When it comes to cake decorating, I am still learning. I cannot, in any way, make sugar flowers. My marshmallow fondant comes out right only half the time. (And it wasn’t until last weekend that I learned that I could fix it with a generous helping of vegetable shortening.) I’ve never used marzipan or modeling chocolate to make cute animals or the Millennium Falcon. I have a theory that the piping tips and icing conspire to make my cupcake icing jobs look like lopsided nipples. (Although, some are pretty perky.) But, I figured I had enough know how to easily make Christy’s safari themed baby shower cake. I envisioned a three tiered square cake, covered in white fondant, with brown chevron-patterned fondant trimming the bottoms of each tier. The middle tier would would be decorated with blue giraffe spots, and perhaps there would be a couple of fondant silhouettes of giraffes and hippos.
The reality, of course, is never what you envision. That is, at least, if you’re me. You dream of something like this:
But you end up with something like this:
You see, I forgot two very key things. 1) I fucking suck when it comes to dealing with corners. 2) I had never covered a tiered cake in fondant before.
But this, as most failures are, was a learning experience. And while I felt it looked like a sloppy Mayan temple with displaced African animals, I received plenty of compliments that did not seem overly nice and disingenuous. So, at the end of the day, I figure it was partially a success, it could have been worse, we are always our own worse critic, and now I know how to do things differently for next time. Oh, and I think I may have forever ended Mike mocking me and my trial run cakes. How is that not a win?
What went wrong?
I learned that the main thing I did wrong was crumb coating and then stacking the cake, rather than crumb coating and then covering each tier in fondant before stacking the tiers. As I laid the large piece of fondant over the entire cake and tried to smooth it out, I was revisited by the problem I had with Rachael’s Bucky cake: the corners. There was just too much material at the corners, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I tried cutting it out, as that had basically worked with Bucky. But as I worked with it, the fondant just started tearing. Okay, so that clearly wasn’t going to work. I cut all the fondant off, except for the top tier because that was fine, and starting desperately thinking of solutions.
I could just leave the fondant off and challenge the gender stereotype that pink raspberry buttercream can’t be for a boy!
Right. Because challenging gender stereotypes at the baby shower for someone who is pretty traditional and very particular is a great idea!
I could disassemble the cake and go with what I had wondered I should do in the first place and cover each tier individually.
Usually when I mess with something while trying to fix it, be it a broken nail, a zit in the middle of my cheek, or a cake that has already been stacked, I end up making it worse. For me, it was clear that this wasn’t an option.
“Do not disassemble!”
I went with the only option that made sense: employ all my powers of BS and hope not to piss off the whatever from high atop the thing.
In the end, I ended up rolling out rectangular pieces of fondant to cover the sides of each tier and using the chevron chocolate fondant and fondant foliage to strategically cover mistakes. I probably could have done a better job using the foliage, but I had been working on this for hours and my kitchen was covered in the gonorrhea of the culinary world: powdered sugar. Worn out, I declared that it was “rustic” and used the excuse of every Chopped contestant: the flavors are there. I got to a place of ” good enough”.
…the flavors were totally there…
While wandering the cake section of the craft store, I spotted Ace of Cakes Duff’s zebra cake mix. OF COURSE! I should make a zebra cake! Having no interest in plunking down a bunch of money for a boxed mix, I picked up the box and looked at the directions. It was so ridiculously simple.
Step 1: Pick a chocolate cake and vanilla cake recipe
You’ll want to pick cakes with similar densities and baking times. Choosing a flourless chocolate cake and angel food cake, not a good idea. I chose a simple chocolate cake and my favorite vanilla bean cake.
Step 2: Refrigerate cake batters for 20-30 minutes.
Cover the bowls holding your batters with plastic wrap. I found that refrigerating the batters helps cut down on mess and prevents the batters from spreading outside of where you want them to be.
Step 3: Alternate adding batters to the pan.
I used two 1/3 cup measures to drop batters into the pan. Start with the chocolate batter and drop the scooped batter into the center of the pan. Give it a few seconds to spread out, taking cake not to disturb the batter. In the center of the chocolate batter, drop a scoop of the vanilla batter and allow a few seconds for that to settle. Repeat the process until the pan is 2/3 full. Once the pan is filled, you may need to jiggle the pan gently to coax the batter to the corners.
Step 4: Bake cake according to cake and pan directions.
I found that my pans had recommendations for how much batter each pan would hold and at what temperature to bake the cakes. My largest cake was an 8x8x3. While the cake recipe says to bake at 350 degrees, the pans recommended lowering the temperature by at least 25 degrees. In this case, I lowered the temperature to 300 degrees and extended the bake time by approximately an hour. Otherwise, you’ll have dry, overdone cake on the outside and raw batter on the inside.
The cakes were moist and balanced each other well. I chose a raspberry buttercream to ice the cake. Since it wasn’t overly sweet, it played well with the flavors of the cake.
Happy baking! And if you’re every feeling low about your cake results, just visit cakewrecks.com. And please, for the love of God, don’t make this kind of baby shower cake. Kinda NSFW and certain to gross you out while simultaneously making you laugh hysterically.