” (French for kitchen assistant), and sitting for an hour in the car on the way to my Aunt’s with a 40 lb. box on her lap and the air conditioning blasting in 40-degree weather, she had the good-natured heart to say “That was fun!”
P.S. Thank you too, Papa, for running to the hardware store in your pajamas at 9 p.m. (you know what I’m talking about), and for being a very devout taste-taster.
On to the cake: this cake is a 3-tiered square cake with (2) 10″, (2) 7″ layers, and (1) 4″ layer cut in half. The cakes are chocolate and are filled with a seasonal pumpkin mousse. The icing is a white chocolate ganache tinted orange. The leaves are (yellow, orange, and brown) tinted gumpaste colored with edible dusts, and the decorative pumpkins are marzipan (almond paste-you can buy this by the package in most grocery stores) tinted orange and brown. *Note: It’s best to tint with Americolor gel colors, since the colors will never run or change the consistency of your icings or decorations.
For this post, I won’t go into extreme detail with recipes, but I’ll provide links to where you can find them.
Link for the chocolate cake (This is the best chocolate cake, both for tiers and for the flavor, which my aunt described as an ‘adult’ flavor, thanks to the coffee and buttermilk ingredients)
Link for the pumpkin mousse *Note: I found this recipe to be a little on the bland side, so I added about 3/4 cup SIFTED powdered sugar (to a doubled recipe) to add a bit of sweetness and thicken the mousse a bit.
Video link for the ganache (best ganache I’ve ever tried-seems a bit tedious but worth it in the end for the great icing consistency and flavor)
Hints and tips:
- The chocolate decorating pieces are made from candy coating chocolate. This chocolate is special for decorating because it has already been tempered-meaning that the chocolate has already gone through a heating and cooling process to make it smooth and shiny. The brand I used is called Mercken’s and you can find it here. It comes in all kinds of colors and tastes great. All you have to do is melt it, pour and smooth it on some waxed paper, let dry for about 15 min, then cut into whatever design you choose.
- Freeze your cakes-this helps when it comes time to move your layers around and frost them. For this cake, and many others, I stick them in the freezer, then fill them, put them back in the freezer with the filling, frost them (making sure to fill in the gaps between the layers), stick them in the fridge, then let them come to room temp. the day of.
- Always use dowels for tiered cakes. For the bottom later I used 4 wooden dowels-this keeps the middle layers from sinking or depressing the bottom layers. I also connected the middle and top layers with 2 dowels, since small upper layers have a tendency to fall off or shift on the cake.
- Never refrigerate your gumpaste or fondant, as they will ‘sweat’ and then droop once taken out of the fridge. Put your decorations on the day of serving.
- Always use cake boards on the bottoms of each tier. These boards will make taking apart and slicing your cake easy.