Baby Shower Cake for Miss Amy’s Shower
Early I signed on to handle all things cake related for my friend Amy’s baby shower. I should add I’ve been tooting my own horn amongst my non-baking friends about how good I have become at this whole cake thing. Let’s just say the expectations were a bit high and I have lost a tad bit of sleep over the whole baby shower cake. Prior to this cake, all cakes I have ever baked have been for my immediate family or a single close friend.
This cake was different. Not only did it have to be 2 tiers it also was to be displayed in front of a gathering of women. Oh, and I forgot to mention the cake had to be chocolate…my sworn enemy.
Chocolate cake and I have had a long history of not getting along. I would say a good 80% of the recipes used have come out DRY! The kind of cake that looks and smells great while baking, but when it comes to eating it is more of a disappointment.
I spent the weeks before the cake scouring the Internet for just the right recipe. There are thousands of recipes to look through so which one would I choose? I look for a couple things: Who’s recipe is it?…Is the recipe overly complicated?…What kind of feedback has the recipe gotten? These three steps generally make my selection process a whole lot easier. Ina Garten otherwise known as “The Barefoot Contessa” is who I borrowed this chocolate cake recipe from….I’m not sure I’ll be giving it back!
Beatty’s Chocolate Cake Recipe
Courtesy of Ina Garten
What You’ll Need:
Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
2.) Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
3.) Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
I baked all of the layers on Friday night allowing them plenty of time to cool and set up in my refrigerator. Through trial and error I have learned there is no way to cut corners and speed up the process of frosting and finishing a cake. If you need speed call the bakery! I have gone as far as to even freeze the layers…this helps if you need to do a lot of shaping. After the cake has been chilled I prepare to assemble my layers. I used a rich chocolaty buttercream for this particular cake and some raspberry puree. The raspberry puree was simply 1 pint raspberries and 1/4 cup sugar cooked down and cooled.
Quick Recipe for Rich Chocolaty Buttercream:
I then covered each layer with the infamous crumb shield…another step not recommended in skipping. A crumb shield is simply preparing the cake for its final layer of frosting…traping all those pesky loose crumbs.
After covering each of the layers I returned my cakes to the refrigerator in order to set the frosting. With all the frosting done it is now time to work on FONDANT! Up until the last 10 years I had never even heard what fondant was. Buttercream and a pastry bag was what a baker used to finish and decorate cakes. Today fondant is everywhere it seems, so why shouldn’t I be on board!
The thing about fondant is…The possibilities are endless. You can die it, roll it, shape or carve it into almost anything you want, all it takes is imagination.
As a child I loved Play-doh and that could explain my gravitation towards fondant. With this particular cake I based the decoration off of the bedding selected by the mother to be. I started with white fondant and died it with gel food coloring to match.
Gel food coloring is a must when tinting fondant. Regular food coloring turns fondant to a sticky goo. This is where the work out begins. Kneading and working the color into the fondant makes those forearms feel like mush. The more you work it, the more even the color.
Once colored , in this case a dusty blue, I got busy covering the cake. I hate this part! I still have not figured out exactly how to get the fondant completely smooth around the cake. I end up with a couple wrinkles and an occasional fold. Once the cake is covered in fondant the fun can begin! Adding a design or decorative touches on top of the fondant helps hide any flaws and adds that personal touch.
For this cake I chose to use a circle cutter and a elephant stencil make of card stock in order to cut out details. By simply brushing water to the back of each cut out you can adhere them to cake. I try not to make things seem so uniform, but a more random playful pattern…giving it a more homespun feel.
I should mention that cake supports were used in the bottom layer in order to give it enough strength to hold up that top layer. These supports can be made of plastic or simple doll rods all cut to the same length. This cake I kept in two parts until it reached it’s final destination.
Once at the shower I assembled the layers and covered the bottom of each layer with little rolled fondant balls…Eva the resident 4 year old was eager to help out! This would explain the very random sizes and squished appearance of some of the balls.
All in all the cake got a great response not only for its look but how it tasted! Not bad for my first try…bring on the next challenge!