I've decided to enter a cake competition at the end of June-- that's the good news. The bad news is, I have a lot of commitments in the days leading up to it, and this competition (unlike most others) requires the use of only real cake-- no dummies allowed! So I'll let you in on a little secret-- I'm going to have to make my cakes the weekend before and freeze them.
So I froze 2 6" layers of my famous Chocolate Blackout Cake last week, took it out of the freezer on Friday, and did the stacking and decorating last night. Then I tasted it-- since taste is one of the criteria in the show!
Now, I'm also on a quest for a perfectly clean looking cake-- neat corners and no bulges from the filling. Ever seen a cake where you can tell where the layers end and the filling begins?? Yucky weird looking right?? Okay, maybe you don't care, but I want my real cake to look as good as the dummies (And taste a lot better). ;)
Here's last night's cake:
I kept the design really simple for multiple reasons-- it was late, it wasn't for anything special, and the point was to get clean lines-- no point in covering them up! But you can see, it's got a nice corner, and no bulges!
How'd I do it? A magician doesn't reveal her secrets-- but I was never much good at magic so I'll reveal mine.
Another objective in making this cake was to try an Italian Meringue Buttercream-- basically, you beat some egg whites, pour in a boiling sugar mixture, and then beat in tons of butter till it's creamy. It's a little harder to work with than classic butter/shortening-based buttercream, but the taste is really creamy and slightly less sweet.
So here's the big secret:
You're looking at the bottom of the cake here-- I iced it upside-down. Crazy talk, I know. ;)
You can find the details of the technique on Cake Central: http://cakecentral.com/articles/69/upside-down-icing-technique-for-perfectly-smooth-icing
Basically, you ice a circle slightly larger than your cake on a piece of parchment taped to cardboard-- make sure it's perfectly smooth! I found out mine had ridges... Anyway, you refrigerate it and then stack and fill your cakes in reverse order (upside down), and apply your icing to the sides. Then, you take an icing scraper or a paint scraper, run it under hot water, dry it, and drag it around your cake as you turn your turntable, going through the icing circle you created, all the way down to the parchment. This makes a clean corner. Then, you smooth the bottom (or top in the picture) by tucking in any rough edges. Refrigerate, and flip onto your iced cake round:
Nice corner, right? The icing has some air bubbles, but I think with a more stable buttercream (and a smoother cardboard- you can see the ridges on the side from running my scraper over them as I smoothed), you could get pretty close to perfect. Then, I decided to cover in fondant:
Pretty clean looking... :) Always room for improvement, but I think this is the cleanest looking cake I've seen in a long time-- at least in person.
I wanted to try a draping technique that I might use in my show cake, so I figured this was a good opportunity. It was a bit of a struggle because I wanted a pretty long drape, but I learned some valuable lessons and I think it will be easier when I try again.
Here it is after steaming. To keep things quick and easy, I added a modeling chocolate rose that I had around, just to give it a focal point:
Done! Then, I just 'had to' taste it:
Is it possible for a cake to taste even better after being frozen for a week? Cause I'm a believer. Was even moister (I think) than the cake from the same batch that was eaten fresh... Phew! At least I know I have a recipe that will taste great for the competition.
To freeze my cake, immediately after cooling, I double wrapped each layer with seran wrap, followed by aluminum foil. Then I put each cake in its own freezer bag. To defrost, I just left the cakes in their packaging and set them on the counter.