Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Happy Sound of a Carousel

Pipe 500 tip 14 drop swirl flowers in pink royal icing.

I did a double take as I read those first instructions.  500?????  Who in the world has time (or the hand strength) to pipe 500 flowers?  And that was just the beginning.  This cake was crazy - why in the world did I get myself into this?

Well, it's called a little three-year-old girl with the cutest smile ever who gave her Aunt Joy the carousel cake kit for Christmas so she could make it for her birthday.  Sigh.  How can one say no?

This cake had a lot of elements that were relatively new or brand new for me.  Using royal icing, drop flowers, piping drop strings and embossing the fondant were just a few.

This was the biggest cake I have ever made.  You do not even want to know how many batches of frosting and how much cake batter I had to make.  Basically I made two cakes: the first was a 10-inch round chocolate cake filled with my usual chocolate fudge and mini chocolate chips.  The second was a 12-inch round chocolate cake with a slightly different filling.  I was experimenting with the Duncan Hines glazes - it tasted very similar to the chocolate fudge filling.  But it is much easier to find in the grocery store.

I was a little nervous about the 12-inch cake.  I'd never made one before and I didn't want it to burn before cooking through.  But the baking part went really well and the cakes came out perfectly.

While the cakes cooled, I whipped up a batch of Royal Icing to make the flowers,

Royal Icing Drop Swirl Flowers

 paint the horses (yes, paint with thinned royal icing.)

and decorate the top of the carousel.

Next I started on icing the cakes.  Unfortunately after making one batch of frosting - I realized I did not have enough shortening to make any more.  So I was only able to dirty ice the 12-inch cake before retiring for the evening.

Day 2:
(Insert break for a fascinating seminar on real estate law)

I finally got both cakes iced and ready to decorate.  And then the fun really began.  I cut out half circles in white fondant and embossed them using my new favorite tool.

The Fondant Cutter/Embosser
I used to cut fondant with a sharp knife.  This can cause problems - including accidentally slicing your Wilton Roll-N-Cut Mat (been there, done that).  This tool slices through fondant smoothly but it isn't sharp enough to slice the mat.  It's easy to use and has three different cutters to choose from.  It's also relatively inexpensive.  I highly recommend it if you are doing any work with fondant.  I was SO happy that I got this tool for this cake.

Once I embossed the fondant, I brushed Orchid Pink Pearl Dust into the embossed lines to create this effect.  This took a really long time.  I was also frustrated because my bottom cake was not tall enough for the original design, so I had to alter it to make it work.

Adding the pearl dust
I attached the fondant to the cakes - which was a challenge in itself.  Making sure everything was spaced correctly is harder than it looks.  And then came those dreaded 500 flowers.  I had decided to do them in buttercream instead of royal icing.  This took a really long time.  To do a swirl drop flower, you have to turn your hand from left to right as you squeeze out the frosting.  I somehow started the annoying habit of tilting my head to the left to do the flowers and consequently developed a painful crick in my neck.

Piping the drop flowers.
Next I had to add some drop strings, dots and flowers to the top cake.  Drop strings are fancy piping where you keep squeezing while moving the piping bag away from the cake, letting the frosting string drop down and then attaching the other end to the cake.  It's not that hard to do but it is hard to make it look nice and even.  It's kind of fun to do and it looks really pretty.

Drop strings and rosette border
Then I added some royal icing flowers and the dots.  The buttercream was supposed to be a light pink but it turned out almost the exact same color as the royal icing flowers!  That's hard to do when you are trying to match the colors!!!  I was really proud of my dots though.  They used to always look like chocolate chips with a little point but these came out really well.

But I wasn't all that happy with the cake because I thought it looked like all the same color.  Amazing what happens when you add a little green to it with my favorite element - the leaves.  The green really improved the look.

So one cake down, one to go.  Piping on the side of a cake can be difficult, so you want it to be as elevated as possible.  The cake was on the high kitchen counter and I was sitting, but it still wasn't tall enough.  So here was my solution:

Turntable on top of my makeshift raised counter.
This cake was slightly different than the top one.  No drop strings.  Instead, I put a royal icing flower in the middle of each fondant oval. 

Then I added the rosette border.  I hate doing rosettes because I still have no idea if I'm doing them correctly.  They were the one thing I really didn't get down pat in my classes.  But they looked fine, so we'll just pretend that I knew what I was doing.  Then I added the royal icing flowers I made the day before along with some more leaves to finish off the cake.

Finally both cakes were finished.

My makeshift raised counter is portable!
Day 3: The Party

The separate pieces arrived safely at the party.  But I was nervous about putting the cake together.  I really did not want this to fall over.  That's a lot of cake to go splat.  It also didn't help that everyone was staring at me as I did it.  So I carefully inserted the pillars with the horses and added the top cake.  It held!

Princess Carousel Cake
So despite the problems and adjustments I had to make, I was pretty happy with the end result.  As my cake teacher always says - you are your worst critic.  You see the cake up close and you know all of the flaws.  Everyone else just sees the bigger picture.

Top Cake
Bottom cake
Everyone was pretty impressed with this cake.  My mother thought it looked like a wedding cake.

Should we cut the cake now Elisa?
Apparently it was too pretty to eat.  When my sister asked Elisa if we should cut the cake - she said, "No way!"  But once we explained that we had to cut it in order to eat it, she reluctantly agreed to cut it.

Helping me cut the cake.
So Happy Birthday to my beautiful niece Elisa.  I don't know how we are going to top this one next year.