My latest cake was a Baptism cake for a colleague's little boy. My colleague and his wife were fairly specific with what kind of design they wanted - they had found two designs that they loved and wanted me to make a 'hybrid' of the two cakes. So that left me with a a little bit of creative movement, but they definitely wanted the cake to be covered with white chocolate cream cheese icing rather than white fondant.
My first two thoughts when I received this cake order were (in this order):
1. OMG white chocolate cream cheese icing sounds absolutely HEAVENLY - why haven't I made it before?
2. I was excited about the design but also a bit worried that I might not be up to the challenge - not that it was a hugely difficult cake, but my specialty is fondant covered cakes and I've hardly made any butter cream and icing covered cakes to date.
The cake flavour (as suggested in the title of this blog post) was red velvet, which seems to be a bit of a crowd favourite at the moment as I'm getting a lot of orders for red velvet cake. Being more of a mud cake fan I don't quite understand the craze, but hey, red velvet cake is still pretty delicious and awesome looking. I have found though that it has a bit of a tendency to dry out a bit - though that might have more to do with the awful old oven in my rental (Have I mentioned that I'm moving into my brand new place in a few weeks and that it has an amazing extra big brand new oven? Just a tad excited!). Anyway I decided to try out some new baking 'tools' to encourage my cakes to bake more evenly. I did three things that I've never done before:
1. I used these oven safe fabric strips which you drench in water and secure around the outside of the cake tin. These ensure that the sides of the cake don't bake too quickly, and supposedly also make the cake rise evenly so you end up with a flat cake straight out of the oven.
2. I also used these metal pins which go in the centre of the cake tin, underneath the baking paper. This simple yet clever tool ensures that the centre of the cakes bakes at the same (or close enough) rate as the outside of the cake. Genius!
3. Finally I placed a circle of baking paper on top of the cake batter in the tin (as well as underneath the batter on the bottom of the tin). This prevented the top of the cake from baking too quickly.
While I didn't get a completely flat cake come out of the over as the advertising for these tools claimed, I did get an evenly cooked and amazingly moist cake - definitely the best tasting red velvet cake I've ever made. So my new tools were definitely well worth the (small) investment and I would encourage everyone to try them.
Okay back to the cake decorating.
As I predicted:
1. The white chocolate cream cheese icing was divine (which is why I will include the recipe at the end of this post); and
2. By far the most difficult part of this cake for me was getting a smooth finish with the icing on the cake.
The icing didn't turn out too badly, but definitely not quite as smooth as I would have liked. Luckily once all the little sugar pearls were on they really distracted from any little imperfections. I thought it would have been difficult to make sure all the pearls were evenly placed around the cake, but working from the bottom up really helped. The first three rows obviously had no gaps, and then I was able to use the pearls in those rows to work out the spacing for the rows above them. It felt like I was going fairly quickly, so I could believe it when I realised that it had actually taken me three hours to place all of the pearls on! The final effect was pretty cool, with the pearls on the top of the cake all fanning outwards from the centre cross.
The cross was actually the easiest part because I bought a big cross cutter which I used to imprint the cross shape into the icing. Then it was just a matter of placing the pearls onto the imprinted cross.
The cake board was covered with white fondant and I used blue fondant to spell out 'Zavier's Baptism 13 Jul 14' on the cake board for that final touch.
Here is the recipe for the icing as promised (enough to cover a 10 inch round 4 inch tall cake):
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
375g cream cheese e.g. Philadelphia)
360g white chocolate
1-2 cups of icing sugar (optional)
Melt the white chocolate slowly in a heat proof bowl either over a pot of boiling water, or in short bursts in the microwave. Set aside to cool until no longer warm.
In a medium to large bowl beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined and smooth. Beat in the white chocolate.
If you like the taste keep beating until really smooth (hint: beat very slowly to avoid air bubbles).
If you would like the icing sweeter add 1-2 cups of icing sugar and beat until smooth.