Gift Box Cake
(+5 skill points -> 95/400)
(+5 skill points -> 95/400)
Last weekend my parents celebrated their 63rd birthday. It was the first time for them to have both grandkids there at the house (pics here). I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was going to attempt the gift box cake. After everything was said and done, they didn't even cut the cake at the party because it was "too pretty"! We settled for ruining a chocolate HEB cake instead. The pretty cake got eaten the next day for breakfast ;) This was a big learning experience! A lot of work got poured into this, but there was apparently plenty of room for improvement.
I bought a 4 piece round cake pan set with a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby. I didn't want the gift box to be too short, so I used the 8 inch pan from the set instead of my usual 9 inch springform pan. The pans were great! The baking strips did their job, and the cake easily slid out after 15 minutes of cooling. The cake does take longer to bake with the strips than without. I think this cake took an hour at 350 degrees.
While the cake was cooling more thoroughly, I started on the fondant gift bow so it could dry a little before I needed to assemble it. I used paper towels to support the shapes. I wanted them to look more rumpled, but that was hard to achieve without many cracks or tears. I tried draping the strips over pens and pencils to make it look natural, like it was ruffled.
The absolute hardest part of this entire cake was coloring the fondant. I wanted a dark brown color like in the example gift box cake. It seemed to take forever to kneed in that much color. My arms were so tired! I added a touch of black food coloring as well to help speed it along. I wear gloves when I work with fondant so the oils from my hand don't get mixed in and so my skin doesn't get stained from food coloring. It also avoids getting all kinds of icing trapped under my nails!
Once the cake was cool, I torted it with a cake leveler and filled it with some left over cream cheese tub frosting. Nothing beats the taste of tub frosting in my book! Leveling it went ok except for one side where the cake was a little tougher other areas. The leveler took a long sliver of cake with it, but it wasn't very noticeable.
Afterwards came the buttercream. What was most difficult was getting the blue color that I wanted. It looked great in my head, but too dark in reality. At least I got the consistency I wanted from the buttercream. I was able to use the smoothing technique I learned from this online video. Once the buttercream is dry to the touch, I got a piece of parchment paper and layed it against the cake. Using my fingers, I rubbed the cake until the icing was smooth. You wouldn't think you could rub it so firmly, but if your icing consistency is good, it'll stand up to it!
Remember: this is a gift box cake. I first put a layer of off-white colored buttercream on the entire cake. Once that firmed up in the fridge, I covered the bottom half with strips of parchment paper and then layered blue buttercream on top.
After smoothing the blue, I carefully removed the parchment paper ... leaving a gift box top!
After that, all that was left was to have fun with the decorating. I cut out circular fondant shapes with 2 round cutters and stuck them to the cake with a little water. The bow went on top.
The most disappointing part of the cake was my piping. I piped stitches on to the fondant ribbons and wrote "Happy Birthday" on the little banner. The buttercream recipe is just not good for this delicate work. I tried to add some corn syrup to smooth and thin it out, but it didn't really help.
I was unhappy with my first "Happy Birthday" piping that I scraped it off and used the back side of the banner to try again.
So in the end, I learned a great deal about cake decorating! I even learned some things afterwards. Some websites warn that fondant is no good in the fridge because of the condensation that creates little sweat puddles. This cake held up for a night just fine, but I won't push it with a full blown fondant covered cake. By the end of the night of the party, the fondant bow had lost all its body and lay limply on the cake. I know if the cake needs to be out and about, beware of the sag! I learned I really need to practice piping ... if I can't beat HEB decorated cake, then what's the point?? Lastly, I learned that I might need to cut the cakes I make because no one else will.