Sunday, December 2, 2012

this is the year of 40

I turned 40 this year, and a lot of my friends have turned 40 this year as well.

Not long ago, I was honored to make a Tiffany box cake for a family friend's wedding shower. This 40th birthday cake was for the same family. The birthday boy's big day fell on the night of his stepbrother's rehearsal dinner. (They have a big family.) Here's the funnier story: our parents had been friends for years, and Jason and I went to college together but had never met. Maybe because there were 35,000 students and we didn't study the same subjects. They constantly bugged us to look one another up, which of course, we resisted. (Do we ever listen to our parents?) Junior year, I moved into an apartment, and Jason and four or five of his friends ended up living immediately downstairs from my three roommates and me in this converted Victorian house with an insane landlord. We may or may not have illegally spliced cable out the window of the second story. (Hey - it was the '90s - we couldn't miss BH 90210!) Of course, Jason and his friends turned out to be really fun to hang out with, and I am glad we finally met.

Cut to 2012, and we're all old.

Jason's dad and stepmom asked for the same flavor profile as his sister-in-law's shower cake: chocolate cake, filled with chocolate buttermilk frosting, covered in ganache, and then covered again with fondant. They requested it be shaped like a 40, recommended silver and black for the colors, and left the rest up to me. I decided to go with an abstract, geometric design edged with a little bit of red to tie it together.

I started with two, 9x13" cakes and parchment templates for a 4 and a 0. Because I was going to cover them with fondant separately before putting them on the half-sheet board, I also cut out cardboard templates to put directly under each cake. I torted the cakes (cut them into three layers), stacked them unfrosted (so they wouldn't wiggle around), laid the paper templates on top, and carefully cut out the shapes. They are pretty easy shapes to cut, but you still have to be careful to keep the knife straight and go slowly. A serrated knife works well here. Once the layers were cut, I frosted in between them. I had to be a little careful transferring the 4 because it had small edges I didn't want to break. Once the two cakes were filled, I stuck them in the fridge, which made the cakes sturdier and easier to work with. I didn't want them to get too cold because then the ganache would harden more quickly, but I also didn't want the layers to slide around.

Next, I covered each cake with ganache. It is super nice to work with because it goes on so smoothly. Just to be safe, I did a very sheer crumb coat, and then applied a slightly thicker layer. This just ensured the whole thing was nice and smooth. I also wanted the edges of the 4 to be fairly sharply defined.

Once the ganache set, it was time for the fondant. One cake at a time. This is the part that always makes me most nervous! I eased into it with the 0, which was more straightforward. To figure out how big the fondant needs to be, I measure the length and width of the cake, add inches for the height on either side, and then add another inch or so for good measure. So if your cake is 8x12" and 3 inches high, the fondant would be about 15-16" wide by 19-20" high. It takes a surprisingly big block of fondant to roll out that big! I wanted to be careful it wasn't too thick or too thin. Too thick, and it doesn't look great; too thin, and the fondant can tear and be hard to work with. I aim for about 1/4", but really I'm just approximating.

With the cakes covered, I transferred them to the half-sheet board. I kept enough space between them that I could maneuver between to apply the silver fondant (actually, grey fondant that I painted with luster dust, mixed with a little vodka, to make it shiny). I laid strips of grey on top of the black, made sure I had them where I wanted them, and then used "fondant glue" (water with a little fondant melted into it) to adhere them. I was aiming for varied widths and angles, but it was harder than I thought to get the look of the strips the way I wanted them in my mind. It was helpful to be able to make adjustments before everything was stuck together.

I added the red rope around the edges and to show off the centers of the 4 and the 0 - it was just nice to have a little bit of contrast. And that was it!

I'm told the birthday boy - as well as the wedding guests - enjoyed the cake. Happy 40th, Jason!

Print chocolate cake recipe.
Print chocolate buttermilk frosting recipe.
Print ganache recipe.


NZBecs said...

I love this cake! The geometric design looks really funky. I also noticed for the first time that you have your fondant quite thick compared to what I usually do. I think next time I will try approx. 1/4" thickness as mine always ends up with those tiny spiderweb cracks when I lift the fondant to place it.
This is the first time I've posted here - your blog is loved all the way over in New Zealand!

Jami Messinger said...

@NZBecs - thanks for reading. I just posted a reply to your nice comment, and I think the internet ate it. Grr.

Jami Messinger said...

Anyway, I'm still new to covering cakes with fondant, and the spiderweb cracks are the bane of my existence. Fresher, more pliable, fondant, does help. And I think it gives you slightly more flexibility if the fondant is thicker in case it does crack. I'm not really sure if I'm rolling it 1/4" thick - maybe it's 3/8"? - but on the slightly thicker side. For decorative stuff - anything from flowers to the geometric stripes - I roll it much thinner. (Sometimes paper thin!)

Thanks again for reading!