"Hey, I can do that!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

God Bless Zoey

God Bless Zoey
Cake for my little angel's baptism
(+5 skill points => 345/400)

 What a great weekend!  My little girl was baptized in front of family and friends on Saturday.  We held a little reception at a nearby hotel's event room.  This cake was a great learning experience and a real eye-opener.

  • 8" and 6" round doctored Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake
  • iced with Sharon Zambito's buttercream
  • filled with strawberry IMBC
  • decorated with satin ribbon and yellow carnations
The cake recipe used was entitled "The *Original* WASC cake" (White Almond Sour Cream) from cakecentral.com (here).  Well, the actual cake was neither white nor almond flavored ... so let's just call it "doctored".  I did a double batch of this recipe using Duncan Hines French Vanilla box cake mix and no extra flavoring.  This cake came out very dense, almost like pound cake.  It tasted great but I think I prefer the texture of un-doctored DH French Vanilla.  But from a decorating standpoint, it was great to work with.  Very sturdy and had a fine crumb.  I used a bit too much batter in the pans ... you can see the centers aren't the same "done-ness" as the rest of the cake.  It wasn't raw or anything, but you can see the difference in color and texture.  A flower nail or less batter could have prevented this.

    I threw some of the scraps into the food processor so I could make cake spackle.

    I had a good bit of leftover pink IMBC.  Here it is mixed with some cake crumbs and used to make my dam for the filling.  I used a ziplock bag that was reinforced with some tape to hold the tip.

    The filling was the rest of the IMBC mixed with strawberry jam.  De-lish!

    I was short on time so I decided to weight my cakes so they could settle.  This helps reduce the risk of air bubble blowouts later.  The 8" (left) got a loose tile and the 6" (right) got a ceramic cake-shaped container.

    Not exactly the kind of cake stacking I had in mind!  I let these sit while I made my buttercream icing.

    If you want to get serious about cake decorating, then you need to know who Sharon Zambito is.  You may have seen her on TLC's Ultimate Cake Off.  She has a wonderful line of instructional videos for cake decorating: http://www.sugaredproductions.com/.  I have her buttercream dvd.  This cake was made using some of the tips I learned from that.

    The most important tip was to use high ratio shortening.

    My local cake supply shop sells Wesson's "Super Quik Blend".  This was my first time to use high ratio shortening. 

    From baking911.com:
    EMULSIFIED/HIGH RATIO SHORTENING: also known as cake, icing or high ratio shortening, can absorb more sugar and liquid than regular shortening. It gives a finer and smoother texture to cakes and help keep them moist, as well as keeps icings more stable. However, it should be used in icings and cakes where the recipe contains a large percentage of sugar. For home use, it can be found under the brand names Alpine Hi-Ratio Shortening or Sweetex.

    I guesstimated that my 1.5 lb container was approximately 3 cups of shortening.  The whole thing was dumped into my mixer so I could start creaming it. Typically if I wanted a crusting buttercream, I'd use Crisco.  I noticed a difference immediately.  The expression "smooth like butter" doesn't even apply.  It's smoother than butter.  It's creamier than cream.  This had excellent performance.  I wonder if the other brands are noticeably different.

    Above is a pic after adding powdered sugar.  You can tell how smooth it can be and how well the shortening absorbed the sugar.  I didn't even sift it.  If you need a comparison to Crisco buttercream, here's one I did back in February.

    I didn't use Sharon's recipe exactly.  In fact, I didn't even measure.  I slowly added powdered sugar and whole milk until it was the consistency that I wanted.  I added just a touch of the LorAnn's Princess Cake & Cookie emulsion to give it some mystery.

    The icing never got crusty or gritty.  It was so nice to work with.  As for the taste, well, it's no IMBC, but it's MUCH better than your typical Crisco buttercream.  It didn't taste or feel greasy.  It was light and held flavor well.

    There wasn't much time for smoothing.  Besides the baking, most of this was done the night before.  My parents were there as I worked, chopping vegetables for the dinner reception.  Recently I've been "dirty icing" my cakes with a large tube tip.  That way it is a consistent thickness all around.  I didn't want to get the Wilton cake icing tip because it was GINORMOUS.  I think I used tip 1A?  2A?  Anywho, after applying the base coat I did some rough passes, smoothed it more with a hot, dry spatula, then used Viva towels with a fondant smoother.  Here it is after the first pass:

    I left the 2 cakes un-stacked out on the counter overnight.  I woke up at 7:30 in the morning knowing for sure my cakes had settled, sinked, bulged, and were too ugly to salvage.  Luckily that was all a nightmare (doing cakes is stressful!) and they were in the same condition as I left them.  Not bulging one bit!

    The bottom 8" tier got 4 bubble tea straws to support the foamcore board of the 6" tier.  I had actually forgotten to start off with my cake on a 6" board, so my top tier was previously resting on freezer paper.  After inserting the straws, I cut out and covered my 6" board and pressed it down on the bottom tier using leftover buttercream as glue.  My cake turner helped me gently take the 6" cake and put it on to the board.  After another pass of hot spatula and Viva towels, I deemed it crowd-worthy.  I'm not sure what's up with the top tier's left side, but I'm sure no one at the party noticed ;)

     Ok.  Sit down for a second and "rap" with me.  I've come to peace with some things, and I want to share it with you. The following are things I can now say to myself in a mirror.

    I am NOT a professional cake decorator
    ... and that's ok.

    At this point in my life, I cannot devote a lot of time and money to this hobby
    ... and that's ok.

    Sugar art is beautiful and talented cake decorators can recreate the most gorgeous flowers.
    I, however, will most likely never learn how to make a stargazer lily out of gum paste.
    In fact, I had to look up on google to see what a "stargazer lily" was
    ... and that's ok.

     I will find what works for me, and share that with you.

    Now that that's out of the way, we can take a deep breath and learn some shortcuts.  I bought some fake carnations from Hobby Lobby (those are carnations, right??...no, they're not...I don't know what these are) for $10.99 but on sale 50% off.  After yanking them off their stems, I hot glued some tooth picks to the flowers.  This gave me an easy, pretty, and fun way to decorate my cake.

    I've always loved the look of cakes wrapped in thin ribbon, especially when it's angled and offset.  Here's my first attempt at achieving this look.  The base of each tier was wrapped with a 1/2" satin ribbon for a border.  They were then wrapped with 1/4" ribbon, starting high on one side and then coming to the bottom of the other side at one point.

    I didn't even need any type of adhesive to hold the ribbon.  The ribbon just needed to be smoothed into place and firmly tightened around the tier.  The buttercream was just sticky enough to hold it there.  I let the cake chill in our mini fridge so it could firm up before I inserted the flowers.  I saw that the ribbons loosened a bit when I took the cake out, but I was able to just pull them tight again..

    I had a great time inserting the flowers in to the cake.  It hid the places where the ribbon ended well.

    I had just enough flowers for each tier and for a nice bouquet on top.

    At the reception I used IndyDebi's cake cutting method (here).  The slices came out looking beautiful (sorry, I forgot to take pics)!  The only thing that bothered me was the brown crust of one of the layers.  On a slice you could see 2" of lovely yellow cake, 1/2" of delightfully pink filling, a peculiar thin brown line, then more lovely cake.  Next time I will level both the bottom and top of the cake that will be the top layer.

    • center of cakes could have been cooked longer
    • not enough time to smooth each tier 
    • was too lazy to decorate the cake drum
    • forgot to put each cake on their own board before decorating begins
    • failed to prevent crust from showing on inside 
    • high ratio shortening badge earned
    • gained more experience with stacked cakes
    • had fun using ribbon and flowers as accents
    Happy Baptism, Zoey!


    1. Love it! I like the looks of ribbon on cake too. And I have yet to perfect smooth buttercream. Thanks for the tip on high ratio shortening. Have heard of it but will give it a go after reading this...!

    2. Love this cake! Great job! May I ask what size cake pans you used? i.e. 2" or 3" deep? And did you use 2 cake mix boxes to make all 4 cakes pictured? ie. the two 8" and the two 6"?



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