assembled layers, waiting to be frosted
For the past week, I was planning for a major cake project for an event on friday. It was meant for someone special. In my mind, I was envisaging how it would turn out to be. There are endless unknown factors, since it is my maiden attempt at doing a fondant cake. Due to a turn of events, the final outcome deviated from the original plan. Here is how the cake was supposed to turn out orginally:
- Chocolate cake layers frosted with orange cream cheese frosting
- Rolled white fondant icing to cover the frosted cake
- Base of cake surrounded with fondant roses and green leaves
- Cake to be adorned with butterflies, bees and ladybirds
- Female figurine seated in front of a grand piano
crumb coated layers
Levelling the cake layers and frosting them was something that I had always enjoyed doing. Witnessing the cake layers stack up gradually into a tall and glorious cake gives me a sense of satisfaction. This could possibly be the tallest layer cake I have made to date, comprising of four chocolate cake layers. It would have been even taller if the domed part wasn't sliced off.
1st attempt at covering the cake
This was the first attempt at covering the cake. The fondant rolled out smooth but somewhat thin. While smoothing the sides and top, some parts of the fondant broke. What came as a bigger rude shock was the unusually warm weather had caused the seemingly stable cream cheese frosting to melt/separate when I covered the cake with fondant icing. Perhaps it was also due to heat from my palms since I used my palms to smooth the sides before using a bench scraper. Some frosting even leaked out from the base.
As a result, I peeled off the fondant, scraped off the frosting and re-worked the covering. The second attempt was in no way better. The surface was wrinked although it did not break. I suspect the icing could have been too stiff/dry and the wrinkles were caused by stretching when the fondant was lifted. To cover the flaws, I covered the sides with rainbow coloured stripes and the surface with black fondant with the help of my friends. Of course, it meant a lot more extra work.
The worst disaster that could strike a fondant cake is that fondant tends to 'sweat'. Moisture is a sworn enemy to fondant icing and it could threaten the appearance/strucure of fondant decorations. With the tropical all year round summer temperatures in Singapore, chilled fondant cakes will tend to condense immediate after they are retreived from the refrigerator (huge difference in room temperature and temperature in refrigerator ). I have seen how my fondant cake 'sweat' profusely. It is traumatic experience that bakers wouldn't want to go through.
Even though there were several tough obstacles to clear, I'm glad the cake was assembled in one piece. There are several lessons to take home and many aspects to improve on from this fondant cake experience:
- Take care not to roll fondant too thinly when covering the cake.
- Make sure fondant is not too stiff/dry when rolling it out to cover the cake.
- Fondant tends to sweat alot when condensation takes place. Need to find solutions to solve this. One method would be to store the cake in an air-conditioned room instead.
- Perhaps omit the frosting and do a thin layer of crumb coat instead to prevent frosting (buttercream, cream cheese frosting etc) from melting due to warm temperatures or do not use bare hands to smooth sides at all to prevent frosting from melting.
- Make sure sides are straight when stacking the cake layers.
Despite that this cake turned out amateurish, I am glad I accomplished a few tasks related to fondant:
- Managed to practice covering frosted cake with fondant icing
- Learnt how to colour fondant
- Learnt how to make use of materials such as toothpicks and drinking straws as support structures for fondant decorations
- Learnt to do fondant roses (by watching youtube video)
- Managed to do a grand piano. The difficult part about making the grand piano is setting up the support and getting the main body to be dry and stiff.
- Managed to do hair for a human figurine. This part is very time consuming. Doing the hair component looks a lot more difficult than it seems. Need to improve on the facial features and the body proportions in future.
Overall, the fondant cake was done with a minimalist approach in terms of tools and materials. Most of them are inexpensive except for the colouring which cost a lot more. The following are the items used:
- Bench scraper to act as a fondant smoother
- Cocktail sticks/ toothpicks for suppport and to colour fondant
- Drinking straws to act as legs for grand piano
- Cardboard covered with fondant to do the piano lid. (note that fondant cannot be rolled too thinly for supporting structures)
- A small paring knife to cut out letterings/alphabets
- Assorted Wilton colours (paste)
- Butterfly cookie cutter which I have on hand
- Rolling pin
I don't think I will be attempting a fondant cake anytime soon as it is too time consuming but I will be practicing with some modelling in the meantime.
The following video demonstrates on how to cover a frosted cake with fondant. Hope it is helpful.
Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ( recipe adapted from Chocolate Ephipany by Francois Payard)
Serving size: Makes a 8 inch round layer cake. Serves 10 to 12 slicesTaste and texture: Cake base is dense, moist and a little fudgy (brownie-like). Cream cheese frosting is citrusy and creamy.
Equipment and materials:
- Two 8 x 3 inch round pans
- 9 inch round cake board
- Cake leveller or palette/serrated knife longer than 8 inches
- Rubber spatula
- Handheld beater/Stand beater
- Baking paper
- Wire rack
- Toothpick/wooden skewer
- Flour sieve
- Mixing bowls
- Cake turntable (optional)
Chocolate Cake (I did 2 x recipe, in two batches, for two 8x3 inch round pans. One recipe portion yields 2 layers):
- 55g cocoa powder (use valrhona for best results)
- 250ml water
- 130g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 220g castor sugar
- 55g egg yolks, at room temperature
- 165g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
Making the Chocolate Cake:
Prepare Oven and baking pan - Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line and grease two 8 x 3 inch round pans with baking paper.
Dissolving cocoa - Place 250ml water and the cocoa in a pan and heat the mixture on medium heat. Stir the mixture to ensure cocoa powder dissolves fully. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool completely.
Prepare flour mixture - Sift flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and allow the dry ingredients to be evenly distributed.
Creaming the butter - In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until colour turns pale and mixture is fluffy. The volume of the mixture will increase as air is beaten in. Refer to how-to-cream-butter.
Making the batter - Beat in egg yolks in three additions on low speed. Ensure each addition is well combined before adding the next. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to incoporate loose ingredients.
Add in all the flour and beat on low speed until the last bit of flour is absorbed (just combined). Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to incoporate loose ingredients and mix the batter gently with the spatula.
Lastly, pour in the cocoa liquid. Beat the mixture on low speed to obtain a smooth, well combined batter. Do not overbeat. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to incoporate loose ingredients.
Baking the cake - Pour batter into lined 8 x 3 inch round pan and bake for 35- 45 minutes, or until skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out to cool upright on a wire rack. (I made the chocolate cake twice, in two batches, to yield two cakes.).
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 440g cream cheese, softened
- 140g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g icing sugar (add more if needed, to achieve desired consistency)
- 5 tbs orange juice (one tbs at a time, to desired consistency)
- zest from 2 oranges
Making the Frosting:
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter on medium high speed until it is no longer lumpy. Add in sugar and continue to beat until sugar is combined and mixture is light and fluffy. Next, add in orange juice one tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. Add in orange zests and continue beating until mixture is well combined.
Slicing chocolate cake - Slice the two chocolate cakes (two cakes baked in two round pans) into two even layers each using cake leveller or long serrated/palette knife. Slice off the parts that has domed. There will be a total of four layers.
Preparing the layers - Using the removable base of a round tart tin or a round cake board, slide the tart tin base or cake board under a chocolate cake layer and carefully transport one cake layer onto a 9 inch round cake board placed on a cake turntable (optional). This method of transferring is to prevent the sponge layer from breaking.
Dab 1/5 of the cream cheese frosting and spread it evenly onto the first cake layer using a palette knife or spatula. Place a second cake layer (using the tart tin base or cake board to transport) carefully over the first cake layer and align it properly with the first layer. Dab 1/5 of the cream cheese frosting and spread it evenly onto the second cake layer using a palette knife or spatula.
Place 4 to five strips of 2 inch wide baking paper underneath the first cake layer and surrounding the cake (see first picture). This is to prevent the frosting from making a mess on the cake board.
Add the 3rd cake layer (using the tart tin base or cake board to transport) and align it well with the first two layers. Dab 1/5 of the cream cheese frosting and spread it evenly onto the second cake layer using a palette knife or spatula.
Lastly, add the 4th and final cake layer (using the tart tin base or cake board to transport) and align it well with the first three layers. Apply a thin layer of cream cheese frosting on the surface and the sides (perimeter) of the cake to seal the crumbs first (crumb coating). Once the crumb coat is done, apply all the remaining cream cheese frosting to the surface and sides of the cake and smooth the frosting using a palette knife. Remove the strips of baking paper carefully.
- Cream cheese frosting holds its shape well unrefrigerated.
- Flavour for cream cheese frosting can be varied using lemon, calamansi, grapefruti or yuzu zests instead of orange.
- Grate the zest over the frosting to allow the orange oil to seep into the frosting.
- Do not omit the zests as it is imparts a great deal of citrus flavour.
- Let the frosted chocolate cake sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours if you have the time before serving, the cake will become really moist as it absorbs moisture from the frosting.
- Do 1.5 x recipe portion of the chocolate cake in one batch and 4/5 recipe portion of the cream cheese frosting to get a 3 layer cake instead.
- One recipe portion will yield a rather short cake which is only enough for a two cake layers.
- Add more icing sugar to firm up the consistency of the frosting
If you wish to post the recipe and instructions online, please give due credit and do re-phrase the instructions. I have taken quite a bit of effort to construct, edit and type them out. Thank you =]