Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cake Decorating Is Just Fun!

My favorite thing about birthdays is celebrating the individual! It's the one day of the year that we celebrate the life we've been given...just like Christmas and Easter, one's birthday is most certainly an important event!

And to celebrate how special it is, we need CAKE!

My very special niece Calysta, is celebrating her 5th birthday. This summer her family spent a few days with us at the shore and then a couple of months later they traveled to Cancun, Mexico. Caly (and brother Cayden) experienced swimming with the dolphins and she hasn't stopped talking about it...she even kissed one! Thus the mermaid idea planted after her stay in the 'Mermaid Room' at the beach house!

It all begins with creating 'Flounder', Ariel's little fish friend. It is so much fun building characters that children recognize!

To create the 'seaweed', I cut strips of green gumpaste. In order to get the curly look I had to wrap them around something. The only thing I could find were some art markers I had. So after washing each with anti-bacterial soap and drying them really well, they made the perfect item to use for wrapping the 'seaweed'.

This is a little bit of everything. Starfish, a must for under sea adventure, seaweed, a small octopus, coral and an eel!

A blog story or two back, I promised my recipe for Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake and now I can proudly say... here it is!  It's a moist cake, almost a brownie texture. It's great for decorating with fondant or other heavier is by far The BEST
Texas Homestyle Chocolate Cake

Prep time: 20 min.  
Bake time: Approx. 20 min.
Don't forget to check out the (*) for TIPS at the bottom of the recipe!

9 X 11 X 2 baking pan, greased and floured*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

I use a stand mixer. This can be done with a hand mixer, just takes a bit longer for the egg whites.

2 cups All-Purpose flour*
1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP. white granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed plus 2 heaping TBSP. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks at room temp.) UNSALTED butter*
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup UNsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 cup HOT strong black coffee
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use LouAna brand coconut oil in just about everything I bake, it's the least expensive and has the same beneficial properties as it's more expensive cousins)

2 eggs (seperated while still cold), set yolks aside to warm to room temp.
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 medium sized glass bowl chilled in the refrigerator (not the freezer)

1/2 cup buttermilk at room temp. (if you don't have any on hand, mix a 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 tbsp white or cider vinegar then let it stand for 10 min.)
the 2 eggs yolks at room temp. slightly beaten
2 tsp. PURE Vanilla Extract

If using a stand mixer, beat COLD egg whites and cream of tartar on highest speed with the whisk attachment for at least 10 minutes. If using a hand held mixer, beat on high until very stiff peaks form, this may take 15 min. When done, transfer to the chilled glass bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together flour, sugars, soda and salt. Sift a minimum of 2 times, holding your sifter well above the bowl to incorporate more air, sifting 3 times is preferred. Set aside.

In a 2 qt. or larger saucepan, SLOWLY melt the butter. When the butter is completely melted, add your cocoa, cinnamon and hot coffee stirring constantly with a wire whisk until it's completely blended. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, egg yolks and vanilla.

Add the melted butter/cocoa mixture to the flour mixture and blend on low speed. As mixture begins to get thick, add the buttermilk mixture a little at a time until it's all blended. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes.

VERY GENTLY FOLD IN the chilled egg whites into the cake batter just until blended.

Pour batter into your prepared baking pan. The cake is ready right about the time you can SMELL it! This is the best tip ever for perfectly baked cakes. Using a knife or long skewer, test by poking it into the center of your cake. If it comes out clean or with just a crumb or two, it's done. If it comes out with batter, continue cooking in 5 minute intervals until done. This cake will have cracks in the top, this is normal and doesn't effect the flavor or decorating!

Place cake on a cooling rack for 1 hr.  If you used the parchment paper method...and after cake has completely cooled, invert it on the cooling rack to remove the parchment paper. Place cake back into baking pan.

* Baking Pan tip:  My preferred method is to spray a little cooking spray in the pan then line with a solid sheet of parchment paper, folding in the corners as you press it into the pan...thus cakes never stick and have perfect edges).

* Flour tip: measure flour by spooning it from the bag and gently into your measuring NOT shake it down to measure! Proper measurement depends on the air incorporated into the flour)
* Sugar tip: I prefer muscovado sugar for it's rich molasses flavor, you can use whatever you have on hand, light or dark, but the darker has more flavor.
* Butter tip: For easy breezy, place the already at room temp. butter in your saucepan on the burner that allows the heat to escape from the oven (this is usually the back right burner) while preparing the flour mixture. The heat from the oven is  enough to melt the butter without having to turn on a burner. You'll
never burn you butter this way!

Texas Homestyle Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup FINELY chopped pecans...get out your butcher knife and chop away, the finer the better!
1 3/4 sticks of room temp. butter...if using salted butter, omit additional salt.
Pinch of sea salt
6 TBSP whole milk
1 tsp. PURE Vanilla extract
4 Heaping TBSP UNsweetened cocoa powder
1 lb of confectioner's sugar
Melt butter in a 2 qt saucepan, add cocoa and stir till blended.  Add salt, milk and vanilla. Blend. SLOWLY add confectioner's sugar a bit at a time until well blended. Stir in pecans then pour over cooled cake.

This should probably be renamed at the 'Texas Shut 'Em Up Cake', because it's amazing how quiet the room gets while everyone's indulging in this incredibly rich delectable chocolate cake!

This is the easiest way to make white fondant look like water on a cake. Mix gel food coloring with clear vanilla extract and paint it on with a soft clean paintbrush. If you prefer another flavor simply add any clear extract to the gel color, such as almond extract, lemon or orange extract or even butter flavored extract. For smaller fondant (gumpaste) decorations, go ahead and blend in the food coloring to your fondant.

Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake and a Vanilla Sponge cake ready for the oven.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing and Chocolate Buttercream Icing. I could sit with a spoon and be VERY HAPPY!

The smaller cake was used for the 'rock' behind Ariel's back.


My two gorgeous niece's, Calysta, 5, (the birthday girl) and Camren, 3!

Cayden's baseball cake was a Vanilla Sponge Cake...moist and just the right amount of buttercream icing!

I've been informed by my great niece, Ms. Camren (pictured here), that she wants a Hello Kitty cake for her birthday in January, but she might change her mind!! I LOVE THESE CHILDREN SO MUCH!!

The mermaid cake was chocolate per Caly's request (she's the one showing us how a fish goes!). This is a Chocolate Texas Sheet cake baked into a 9 X 13 X 3 matter how you bake it, it's soooo good! We love the brownie like texture of this cake! The hint of cinnamon is what makes this one different from the rest~

Our friend Flounder was a must for the Ariel Mermaid Cake...The birthday girl couldn't wait to get her hands on Flounder! Glad she went home with mom and dad, she had more than enough energy to burn :o)

 The Starfish Family Portrait~

Specialty Birthday Cake ~ 
The black feathers melted into the background, but they're there!

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