Thursday, March 18, 2010

Portal Cake-- It's All Lies.

There was another masters defense in my lab today, a.k.a. another cake making opportunity!  A couple of the guys in my lab (including this one) are really into gaming-- hey, we're all engineers.  Even I'm a bit of a gamer in certain respects...

Anyway, there is a PC game called Portal, which is very popular and supposedly very good.  Cake is a common theme throughout the game, and is particularly important in the ending.  There's even a song about it, and it is the last thing you see at the end of the game.

I knew he'd appreciate a replica of the Portal Cake.  I baked a chocolate cake, and made a chocolate/mocha buttercream. 

Since I didn't have to do any piping, and the color didn't matter, I made a double batch of buttercream containing real butter (as opposed to just shortening) and real vanilla extract (not clear vanilla extract).  Here is the recipe I used (double batch):
  • 1 c Butter (salted)
  • 1 c shortening
  • 8 c sifted powdered sugar (actually I only used 7)
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp milk
Cream the butter and shortening, add vanilla.  Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well on medium speed.  After adding all sugar, icing will be a bit dry; add milk.  Mix well till creamy.

This recipe tastes much better than my class recipe, which only calls for shortening, sugar, flavorings, water, and meringue powder.  However, the class recipe keeps almost indefinitely and is good for piping.  Since I wasn't concerned about piping, I added a little less sugar so it was less stiff and more creamy. 

I used about 2 cups of the icing and mixed it with a small batch of ganache and espresso liqueur to make the chocolate/ mocha flavored icing that I used to ice and fill this cake.

Here you can see the mess I was making-- after I iced the cake, I covered it with grated chocolate (literally, I grated a Ghirardelli bar) and some sliced almonds.  The key with this icing was to work quickly-- it was lovely and soft initially but as the chocolate hardens, it gets harder to work with, and harder for anything to stick to it...

Anyway, I covered the cake with the shavings just using my hands and making a mess.  After I was done, I swept away the excess.

For the top, I piped some of the buttercream that I hadn't mixed with the chocolate using tip 2C, then added a jumbo maraschino cherry to each dollop.

To finish, I added the iconic candle.

This cake was fairly simple to make, and very tasty.  I think the icing is my favorite so far (and my advisor's...) :)

I have this theory that chocolate ganache causes cakes to dry out some, because I feel like I have a hard time with cakes crumbling when they contain ganache/ chocolate icings rather than simply buttercream.  This cake crumbled a little when I was cutting it, but was still moist to taste.  I may try glazing my cakes in the future if I plan to use a ganache or ganache based icing.  On the other hand, the bottom tier of my birthday cake didn't crumble at all, and it had a similar icing on it.  Maybe that recipe was just more moist to begin with, though.

Anyway, if you need a quick, effective, and tasty cake, or have a friend who's a gamer, I'm sure you could make your own version of the Portal Cake! :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fondant, Filigree, and a Rose

Yesterday, I took a beginning fondant course at the Cake Art Party Store.

To start off, we learned the basics of covering a fondant 'cake,' but for learning purposes, we used an 8" styrofoam dummy tier.

We coated the dummies with a thin layer of buttercream, then carefully applied the rolled fondant.  In class, we used Pettinice fondant, which was quite a bit softer than the Satin Ice I had worked with previously.  I don't think it tastes as good, but at least it was easy to knead. 

We rolled out the fondant on large pieces of upholstery plastic with a little shortening to prevent sticking.  This way, we didn't have to roll the fondant back on to our rolling pins; we could simply apply the fondant directly from the upholstery plastic and gently peel it away.

After we got our cakes covered, we worked with some stiffened fondant to create the roses and leaves on the top of the cake.

To stiffen our fondant, we kneaded in a little bit of Tylose powder.  This makes the fondant a little more like gumpaste; in fact, stiffened fondant can also be created by mixing one part fondant to one part gumpaste. 

After the roses, our instructor demonstrated different molds.  The course included a few plastic molds, but she also had some silicon molds to demo.  Also with stiffened fondant, you can simply press the fondant into a mold dusted with either cornstarch or luster dust, and then gently remove the fondant.  We applied the molded pieces to the cake by simply brushing the application surface with a little water to make the fondant sticky.  This is how I made the fleur-de-lis on the sides of the cake, as well as the filigree molds on the top.

I finished my cake with pearls that I rolled out of fondant and rolled in luster dust.  There is a piped string border with royal icing, but everything else on the cake is just fondant.

 Too bad this cake can't be eaten...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wilton Course 2- Final Class Cake

Tonight I completed Wilton Course 2!

Since I already described the royal icing flower making process (pansies, primroses, daffodils, victorian roses, violets, apple blossoms, and daisies) and the color flow birds in my previous entry, there isn't too much more to say about this cake.  

The oval cake pans for this cake are included in the Course 2 kit.  I decided to try another recipe, one I actually got from a baking class, called 'Anna's Swedish Butter Cake'.  I had enough batter to fill the two oval pans and make a couple of cupcakes, so I got to taste it already.  It is very soft and moist, and supposedly it keeps very well. 

Also, I finally got a Sam's club membership (and subsequently bought 14 lbs of powdered sugar...) and invested in some real vanilla extract (as opposed to artificial).  Oh my god what a difference.  The aroma coming off the batter was amazing, and the batter tasted amazing.  I will definitely stick with real vanilla in the future wherever possible.

Tonight in class, we covered basket-weave and rope borders.  After practicing each technique for a couple minutes, we worked on our cakes.  At the end, we began putting on the flowers.  I ran out of time in class, so at home I finished applying the flowers and birds, and piped the filler greenery.

I picked up some good pointers on the basket-weave.  My icing was a more appropriate consistency than my first basket weave cake (, so I feel like you can see more of the details. 

It's a little busy, but with so many kinds of flowers to fit on there, I just decided to run with it! :)

In the pictures in my course book, I thought the birds were kinda dumb looking, but with their shiny paint job, I feel like they helped create nice focal points on the cake.

If you want the truth, I laugh at a decent number of cakes in the Wilton course books.  Nothing against Wilton, but some of the cakes just look ridiculous to me.  With some of them, I think the color schemes are just unfortunate, but some of them are just hilarious.  For example, there's a lamb cake in the back of the course 2 book that has an uncanny resemblance to George Washington...  but I digress. :)

Close-up of one of the flower clusters

So that's all for Course 2! 

But not to worry, I have a Beginning Fondant class this Saturday, and some more cakes planned for this month! :)