Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stencil Madness

Kind of reminds me of Wedgwood China, a little, in a way, almost.

But it worked, it worked! I love how easy it was to create this design. Stencils, baby! Oh, yeah. Now I just have to get a small enough stencil for the sides of the cake. And having a non-lumpy, non-lopsided cake might be helpful too. But the main point of this cake was to test this stenciling technique.

Oh, and to take a stab at the 6" round cake size, and attempt to curb the crumbliness of the All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake from The Cake Bible by partially substituting all-purpose flour for cake flour. It sort of worked, but the leavening was off, and so it got a bit more dense. Blah. Still tasty, and not objectionable, I think. Co-workers scarfed it in record time, but it was a small cake anyway.

Details of the cake:
One batch All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake from The Cake Bible, two 6" round layers, about 2" tall each (before carving off not-fallen bits), plus several mini-cupcakes.

Substituted 75% all-purpose flour for 75% of the cake flour. (Researched viability first.)

Syruped both layers (and mini-cupcakes) with 1/4+ cup (total) vanilla liqueur and vanilla extract.

Used Magi-Cake strips (the Wilton knock-off ones).

Used Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) that was a mix of the recipes in The Cake Bible and from the King Arthur Flour Cake Class. Added 1/4 tsp orange oil.

Used blueberry jam (preserves, whatever) in a thin thin sheet on the bottom cake layer, before I put on the buttercream.

Fondant dyed with Wilton's gel colors.

Used royal icing for the stencil and piping, a mix between the recipes in The Cake Bible and Spectacular Cakes.

Cake made about 6 days before serving. Syruped when cool, prior to storage. Stored at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
Buttercream made 1 day before serving.
Cake assembled and decorated 1 day before serving.

Bottom line:
First, I think I filled the cake pans too high. Second, I think the cake was slightly over-leavened because it rose fast and then fell slightly in the center. Also, it ended up a bit dense, but not crumbly! I think I'm on the right track, but I want to try a 50/50 mix next time, and maybe tweak the leavening just slightly. Maybe not.

This is the first time I got to practice my new frosting techniques (for the crumb coat anyway) since the King Arthur Flour Cake Class. I do believe I seriously cut down the time and effort I spent on frosting. I felt so much more comfortable, without the usual struggling. What a huge relief. I may even invest in a real cake decorating metal spatula. (I use various silicone spatulas right now.)

For royal icing next time, I think I'll go more closely with the Spectacular Cakes version. It calls for almost twice as much powdered sugar as the The Cake Bible version, so I split the difference. However, it took a little too long to harden, and the color from the fondant bled into the icing around the base, slightly.

Jam layer worked well. Do that instead of trying to add a lot of booze to the buttercream. also, the orange oil worked well with the blueberry jam and the cake itself. Add a tiny bit more, maybe 3/8 tsp or even 1/2 tsp. Try lemon oil instead, maybe?

Ah, the IMBC... So lovely and wonderful when it works well, which it did this time. I like the volume of the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Cake Class, and I think there's slightly more room for error, but I think it's a little too sweet, especially sitting under fondant. The main difference between this recipe and the Mousseline BC from The Cake Bible is the amount of meringue and simple syrup. Again, I split the difference, and got what I think is a very fine IMBC. Yay!

Syruping mini-cupcakes is a waste of time. See, the top is moist and doesn't need syruping. The bottom is dry, and you can't get the liquid down there, even by poking holes in the cake with a toothpick and then applying the liquid. So serve 'em within a day or two, or not at all.

I'm fairly confident that I could turn out a wedding cake tomorrow and not embarrass myself, but I still want to practice several things. But time is running short...

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