When you’re constantly baking you know there’s always a best of times and a worst of times. I’ve been fairly lucky lately, having some complicated things turn out easy-peasy, but as my friend told me this week: “It’s your turn for bad luck.” Sometimes, it’s the seemingly- easy things that make you want to take a fully-clothed shower at 2 in the morning.
This cake was interesting from the start. A friend of a friend requested a purple birthday cake. Simple enough. But she also wanted all the layers lemon-chocolate marble.
Me: “So, just to double-check, it’s lemon-chocolate marble.”
Okay, fair enough. To each his seemingly heinous combination own. Then, when I asked her what kind of decorations she liked/what kind of person she’d describe herself as to help me decide the design, T told me: “I’m not a girly girl by any means. But I LOVE hearts, flowers and butterflies.”
So far, this cake was starting out to be one for The Twilight Zone. But hey, who am I to argue? So hearts, flowers, and marble adventure it was.
Now, I’ve never marbled anything in my life, but after doing 5 min. of research, it seemed simple enough and I’ll detail how to do this below. To my delight, the marbling came out perfectly, as did the coat of purple cream cheese frosting
But, just when I thought I’d become a cake master, the universe had an awesome way of bestowing some humility. It took me 6 tries (!) to cover the cake with the purple fondant [something I’ve done many times before with only minimal problems] and by the time I was done, because of the unwilling-to-harden consistency of the cream cheese frosting, the fondant was half fondant half cream cheese–unable to hold together after rolling and full of pockets and dimples. I also had to re-ice the cake 3 times with some leftover frosting I had saved [thank god].
Fan-tas-tic. I quickly had 2 beers and read a trashy magazine. Sometimes, you just have to walk away.
As it turns out, if you leave the crap fondant out to dry, it looks a lot better, so the cake wasn’t a complete waste and turned out to be somewhat pretty. But here are some hints in case you’re ever in the same situation:
- 1. Make sure you have enough fondant to cover your cake–get a lot more than you think you might need. Stretching fondant too thin will cause all kinds of stretch marks and cracks.
- 2. If you’re worried you might need to re-cover the cake multiple times, work with a frosting that hardens in the fridge, like buttercream. Cream cheese is fine, but it only crusts, not hardens.
- 3. Always have extra decorations on-hand in case you need to cover blemishes.
- 4. If you’re really f-ed, have some alcohol on hand. It won’t help the cake, but it will help you.
With all said and done, the cake turned out just fine: T loved it, the flowers turned out beautifully, and my liver is destroyed. All-in-all a great learning experience I hope to never have again 😉
I thought I’d give a brief pic tutorial on what’s involved in making a cake:
When marbling, it’s best to use two cake recipes with similar baking times and temps., such as 350 degrees for 45 min. When in doubt, average out the times and temps and keep checking with a toothpick.
While both of my cake batters were the same baking times and temps, the consistencies were very different [unlike me, you should try to have similar consistency batters]. But it still worked out okay.
To marble, alternate scoops of one batter and the other. Then, cover scoop of A with scoop of B and scoop of B with scoop of A for the next round.
I did three total layers, alternating batters. With a knife inserted all the way through the batter, swirl in an up-and-down pattern. Then, swirl in a left-to-right pattern. The end result looked good.
Here’s the recipe for the cream cheese frosting, taken from Wayne Gisslen’s Professional Baking Fifth Edition. [I doubled the recipe to cover my three-tier 8″ round cakes and then saved the leftover for potential tweaks.]
- Stand or handheld electric mixer
- 12 oz. cream cheese
- 1 lb. 4 oz. sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract [I used the clear kind]
*Note: You can also add 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, a little grated lemon or orange zest and orange or lemon juice to thin. If you need to thin the frosting and want to keep it vanilla-like, use cream or milk instead of citrus.
Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar until well-blended. Add the vanilla and blend at medium speed. Then mix at high speed until light and fluffy.
I tinted the frosting with some purple gel coloring.
I wanted the flowers to be a mix of things and couldn’t really find any video tutorials on how to make carnations or daffodils, so I winged it, and they’re a little interpretive, but still usable 😉
Using food-safe petal powders make flowers look almost real. I dry my flowers for a couple of days on egg cartons.