Henna Inspired Cake

So my brother-in-law calls me on Thursday to ask if I can make a cake to feed 40 people for Saturday afternoon.  I immediately say yes, hang up the phone, and realize I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

Thankfully, the Wilton Tent Sale is going in full swing, so I grab my mom and head out at 9 am Friday morning to buy a few cake pans, some icing coloring and a few other odds and ends.  I get  home and get cracking.  I decided I would bake and torte two 12″ square cakes, one yellow and one chocolate, then put them together to make one enormous sheet cake.

After rigging together a few cake boards with a plastic cutting board for support, I get to work on assembly.  Torting was, uh, interesting.  no matter what kind of tools or tricks that are supposed to make it easier, it is always a challenge to make the layers level and even.  Still, it was better than I expected.  I filled the layers, crumb coated the cake and went to my daughter’s skating lesson.  Upon our return I finished icing the cake and using the Viva paper towel method, did my best to make a smooth, even surface for my line decorations.

I had spent most of Thursday evening researching and sketching out different henna patterns.  After figuring out which ones I wanted to use I sketched out a basic plan in my notebook.  I went over it with marker to get an idea of what it would look like in color.

Cake Sketch

Now I was ready to decorate, but I hadn’t yet settled on a color.  I wanted to stay away from colors that were too dark considering it’s nearly summertime, so burgundy and dark green were out.  It was a cake for two guys and a girl, so colors like pink and purple were out.  I wanted it appetizing so I voted out brown (even though real henna is more brown than anything).  I settled on some sort of orange.  I started coloring the piping icing and at first it was too pink so I added some yellow.  Ugh, now it was too….fleshy.  So I slowly added some orange and copper until I settled on the color shown.  I started with the pattern on top.

Turns out I’m nearly as shaky as a Parkinson’s patient while trying to do intricate linework, so I tried to modulate my breathing and just look at it as sketching.  Without being able to erase.

Gulp!

After about 1.5 hours I was done with the line work and completed the lettering.

Henna-look Cake

It was starting to get late (about 8 pm) when I started the border.  I didn’t think it would take too long but it turns out that to do intricate work on 72 linear inches takes quite a bit of time.

Border Detail

Everyone was thrilled with the cake and I was happy I had an opportunity to play creatively.

Emily’s Tea Party

My daughter Emily turned 12 last week and she’s having a tea party and sleepover today.

Emily's Tea Party

Getting ready for the pre-teen invasion that is currently happening required a little bit of preparation.

First I baked a red velvet cake to make Bakerella’s Red Velvet Cake Balls.  While that was in the oven I made two batches of Rice Krispie candy and pressed it into 10 – 4″ mini cake pans.  Those went in the fridge (along with an 8″x8″ pan of candy for my husband and I).

While the cake was cooling I rolled out the leftover white marshmallow fondant from last week’s cake.  I just put a light skim coat of decorator frosting on the top and flipped them over onto the fondant, where I cut around the cake so there is only a circle of fondant on the top of the rice crispy treats.   They aren’t quite up to my standards but it allowed for the girls to do some custom decorating on their own.

Krispy Treat

I rolled out the blue and purple fondant and my daughters used a flower cookie cutter to cut out shapes.  The rolled some of the white fondant into balls as well.  I showed my oldest how to affix the fondant to itself and let her get to decorating while I cleaned up.

The cake was finally cool enough for me to make cake balls.  I used a heart shaped silicone mold to shape them.

Cake Balls
Of course I sampled one…er, maybe two…..ok, ok it was three!

This morning was spent with putting together finger sandwiches.

My daughter and I decided on four fillings:  Cucumber with dill mayonnaise, prosciutto with mozzarella and basil, bacon and onion cream cheese, and tomato with provolone and basil.  Some I cut into triangles and others into squares.  I was fortunate enough to harvest the dill, basil, and cucumber out of the garden.   All in all I made 96 tiny little finger sandwiches.  They look cute and are tasty too!

Tea Sandwiches

Now it’s time to put my feet up, have a drink, and keep one ear on what is going on in the other room.

Adventures in Fondant

Every year for the past 12 years I have baked and decorated a cake for my eldest daughter (my youngest has had this honor for 9 years).  I have always wanted to try working with fondant but there were a few obstacles to this.  First, the pre-made fondant was pricey, and not always safe for my nut-allergic daughter to eat.  Second, the fondant recipes seemed too fiddly and difficult.  Thirdly, the taste of fondant detracted from the beauty of the finished product.

Some time ago, I was searching for cake ideas and somebody had used what is called marshmallow fondant.  Apparently marshmallow fondant has all the properties of standard fondant, but with a better, sweeter taste and it was easier to make (many people have the ingredients in their cupboard).

Imagine my delight when I not only found a recipe for marshmallow fondant, but an instructional video for making it using the microwave and Kitchen Aid mixer, thus reducing the mess factor.

A few days before the party I mixed up a few batches of fondant then got to work.

For a first-timer entering the realm of fondant cakes, I couldn’t have been more pleased with how easy it was to work with (it’s about the consistency of fresh play-doh) and the finished result.

Fondant Cake

For those of you who haven’t tried fondant for fear that it is too hard, or too messy, try marshmallow fondant.  It was easier than I anticipated and the cleanup was actually easier than working with butter cream.  The finished result looks very professional.  The cake sat out for a few days (you don’t want to refrigerate after covering with fondant, it will sweat, then melt) and it still looked great!

(recipe and video: Marshmallow Fondant).

Kitchen Creativity

My youngest daughter turned 9 years old today and had the best day.  They had a pizza party in class that happened to coincide with her special day.  Daddy is taking her out for a birthday treat shortly and I baked her a cake.

Becca is my ice skater.  She’s been skating for a year now and it’s amazing what she’s learned in that time.  Just today she learned the toe loop.  Don’t ask me what that is, I know it’s a jump but other than that, I can’t really say.

Tomorrow we are having family over and I need to be at the dojang in the morning, so that meant that today I had to make her cake.  Usually I make the icing from scratch but I just cleaned the kitchen and I really didn’t feel like cleaning up powdered sugar for the next two days.  So I bought a couple tubs of icing from Wilton.  Each tub says it can ice 10 single layer cakes, but I call bullshit.  That stuff could cover 10 cakes if they are maybe 6 inches in diameter each.  This cake is made from 2-8″ squares and 2-8″ circles and I used a tub and a half.  Surprisingly it’s very level.  However it is listing ever so slightly to the left.  Still, to date it’s probably the most evenly leveled and iced cake I’ve ever made.  I’d love to say that I made something in it from scratch, but no, I do not have that kind of time, so cake mix it is.    The skater is made from buttercream and sparkle gel.  I made a quickie buttercream transfer (and it shows), and was dismayed to find that the gel never really froze.  Luckily it didn’t make a huge mess and I was able to go back and fix it once I had the transfer on the cake.

For the sides I thought it would be fun to have a “snowball” border with trees and snowflakes on the side.  I decided the trees would look sort of snowflakey.

I am super pleased with how it came out and Becca absolutely loves it.  I even managed to quell the shakes when piping the lettering.