Saturday, October 17, 2009

first birthday flower cake

Today, I made a first birthday cake for a friend's daughter. She asked for chocolate and vanilla layers, whipped cream frosting, and fresh berries. On the design, she gave me free reign to make something pretty and festive for her baby girl. What fun!

The fresh fruit cakes we make at the bakery are frosted with whipped cream, and we cover the sides with sliced almonds. It looks pretty, and it's a nice way to work with whipped cream (which is not the most stable of frostings), but for a baby's birthday, I wanted to stay far away from nuts. I couldn't cover the cake with fondant; whipped cream isn't substantial enough as a base. And I wanted to keep the decorations simple so there was no chance they'd bleed into the whipped cream. I opted for multi-colored, molded fondant flowers, which are perfect for a little girl, and I used just a small amount of purple-tinted frosting to write happy birthday. It came out great! (Look, I even took the pictures before I added her name, so I wouldn't have to blur it out like I did with Boy-o's!)

I was really pleased with how it came out and so was the birthday girl's mom. I even got to taste the cake a little (when I evened out the layers, I had some extra slivers of cake to nibble on), and it was nice and light and moist. (More on extra cake coming soon in a discussion of cake bites.)

The two vanilla layers are the Silver White Cake recipe (below). The chocolate layer is my mom's chocolate cake. There are strawberries and raspberries layered in with the whipped cream, which is sweetened just a tad with powdered sugar and vanilla, and stabilized with just a touch of cornstarch. And of course, there's more whipped cream on the top and sides.

For the fondant flowers, I used three graduated flower cookie cutters to make a bunch of flat flowers in each color. I layered them together randomly. Then, holding each from underneath, I pinched the center and bent the petals to get the fondant to stick together and to give the flowers a more realistic look. I've seen a lot of pillows and prints lately with flowers that kind of look cartoony, like line drawings, and I suppose those were my general inspiration. I cut stems and petals freehand, aiming for them to be a bit wavy, and then I just laid them all out atop the cake. (Actually, I played with the arrangement first on the cutting board, and then kind of recreated it on the cake. I find it incredibly easy to poke or bump cakes by accident, so I didn't want to give myself any extra opportunities for error.)

Silver White Cake
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened (it calls for shortening, but... ick!)
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except egg whites. STARTING SLOWLY (unless you want flour all over your counter and your arm), mix until just barely combined, and then beat for two minutes on high, scraping down sides occasionally.

In a metal or glass mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, and then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. Line the pan(s) with parchment or spray with Pam with flour. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake a 9x13" cake for about 35 minutes, and two 9" cakes for 30-35 minutes.* The cake should be golden brown on top and should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger. If it leaves an indentation, it's not done yet.

Let the cake(s) cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then invert them onto a rack to cool completely.

*I have used this recipe for cupcakes, minis, 9x13", and 9" round cakes. It works well for all; just adjust the baking time as needed.


ButterYum said...

Excellent job. You're piping is wonderful!

meredith said...

love the flowers!!!