As I’ve alluded to in the past (and also evidenced by my listing Cake Wrecks in my blogroll), I am a decorated cake enthusiast. I find it one of the more artistic, sophisticated ways of playing with one’s (and others’) food, and one with which I’m continually experimenting.
For Purim this year, we went to friends for the seudah. It was their daughter’s first birthday and amazingly, after making a strong impression with the nearly-disastrous rainbow cake of last fall, I was requested to supply the birthday cake.
I am a buttercream frosting decorator. Fondant turns out some incredibly sharp, realistic-looking decoration (just check out the Sunday Sweets category at Cake Wrecks), with a smooth finish and an appearance of perfection that is nearly impossible for buttercream to match. But I have a problem with fondant: I don’t think it’s food. I’ve eaten fondant-decorated cakes in the past, and the best thing I could say about them was, “Thank God that fondant layer over the cake was thin.” But I’ve recently found a substitute that I’m very pleased with: marzipan. They sell it in small loaf-shaped lumps in the supermarket, and I’ve been buying it, dying it, and shaping it like play-doh. It works very nicely (especially if you have the strong hands of a masseuse).
Of course, the most important thing about a cake is how it tastes, which means that the cake itself must be flavorful, moist (and I don’t mean gooey in the middle where it fell), and the frosting smooth and generously flavored with vanilla, orange essence, or whatever tickles your tastebuds. But a really good cake, assembled and frosted with a good buttercream, and decorated with marzipan tchotchkes is not only a visual crowd-pleaser, but delicious to boot. Perhaps the greatest advantage for me was that I could bake, create the decorations, and assemble and frost on three different days. (Baked and froze cakes on Wednesday, made flowers, leaves, and bees on Thursday, and defrosted, assembled, frosted, and decorated all on Sunday.)
Below is my latest project. The cake was the Joy of Cooking‘s white cake, baked to perfection (unusually; I’ve had a lot of problems with cakes lately, either because of my oven or the altitude or the recipes–don’t know which). The buttercream was the recipe I got from attending the Wilton decorating basics class (which can be found on my rainbow cake post). And the decorations were an hour’s play session with my Wilton gel food colors and a couple of lumps of marzipan (well-wrapped and stored at room temp when I’d finished). Here are the results:
This cake was fun to make, and even more fun to eat. But the best part was seeing the birthday girl (in her little cake-coordinated bee costume) put away an entire slice unaided.