Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Birthday Sarah!

I'm glad my wife's family doesn't mind me experimenting with things like birthday cakes. I had a couple of cake ideas that I wanted to play with, and my sister in law's birthday just happened to be at hand. We get together once a month with my wife's family to have a family dinner, and if there's any birthdays that month, soembody will bring a cake for them.

I wanted to get some use out of my new 12-inch cake pan that I had bought to make the Tux cake, so I used that. I mixed together a yellow cake batter and a chocolate cake batter, and then marbled them into the cake pan. It baked and then cooled, oblivious to the Tux construction happening around it. With the evening almost over, I levelled it, then halved it and put a layer of chocolate buttercream in the middle. I coated the outside with chocolate buttercream as well, and put it in the chill chest.

The next day, I whipped up a batch of white modelling chocolate. I used oil-based food color to make little balls of red, white, yellow, green and purple chocolate clay. I had meant for them to be lighter colors, like pastels, but it didn't work out so well. Then I put each between two sheets of parchment paper and rolled them out to 1/8-inch blob-looking things. I had just purchased a set of rolling pin spacers from the cake store, so I know the they were perfect thickness. Then I laid out a full-sheet Silpat, and started tearing off pieces of color and arranging them on the Silpat. When I was done and had what was more or less a circle laid out, I covered it with parchment again and rolled flat to make all the colors stick together. I laid this over my frosted cake, and worked it into a smooth covering, kind of like fondant. Unfortunately, modelling chocolate is not nearly as forgiving as fondant, so there were some seams. I worked most of then out with some fondant modelling tools that I had picked up from the cake store.

I piped out a birthday greeting in chocolate icing, and then moved onto my second technique that I had wanted to play with. I had some foam stamps that I had picked up from my local crafty type store. I wiped them clean with a damp paper towel and then dried with another paper towel, in an attempt to make them foodsafe. Then I scooped out a little cocoa powder onto a plate and tapped a stamp into it a couple of times to coat. Then I stamped it onto the cake. That's when I realized that I should have tapped off the excess first. Even worse, my mistake was with the biggest, fanciest stamp. Fortunately, I was able to just blow off most of the excess, but not all of it. Correcting my mistake with the rest of the stamps, I moved on.

I think that had the colors been lighter like I wanted them, it would have looked much nicer. As it was, I was still kind of impressed. This whole foam stamp thing seemed to work out really well, certainly for my first time. Had I used dark chocolate fondant for the cake covering instead, I would have gone with powdered sugar for my stamping. I would imagine these things are designed for things like paints, so I'm sure it wouldn't be all that difficult to use a colored royal icing or something with them. I think despite my amateur efforts, these techniques have potential. I'm not sure if I'm going to do much with the white modelling chocolate in the future, but I'm sure it will work just as well with regular fondant, or even marzipan.

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