Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Our internet was out at Christmas, so happy belated Christmas too.
God's grace to you now and forevermore,

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Birthday Bash

It's been a while since I said I would post more of my birthday cake ideas. Well, I have been working on these posts for a while and I decided to post them all at once! I hope you enjoy them.

Spaceship Cake

I got the idea for this cake from Family Fun and Kraft Foods. We have had a lot going on recently so this cake was decorated way at the last minute. If you have iced cakes before, you know that it can be hard not to get icing on the rest of the board. I usually put foil or wax paper strips, but I was really pressed for time. Then I thought the extra icing looked fine, like stars or space debris (not shuttle debris mind you).

Blast off!

For some different spaceship designs, try Betty Crocker or Cake Space.

VW Beetle Cake

A friend of mine offered to loan me her Wilton 3D Cruiser cake pan. So I decided I could make it into a VW beetle cake because my son is just crazy about them.

This was the most I have ever put into a cake, but I enjoyed making it (primarily because I made it before, not on, his birthday) and he really loved it. I didn't want to do all that piping, but I couldn't smooth out the icing without hiding the detail from the pan.

Two days ahead of time, I baked the cake using my banana bread recipe (I think I tripled it). This turned out to be a great choice because I had done the bamboo skewer test for doneness (a toothpick was too small) but when I went to level the cake it revealed that the inside was definitely not cooked through. I put it back in the oven until it was really done. If it were a regular or light cake, it would have collapsed in the middle and I would have had to start over. I also made and colored the icing that night. I baked the cake ahead of time because I wanted to be sure it was cooled enough to ice it.

The next evening I decorated the cake. I raised the cake a bit by placing it on a smaller board, then on the main one. I iced the windows with grey icing, then I covered it with wax paper (actually the butter wrappers) cut out in the window shapes to prevent it from getting smeared by the red icing. Next, I spread a thin layer of red icing. That step is probably not not necessary if you are piping the body, but I was trying to get a smooth layer initially.

(before, with the wax paper templates)

(After the wax paper was removed)

Then, I piped the body with red icing and added the details. I had hoped to use some of the cake scraps to make the domed top, but it wasn't working well, so I used a heap of icing instead. I also put the cake back in the fridge quite frequently so that the icing wouldn't melt (I made buttercream icing with just butter because it's trans-fat free, tastier, but melts easier).

If you notice in this picture, I iced the contours (such as the headlights and the hood detail) first and filled in the rest. I think this defined the areas more and helped when I did the final touches.

Now, for the detailing...

  • Tires: Oreo cakesters, split in half (I would have preferred the cookeis, but I didn't want to buy a whole pack of oreo cookies and the cakesters were available in a snack pack) I then piped the centers with red icing.
  • Front red and rear lights: Gummy Life Savers. The red lights were cut in half.
  • Rear view mirror: Red licorice circles from a bridge mix at a bulk candy bin. I iced them with the grey icing and stuck a toothpick in them. You might want to get more than two of these because they can crack. That way you can pick the best two. I wonder if Hershey's Kissables would work.
  • License plate light, door, and trunk handles: licorice rods from the same bridge mix (I really don't remember what they are called)
  • Headlights: I also got these from the bulk candy bin. They were big gummy circles. I think they were Sunkist brand.
  • License plate: Wrigley's gum. I trimmed it to size and then piped my son's name on it with a small round tip (can't remember, maybe #5).
(the rear view, with the license plate)

If you try this, please leave feedback on how this worked out for you.

My Banana Bread Recipe

Actually, it is the recipe I use to make banana bread :-) I modified it from a Jumbo Banana Nut Muffin recipe in either Mostly Muffins or More muffins, by Barbara Albright and Leslie Weiner. I have used this recipe several times in birthday cakes.

I took out some butter, put in some oil, cut back on sugar, added honey. I also omitted the nuts. I love nuts in muffins and such, but because I am so cheap I sprinkle them on top with some brown or raw sugar, then I bake them. I also do this so if someone doesn't like nuts, it is easily picked off. I may have made this without butter or sugar before, but this is what I have written down. I will try to do it that way sometime soon and I'll let you know how it turned out.
[update: 2/27/08 - I have posted a no butter (oil only) version]

Anyway, here's the recipe:

My Banana Bread Recipe
Serving Size : 12

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/8 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup honey
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups bananas -- mashed and ripe (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 oF. Grease pan or muffin tins.
In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, cream butter, oil, sugar and honey until somewhat fluffy; beat in eggs. Stir in banana, milk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir just to combine.
Spoon batter into pan and bake 25-30 minutes (less if making muffins) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove pan to wire racks. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan; finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 193 Calories; 8g Fat (34.0%calories from fat); 4g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 46mgCholesterol; 244mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

Racing theme cakes

I have done a racing theme twice. This first one is pretty straightforward. My son was fascinated with cars and the number eight, so I thought I'd make a figure eight race track cake.

I cut a 9"x13" cake in half and stacked it to make one smaller cake. I made the checkered flags with toothpicks and colored sugar for grass. I would have used coconut, but I didn't have any on hand. When my son blew the candle out, sugar went flying everywhere! I tried to sneak some of the leftover green sugar into some pizza dough and the dough came out with a drab grey color! :-p

The next year, he wanted a race car cake. This is what I came up with:

I decided to shape one from a loaf pan. A denser cake, such as banana bread or pound cake, works best for this type of cake. I made banana bread with this one. My son got sick right before his birthday and this was the first time we had invited friends. So this is actually the second (and better) cake made a week later. For the first one I tried covering it with red marshmallow fondant. Given it was my first time, I ended up with another late dinner (maybe I'll write about my red fondant experience in another post). Mini peppermint patties were used for the wheels as well as the steering wheel. Life savers were used for headlights and dashboard. I meant to put an number 4 in the circle, but inadvertently put his initial there instead. Who cares?

Anyway, I went to shop for my son's birthday present and I got my inspiration from a car in the dollar section:

Here is a sketch of what to do. Note that the part carved off the top (striped section) was used as the front of the car.

I'd really like to hear from you if you try this. Send pictures if you want and I'll add it here.

Noah's Ark Cake

Here is a Noah's Ark cake I made for one of my boys. The picture wasn't very clear and I kind of messed it up when I put blue icing on the roof and sides. But it was past 7pm and we hadn't had dinner yet.

This cake was inspired by Family Fun's Pirate Ship Cake, which uses a round cake pan, not a fancy one you will never use again. For this cake, I made a sweet potato cake with maple icing. The blue icing was made from white store-bought icing. I roughly mixed the blue coloring in so that it would give variations to the ocean color and the white sea foam. I spread it with a spatula and then piped around the base of the cake with a star tip. I can't remember if I piped some swirls in the ocean.

Oh, and I used Wilton's Noah's Ark mini cookie cutter set for the animals. Of course, regular animal crackers would do.

Below are the instructions (with variations). This doesn't have to be a birthday cake either. I've seen Noah's Ark as baby shower themes and I'm sure you could find more applications. If you try this, please let me know. I'd like to know how it came out (even if it was a nightmare).

(click on image for a larger -- and hopefully printable -- view)

Train Cake

We ended up building this cake together as a family birthday activity. I iced the cake and the rest of the family put on the decorations. This was a fun and relaxed time, much like decorating gingerbread cakes. We used Family Fun's Choo Choo Cake idea. You can also find step by step instructions here.