Tuesday, October 25, 2011

mars cake for a special 5th birthday celebration

My sweet little guy turned 5 a few weeks ago and he created an "aliens and outer space" themed party. We played pin the spaceship on the planet, whacked a planet-shaped pinata, and made alien masks with googly eyes. The kids hung original alien artwork, streamers, and silver stars. We even ate Jupiter beans (edamame), Saturn sticks (carrot sticks), and Mars berries (strawberries and grapes).

I had envisioned a fun alien cake, but Boy-o wanted a planet. He wanted marble cake, frosted red, like Mars, but he didn't feel the need to be terribly literal, so I gave our planet a ring. I call this, "playing fast and loose with science." Our planet had stars and a moon, Buzz Lightyear next to his space shuttle, chocolate rocks (cute, but not terribly tasty), an alien in a spaceship, craters, and a few friendly, fondant aliens.

I had fun piping and shaping/smoothing the edges of the craters.

The not-tasty-to-adults chocolate rocks. I was actually picturing candy rocks, but this was what was available  at the bulk candy store.

Friendly aliens

The truth is revealed when you peek underneath (which hopefully most of our guests didn't). I couldn't decide whether to fill in the gaps between the lower edge of the cake and the ring or to leave it not quite touching to prevent the frosting from sticking when I removed the ring. Straws inserted in the center supported the top layer, but I did ultimately sacrifice the perfect fit. To cut the cake, I removed the top layer and the ring and sliced the bottom layer. It's not easy cutting a bowl-shaped cake. The sides kind of fall down as you cut, and some of the pieces are oddly-shaped.

As mentioned, Boy-o wanted a marble cake. I used the same adapted yellow cake recipe as for my daughter's rainbow cake in April. Though it served twice as many people as we needed, I baked one full recipe of cake batter in a 10" bowl for the bottom and a second recipe's worth for the top. I could have reduced the amount of batter, but I wanted the planet to feel substantial enough in size. So the kids and Josh's office had lots of leftovers.

To frost, I placed the bottom layer, flat side down, on a spare cake board and torted it into three layers. I crumb coated and frosted everything but the very top (which would be flipped to become the bottom), and then I inverted it onto the cake board. A thicker cake board would have been helpful here since so little of the cake was actually resting on the board; it felt a little flimsy. The base frosting was red, and then I dabbed on bits of yellow, orange, and purple frosting and dragged across them with a small offset spatula for a streaky effect. Frosting this way is very forgiving, which also means it's much quicker than trying to achieve perfectly smooth sides. When the sides were complete, I inverted the cake, flat side up, onto the center of the cake board, and then I frosted the top, flat part. I inserted straws into the center and refrigerated it to firm up the frosting.

Next, I placed the top layer on a 10" cake board, just a tiny bit smaller than the cake, and then I torted and frosted it in the same manner. Once the icing firmed up, I transferred it to a 12" board covered with marbled grey, blue, and white fondant, which served as the planet's ring. I wrapped the fondant around the edges with about an inch of overhang. To assemble the cake, I centered the ring and top layer over the bottom layer. The last step was to add the aliens, rocks, and other fondant decorations. To be safe, since I used floral wire for some of the fondant pieces, I slid drinking straws into the cake and inserted the floral wire inside the straws. When serving the cake, I just removed the straws. I'm not sure floral wire would poison anyone, but let's not take any chances.

The cake was a lot of fun, and I liked how it came out. More importantly, so did my 5-year-old Boy-o.

Print marble cake recipe.
Print vanilla frosting recipe.

1 comment:

mugs said...

Soo cool! You need to make my birthday cake! Haha