Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cake Decorating Experiment

One thing that frustrates me about Seattle is the weather! And in September, it's especially fickle. This past weekend was a total waste of a perfectly good 3-day, because although it was sunny everyday up until Friday, as soon as Friday afternoon hit, so did the rain. And it didn't really let up until this morning. So our outdoor plans got canceled and we opted for ones that would keep us warm and dry!

On Sunday morning, my good friend Eileen braved the downpour and ventured over to my place for an entire day of cake decorating bliss! I couldn't think of a better way to spend my rainy Sunday!

Eileen and I met as interns at PricewaterhouseCoopers the year before grad school and quickly became good friends. We bonded over study sessions at a cafe on the Ave (conveniently named "Cafe on the Ave"), as we labored over tax codes & court cases, while nurturing a mutual love for mocha cake & caffeine. I am convinced that she is my long lost sister. Because like me, she too is a domestic goddess trapped in a career woman's body, being forced to pursue a high powered career, working 80+ hours a week...taking her away from her natural habitat: the kitchen. Although, you'd never know it by looking at her. She's always impeccably dressed, in stiletto heels, and looks as if she just stepped off the set of Devil Wears Prada. But I know better. Inside is a domestic goddess bursting to come out. Thus, I knew a full day in the kitchen was definitely in order!

Eileen and I, living it up in Vegas, for my Bachelorette party.

We both share a common love for cake. Baking. Eating. Decorating. All of it. However, as much as I love to frost cupcakes, I have little experience in actually decorating an entire cake. Eileen apparently used to do it all the time (before that inconvenient thing called "A Career" got in the way), but she had never used fondant before. I experimented with it once on cupcakes, but that was hardly anything to brag about. So we set out to practice and provide ourselves a creative outlet! It turned out to be great therapy and an awesome way to unwind & decompress!

My entire 8-seater square table was filled with baking goodies: piping tips, cookie/fondant cutters, food coloring, frosting flavors (hazelnut, chocolate, matcha, etc), powdered sugar, marshmallows, sprinkles...anything you could think of! It was Domestic Goddess Heaven!

We started by baking two 13x9 sheets of white cake. (The boxed cake I mentioned in the previous entry. Bryn, it was sooo yummy. You were right. And Jing gobbled it up, not knowing the difference. hehe.) We used a cookie cutter that was about 3.5 inches in diameter and cut six rounds per cake. We should've had 6 mini cakes as a result, but one of them suffered a casualty and ended up in my stomach. It may or may not have been an accident. =)

We started with a basic vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and divided it in half to make a chocolate hazelnut buttercream. OMG it was sooo heavenly. It was pretty simple to make. I added melted chocolate and Nutella to it and adjusted to taste. We also made some marshmallow fondant and colored it pink & brown. In addition, Eileen brought some pre-made fondant that she got at Michael's. (See my previous cupcake entries for info on the Swiss Meringue Buttercream)

Some of them had a Nutella filling, while others had strawberry jam or buttercream. Yum!

Cake #1: Eileen's Buttercream Cake

We made a last minute decision to go with the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, as opposed to the more stiff American version. We knew that icing the cake would be troublesome going into it because Swiss Meringue is softer and not as easy to work with. However, as foodies, we chose taste over beauty. =) Plus, Eileen had never tried the SMB, so I just had to introduce it to her and show her how fantastic it is.

But I guess we didn't really understand just how difficult it would be! There were two problems: the icing was a bit soft because of all the chocolate and nutella we mixed into it. And second of all, since we cut the cake with cookie cutters, it was "exposed." So it was hard to frost without picking up pieces of cake. Thus we decided to go for the "messy look." =)

Eileen's bad-ass piping skills were pretty awesome! Even with the soft buttercream, she made do with what she had and produced an awesome rose.

Cake #2: My Buttercream Cake

I frosted my cake with much difficulty, piped some stars on it, and decided that I hated it. It looked so plain and bare.

So I grabbed some chocolate chips, melted them in the microwave, and spooned it into a ziplock bag. Then I piped designs onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet and chilled it in the fridge for about 20 minutes. The designs peeled right off and I plopped them onto the cake to spruce it up.

It worked out pretty well.

Not so boring anymore!

Cake #3: Eileen's Fondant Adventure

Yeah, this fondant thing definitely took some practice...something that we didn't seem to have much patience for! The hardest part for both of us was making the fondant wrinkle-free. But Eileen was way better at it than I was! She used the pre-packaged fondant, purchased from Michael's, while I used the homemade marshmallow kind. (More to come on this topic later)

She cut out different shapes with our gum paste flower cutters and painted them with Peal Dust.

It had a yummy strawberry center!

Cake #4: My Fondant Adventure

So as previously mentioned, I used homemade Marshmallow Fondant. I found that it had its pros and cons. It's a lot softer than the regular fondant, which makes it easier to roll out into a thin piece. However, the softness of it also makes it harder to work with. When covering my cake, it had a lot more wrinkles in it that I couldn't smooth out and had to cover up. However, the fondant was easier to work with in terms of cutting out designs and shapes. So conclusion: cover the cake with regular fondant and decorate with marshmallow fondant! lol. Or not. It's such a pain in the butt, that I think I prefer to decorate with the messy buttercream! =)

Mine turned out half way decent after I tried for an hour to salvage it. The reason it looks like the flower fairy threw up on it is because I had so many flaws and wrinkles in my fondant when I covered my cake. I had to use all the cut-outs to hide them! lol.

I woulda loved a cake like this when I was seven! lol. As an adult, it probably wouldn't fly at my next dinner party. hehe oh well, guess fondant really isn't my thing. (Sorry, Ellen!) I think I was totally diluted and overly optimistic after I did my fondant cupcakes. Note to self: covering a cake with fondant is totally different from covering a cupcake top!

Cake #5: A Collaboration!

Eileen is apparently a master at making gum paste flowers! As her young grasshopper, she set out to teach me the art of creating gum paste roses. Ok, I gotta say, although it took forever to make just one rose, it was way easier to work with than the fondant!

A couple of hours later, we had four roses and a few leaves to put on our "purposefully messy" cake. =) The pretty looking ones are Eileens: top right and bottom left. The ones that look like they could be a cross between a rose and a carnation are mine. lol. Practice makes perfect, right? And I was pretty proud of them, seeing as it was my first time at making roses!

Eileen brought her entire collection of Pearl Dust. They made our flowers beautiful and sparkly when we painted them on.

Yeah, yeah, we know. The colors don't really match. But we were making them for fun, one after the other, and we didn't really think about it until afterward. And then we were like "oh what the heck, let's just pile all of them on!" Not bad. The roses are still pretty!

Really gross part: Hubby Loved (with a capital L) the fondant and gum paste. He was pulling off the leaves and popping them into his mouth like candy. Um, ew. Looks like we've taken a step back on my quest to domesticate him. lol. Well, at least he hasn't reverted back to his Jack-in-the-Box days, right? Baby steps.

Three of our mini cakes fit perfectly in my cake dome!

It ended up being a fabulous day. We literally spent the entire day hanging out and decorating like mad women! Eileen left at dinner time and we were exhausted but thoroughly happy! Everyone should have a baking day with their girlfriends once in a while! It's so fun and a super good way to decompress... and as an added bonus, it's a good time to refine those Domestic Goddess skillz! =) Eileen and I have resolved to do this a lot more often! Would anyone else like to join?


  1. I love it! Nice job! The cakes look great. I definitely preferred working with the homemade fondant over store bought. I didn't see any wrinkles on your cake! They looked awesome. I keep meaning to make mini cakes for practice! PS - made the salted caramel cupcakes but my frosting seemed a little softer and shinier than yours (I liked how yours looked better) - too much butter?

  2. I love mini cakes!! LOL at the fairy throw up line. I'll bet your fondant wasn't nearly as wrinkly as you think it was...we're all our own best critic. ;)

    This is really inspiring me to try out some gumpaste! I've never done it before. But those roses look incredible!

  3. ellen, next time you come up to seattle, let's get together! i'll show you how to make the roses! super easy! =)

  4. Great work. Those mini cakes are hard to decorate, especially with fondant and your roses are perfect.


  5. je découvre votre blog et je le trouve formidable ,tout est trés bien expliqué et détaillé .

  6. Discover The Decorating Secrets Professional Bakers And Cake Designers Have Spent Years Perfecting! just copy and paste link in web browser..

  7. hola olle quiero saber de que ES LA capa blanca que le pones ?
    porfa una respuesta


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