Happy Birthday Liz!
Liz and I have been friends since we were kids .We met as neighbours growing up in Sydney’s Inner West and shared many crazy adventures together. Liz has a reputation for leaving her stamp on her birthday cakes. Literally. When she was 3 years old she put her foot right through her birthday cake just before she was going to blow out the candles. This has stuck with her throughout the years and she is still lovingly reminded of it by her parents and friends who know about it. So you can appreciate my sense of humour when she asked me to design and decorate a cake for her 30th this year. I happily accepted. Asking her what she wanted, this was the brief:
1. No set theme;
2. Must feed 30 people; and
<! 3. Something incorporating pink or light pink & silver
Done! Easy. Great. These are the best cakes to make. I wanted to make something fun that incorporated some of our childhood memories. I decided the Planet Cake book by Paris Cutler was a great place to start. As soon as I saw it I knew it was PERFECT! I decided to make the ice cream shaped cake from their book.
I normally use an 8” square chocolate mud cake but decided to use a 9” square one instead as I would lose some when I sculpted the cake.
Planet Cake Book ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)
Here are a few photos and steps I wanted to share with you.
Break up the chocolate ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)
The first step is to make the chocolate ganache. I was first introduced to this heavenly chocolate creation many years ago when working with the pastry chefs at Qantas Flight Catering, it is so delightful and you can use it for so many desserts. Making it is easy!
I always start with 1.2 kilos of good quality (70%) dark chocolate which equals 5 standard blocks that you can find at the supermarket. Nestles Plaistowe brand is a good place to start if you have no idea about chocolate. Coverture chocolate is better if you can afford it and can be purchased at places like The Essential Ingredient or you can find it at some delicatessens. This amount will provide enough ganache for a standard 8 or 9 inch square cake.
Making the Chocolate Ganache - Method
First, break up the chocolate into pieces and whilst you are doing this place 600ml of pouring cream in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir occasionally until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and pour it over the chocolate and begin to gently fold it together.
Mixing in the cream ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)
You will then have to ‘work’ the mixture to make it smooth. Do this by using a metal spatula if you have one and run it back and forth, blending it all together. This is a great workout! Who ever said that cooking and the gym couldn’t go together? Once you have got it to a decent consistency you may find that there are still a few small lumps in the chocolate which have not melted down into the mixture. You can fix this by giving the whole lot a burst in the microwave for 15-20 seconds at a time, mixing after each burst.
Once you have done this and it is smooth, cover and leave on the bench while you prepare you cake. Alternatively, you can make your ganache well in advance and leave in the fridge if you will be using it within a few days, or freeze it for up to a few months. To bring it back to life just take out of the freezer or fridge to defrost then ‘work’ the ganache back to a texture you can work with. The microwave comes in handy here too as long as you stick to the 15-20 second bursts. You don’t want to scold the chocolate; it will taste a nasty burnt flavour if you do.
Working the ganache ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)
Next, I went about sculpting the cake. I cut the square cake into three even layers then painted each layer with an apricot jam and boiled water mixture to seal in moisture. Following this, I sculpted the layers and arranged them on my board which I first smeared with a little ganache to cement the cake to the board. I then sandwiched the layers together using my ganache and let it set for several hours until firm. Using the back of a very hot knife I then ‘cleaned’ up the cake evening out any bumps and giving it sharp corners. I then left it again to firm up before I iced it.
Max watching me work in the kitchen
Following this, I coloured some RTR ( ready-to -roll) fondant pink and rolled it out covering the cake and smoothing it against the edges. To purchase RTR and other cake decorating supplies check out my friends at Little Betsy Baker, they have a fantastic array of cake decorating products available and until the 20th of January they have 20% off ALL their products, yay!
I used the template in the back of the Planet Cake book to shape the ‘dripping chocolate’ part of the cake which I cut out of RTR that I coloured brown using red, yellow and blue icing colour dyes. After securing this to the cake using a little boiled water and a paint brush I used an icing smoother to finish it off. I then finished it off with the number 30 and a little love heart using icing cutters.
The Finished Cake (Photo: The Food Mentalist)
Liz loved it and lucky for me there we no feet involved!
Please leave me a comment and share your favourite childhood cake memory.