Sunday, April 10, 2011

my girl turns 7 with a rainbow, chocolate marble cake

My girl just turned 7! It is amazing how fast she's growing up.

We celebrated with a bunch of giggly girlfriends from school (and one brother and one boy friend), pedicures, and High School Musical 3. Oh my. They were transfixed. Instead of a cake, Bug requested they decorate their own cupcakes, so at her direction, I made chocolate/vanilla marble cupcakes and vanilla frosting tinted light purple, light blue, and light green. They piped on gobs of frosting and pretty much obliterated the cupcakes with insane amounts of sprinkles. They also had a great time doing it.

The next night was our family party, and I'd been looking for a chance to try out this new, pretty petal effect covering the sides of the cake. Bug asked for a rainbow again this year, so I re-tinted the extra frosting from the night before and piped a sweet rainbow with puffy frosting clouds.

See how pretty the petals are on the sides of the cake? They are so easy to do! I learned them from Melissa at My Cake School.

It's best to begin with a crumb-coated cake because there will be a few tiny places that don't get 100% coverage, and this way, the cake won't show through. Starting at what will be the back of your cake (because there will be a little bit of a seam), and using reasonably soft frosting, pipe a vertical row of dots, each about 1/2" to 3/4" across, starting from the bottom and working your way up. The number of dots will depend on the height of the cake, but 3-5 is about right. Use a small offset spatula (I'm sure a dinner knife would do in a pinch), and start with the bottom dot. Hold the spatula parallel to the cake. Place the spatula against the dot, covering about 2/3 of the dot, push gently, and drag and release the spatula to softly smear the dot. Scrape off the excess frosting into the bowl. Repeat, moving your way up the vertical line of dots. Smearing the top dot will form a pretty little ridge and make a perfect border around the cake.

When you have finished one row, pipe a second vertical row of dots, again starting at the bottom, overlapping the flattened side of the last row of dots. It's a little time-consuming because you have to do one row at a time. Working on a cake turntable makes this much easier!

I had a surprisingly hard time figuring out the right marble cake recipe. I actually had to ditch one, which was supposed to be a zebra cake, because the texture was crumbly and it didn't taste that all good. For the marble cupcakes, I used justJenn's marble cupcake recipe, which was very well-received. Instead of food coloring, I tinted the batter with just a little unsweetened cocoa powder to give it the right look and a subtle chocolate flavor. I also scooped blobs of chocolate and vanilla frosting next to each other in the cupcake tins and swirled them ever-so-gently with a skewer to preserve the marbling. It's easy to overmix marble cake, and then it just looks like mud.

For the birthday cake, I wanted to amp it up one more notch. I've been searching for the right yellow cake recipe, and the chocolate flavor needed more oomph. There were two parts to the solution: Carole Walter's "Absolutely the Best Yellow Cake," which is a really tasty cake on its own, and the homemade chocolate syrup from my favorite marble bundt. (For the record, that cake is also delicious, but it has a firmer, pound cake texture, and I wanted the softness of a layer cake.). Here's how that came together:

I love how the marbling is just a little different on each piece!

And here's the recipe!

Absolutely the Best Yellow-Chocolate Marble Cake (adapted slightly)

Chocolate Syrup
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) cocoa powder
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups (12 ounces) sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F and position rack in the lower third of the oven. Select your cake pan, line it with parchment, and spray it with baking spray with flour. This recipe makes a large cake - either one 10" angel food cake pan or three 9" layers - or you can halve the recipe and bake it in a two-quart pan.

Make the chocolate syrup first so it can cool while you make the cake batter. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup, and water. Bring just to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla. Set aside.

Sift the flour and then measure it. I like to sift it right into a bowl that's sitting on my kitchen scale. The original recipe calls for triple sifting the flour, but I think that's excessive. Sift, measure, and then add the baking powder and salt and whisk them in. This will keep the flour aerated.

Cut butter into pieces and beat for 1 minute, until creamy. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, taking 8-10 minutes to blend it in well. (I finished adding the sugar after about 4 or 5 minutes, but I kept beating it for several more minutes until it was very light in color.)

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add the flour and milk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just incorporated.

If you're just making a yellow cake, stop here, spoon the batter into the pan and smooth it, and bake.

If you're making a marble cake, remove about 1/4 to 1/3 of the batter to a small bowl. Stir in the reserved chocolate syrup. The chocolate batter will be much thinner, but don't worry about it. Spoon about half of the remaining yellow cake batter into the pan. Pour the chocolate batter over it pretty evenly. Cover with the rest of the yellow cake batter. Use a dinner knife or skewer to swirl the batter lightly. A figure-eight pattern can do the trick nicely, but try not to overmix it or you will lose the marble effect. Smooth the batter, if needed.

Bake for approximately 65-70 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan. If you press your fingers lightly on the cake, it should spring back. I'd start checking it after 55-60 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs.

Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes (it's okay to wait until it's room temperature), and then invert it onto a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar or frost (chocolate is nice!). Store at room temperature under a glass dome or in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

Print this recipe.

Happy 7th birthday, beautiful girl! Love, Mommy


Lisa said...

Looks nice and yummy. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I will surely try this out.

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Anonymous said...

Can u share the ganache recipe u used for the petal effect? I'm making a Black Forest cake for my daughter's birthday and wuld love to have a petal effect Ganache like yours. So pretty! Hope u can advise.

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