A couple weeks ago my husband “borrowed” my computer for his business trip and I was only able to get one post up. His email system decided to download all the 90000 emails he’s sent in the last ten years and so he needed to borrow mine so he could get some work done. Then I started back on the road and Sam started getting teeth and absolutely nothing productive got done. So to compensate I’m doing one that’s a bit of cooking and a bit of crafting this week.
It was my grandfather’s 70th birthday at the end of January and I have long been the family pastry chef. This position was solidified about 8 years ago when my mom bought me the book “Hello Cupcake” (a cute joke since my nickname in school was Cupcake) and it became even more secured when I took the Wilton Cake Courses at our local Michael’s 5 years ago. So I volunteered to make a cake for the party, and since he just bought himself his dream car (a Cherry Red Corvette) back before Christmas, that was the obvious choice for a cake theme.
I’ll start by letting you in on a little secret; I generally don’t make my cakes from scratch unless it’s for a big event like a wedding. I have a few good cake recipes pinned on Pinterest, and a few go to options for when I get requests, but usually I pop into Safeway and grab whatever mix is on sale. My trick is that I don’t always follow the instructions on the box, and I have access to the same type of syrups they use at Starbucks to make lattes.
This time I bought two Betty Crocker French Vanilla cake mixes. I used 2 cups of milk, 3 whole eggs, 2 egg whites (from back when I made crème brulees), ¾ cup canola oil and ¼ cup of Butter Rum Syrup. It was really good. I get the syrups at Cash and Carry in Bellingham Washington whenever I make a trip across the border. They can also be purchased at Starbuck or on Amazon.
I wanted to do 3 layers and I wanted them fairly even so I measured out the cake batter as I put it in the pans. I also made a dozen cupcakes to take to my Mommy Meet Up on Monday (which ended up just being me and the ladies that run it). My first trick to making layer cakes is to put parchment paper circles in each pan so that the cakes come out cleaner.
After the cakes are baked and cooled, turn each cake out of the pan and peel the paper off the bottom. For a nice, level, flat cake take a bread knife and cut the rounded top off each layer. Place your cake on a base, either a cutting board or a cake board, cut side down. This way the bottom of the cake, which is already flat and won’t make a bunch of crumbs, is facing up.
To put filling between the layers, spread a thin layer of icing on the cake and then pipe a border all the way around the top of the cake. This way the jelly doesn’t seep into the cake, or leak out the sides. Spoon in your filling. I just used regular strawberry jam.
Place your next cake on top and repeat. Now you have a nice stacked cake with filling between the layers. Some great fillings are jam and the pudding mixes that make cream pies.
The second great trick I learned in my Wilton classes was making a crumb layer. I’m sure smarter people than me know this one already, but it was mind blowing for me. Simply spread a thin layer of icing all over your cake so that you don’t get crumbs in your top layer. This also helps fill in gaps where the cakes are a little broken or wonky. Put the cake in the fridge so the icing sets and voila! No crumbs in the icing!
Once your crumb layer has set, spread a nice thick layer of icing over the cake. I opted not to dye the icing a colour, but I kind of wish I had. Also, if you’re using fondant, cover your cake in fondant instead of spreading more icing. I love fondant because it hides ALL the mistakes in my cakes, like leaking filling or crumbly cakes, but grandpa finds it too sweet, so we went with icing this time.
Now you have a lovely cake! On Facebook I’ve seen people refrigerate the cake and then smooth the icing out with a paper towel. Whenever I try to do this, the icing sticks to the paper and it doesn’t look as good. I do advocate getting a cake turner and a curved spatula because it makes icing a round cake way easier.
So now the crafty part. I wanted to put the Corvette emblem on top of the cake. I know how to do this, but because I cheated and bought the cookie writer piping gel, that comes in little white tubes at the grocery store, instead of good quality piping gel that comes in a tub, it didn’t come out as sharp as I wanted. It also works better if you add a small amount of butter cream to your piping gel, about a table spoon of icing to half a cup of piping gel.
Here’s what you do:
Print off the picture you want to copy onto your cake and trace over it onto parchment paper.
Flip over your page so you have the mirror image facing up and trace over that with piping gel.
Lay the parchment paper icing side down on top of your cake and smooth out lightly. If you press too hard your design gets smooshed. You might have to do some piping touch ups on your cake.
Now colour in with coloured icing or coloured piping gel.
Using red icing I piped “Happy Birthday” and a big 70 on the top. I also free handed a couple of cars on the side of the cake by drawing them into the icing with the back of a paintbrush and then tracing over with icing. Grandpa was happy with the cake and everyone loved the flavour.