Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Roses

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! In honor of the (arguably) sweetest day of the year, here is my very first blog post ever. (I suppose Halloween could be considered sweeter in actual grams of sugar consumed, but I don't want to quibble over details).

For anyone who has checked out the "About me" section of this blog, you will know that I actually fell in love with baking by making "from scratch" cakes. Therefore, it is sort of ironic that my very first post deals with a recipe that uses boxed cake mix (gasp! I know, sacrilegious!).  I'm kidding, actually; I think most people would agree that there's nothing wrong with the way boxed cake tastes; and pumped up boxed cake mix is seriously the best.  And it's so much easier to throw together (although I still managed to almost mess it up). The cake is actually from this recipe, and it is perfection.  The take away message is that pudding makes everything better (I'm sure Carl from the Walking Dead would agree). It gives the most vanilla-y taste ever -- excuse me as I take a moment to stare into space and recollect the wonderfulness...

You would think that boxed cake mix would be fool proof, but. . . not so much. My error came from trying to modify this from a rectangular cake to two 6 in round cakes.  Firstly, because I find layer cakes much more fun to decorate, and secondly, because the only people that are available to eat my creations on demand are me and my husband, and our waistlines have been suffering from the multiple full sized cakes that I have made in the past.  Convention suggests that for each 6 inch cake, one should put 2 cups of batter into the pan, which sounded easy enough; but I realized that when you pour batter from a measuring cup, it coats the edges (and the measurements) making it nearly impossible to see how much batter remains in the cup. I'm not sure how to fix this in the future, so if anyone has a suggestion, please speak up!  So I ended up overfilling both pans which majorly messed with the cooking time.  (I tried testing the cake at 25 minutes and it jiggled like jello) Anyways, it worked out in the end -- the result being that I had to cook it SO long that the top ended up slightly crispy with the inside remaining moist (which I have to admit, I kind of love).

In any case, with that extensive background, I thought that I'd actually focus on the decorating of the cake (which is always the most fun part -- apart from the eating).  So, because it is Valentine's Day, and what is more Valentine's appropriate than roses, I thought I'd use these awesome fondant molds that my husband got me for Christmas.  Let me take a moment to espouse the virtues of fondant.  It's the best thing ever for people like me who have absolutely no freelance artistry ability.  And it's like play-doh for adults -- what's better than play-doh?!

So here is what you do:  Take a small amount of fondant, roll it into a ball, squish it into the mold, pare of the excess with a knife (slightly nervous about this because I am terrible with knives -- I will spare everyone a picture of my disgusting finger after a battle with a bread knife), and then pop it out.  These molds are silicone, and most people advocate brushing them with corn flour before using them, but I used them bare and the roses popped out fine.  If the flowers are a tad soft, you can always put the molds in the freezer for a couple of minutes and they will firm right up and pop out even more easily. Set these aside for now.

Now , to cover the cake with your background fondant:

Note: This requires some MAJOR muscle.
  1. Lightly dust your work area and your rolling pin  (and your fondant) with powdered sugar.
  2.  I use Satin Ice ready made fondant.  You will have to knead the fondant vigorously and then roll your fondant out into a rough circular shape that is about the thickness of a crepe.  This sounds easy, but is not -- at least for me, who has absolutely no upper body strength. The diameter should be the diameter of your cake + height of your combined layers+ a couple inches extra to drape beyond the ends of the cake.  For me this ended up being 14 in. Do NOT make your fondant too thin otherwise it will rip.  Because it is heavy, the sides will drag the center down when placed on the cake and create small rips which are VERY difficult to fix.
  3. Roll up half of your fondant onto the rolling pin.
  4. Place the rolling pin on top of your prepped cake (already layered and frosted -- I used a chocolate buttercream --more on than in a later post) with the unrolled part of the fondant draped over the side of half of the cake.
  5. Gently unroll the remaining fondant over the other half of the cake.
  6. Quickly smooth the top of the fondant with your hands (some people use a smoother, but I find it easier to just do with my hands) and pull the ends up and out to smooth the sides out.  As quickly as possible, cut the excess fondant away with a small knife or pizza cutter, or the weight will create tears in the top of the fondant.  

I wanted to do something fun with the sides of the cake, so I thought I'd try my hand at some fondant ruffles. I thought that this would be really easy, but honestly, it ended up being a total disaster.  Here is how I did it (and how I would do it differently in the future.)
  1. Do the ruffles LAST.  I did them first and set aside and, consequently, the strips got dried out and crispy and kept crumbling as I tried to apply them to the cake, which was a major headache. I managed to somewhat patch them together, but it was not fun. . .
  2.  Prepare your rolling pin by thinly applying a layer of shortening.  Do the same to both sides of your fondant.  Typically you would dust with powdered sugar, but because I'm using a red fondant and want the color to remain vibrant, I opted for shortening.
  3. Roll out your fondant (I use ready made Satin Ice) into a rectangular shape, approximately the length of the circumference of your cake plus 1-2 inches extra.  I could not for the life of me get a long enough piece of fondant rolled out, so in the future I would probably just tack pieces on as needed.  If anything, it will help the ruffle look more ruffle-y.
  4. Cut strips of fondant approximately 1 inch in width. I used a pizza cutter.  In the future, I would probably use a ruler to make sure the strips are even and similarly proportioned.
  5. Ruffle each strip fondant by positioning a toothpick at one edge of the long side and rolling it back and forth in a small segment until it thins and curls up a bit. Repeat along the length of the fondant strip. Do NOT use a lot of pressure.  I did and my fondant kept ripping, and I kept getting frustrated, and consequently applied even more pressure, and obviously that did not help anything.  Gentle rolling is key.

For the final steps!
  1.  Spread a layer of corn syrup along the non crinkled edge of a strip of fondant.  Place towards the top of the cake and wrap so that the crinkled surface is slightly above the edge of the cake.
  2. With your next strip, move down the cake and overlap so that the crinkled portion of the second strip covers the straight portion of the first strip.
  3. Repeat until you reach the bottom of the cake.
  4. Now arrange the molded fondant we made earlier on top of the cake however you would like, again attaching it to the background fondant with corn syrup.
And Voila!

Jeez, this was the longest post EVER! I write too much -- my next one will be shorter, I promise. Please feel free to comment and let me know your experiences and maybe suggestions on how to do this better. Until then, thanks for sticking it out 'til the end and Happy Valentine's Day!

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