Sunday, October 03, 2010

Building a Better Cake

This year my daughter wanted a kitty cat themed birthday party, so I decided that I would make a cat cake.  I feel that I am a pretty good cook, but only a mediocre baker.  Cakes are really not my strong point.  I decided I wanted my cake to look pretty good, so with only week to improve my cake building skills, I started my research.  My favorite bit of info came from a site called 5 min.  There were multiple videos from a master cake decorator.  So Gigi and I watched each video to pick up some important tips.  I also found a pattern for a cake cat made from two 8 inch rounds on the Betty Crocker site.

I decided a test cake using my new found knowledge would give me some practice.  I didn't want to make a cat because it would take some of the bang out the final cake.  I baked two 8 inch round cakes and quickly realized that these cakes were way too thin; they did not meet my vision of a nice thick cake.  That was fine I got to practice shaving off the uneven parts (which made it even thinner) and then put the layers together.  This cake ended up being a butterfly.

I bought two new 8 inch rounds that were much deeper than my other pans and decided to use two boxes of cake mix.  I know, all this trouble and I am making cake from the box!?  Well, I figured I had enough of a challenge on my plate without having to test cake recipes. 

The new rounds worked great although they did give me a bit a muffin top, so the top side needed to be shaved off.  Once I had my nice flat rounds, I used the pattern from Betty Crocker to cut out the tail, ears and head.  So far so good.

The next BIG thing I learned about cake decorating, is to do a crumb coat.  This is a thin layer of icing over the whole cake that seals in the crumbs.  This is the best tip ever.  Another tip I learned from some site, is to use Wilton Meringue Powder in your icing to help it harden just a bit.  I like this addition to the crumb coat icing, which was homemade, because it gave that crumb coat extra toughness.  I did have one small issue during this step.  The tip of one ear broke off.  I put some icing on it and "glued" it back on.

I put the cake in the refrigerator to set.  Once I felt it was firm, I mixed up some more Wilton Meringue Powder in some store bought chocolate frosting, and liberally frosted the whole thing.  This was going way better than I had expected.  I put it in the box and chilled it overnight.

 The next morning, I mixed up some pink icing.  Again store bought, but white.  I added some pink cake icing coloring and Wilton Meringue Powder.  I piped it on, put in some gum drops, added a bit of sugar glitter and I was finished! 

A lot of work went into the cake and I invested in some new tools, but I am glad I spent the time to study up and practice.  Now I no longer fear making a special cake.

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