Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lesson #4: Cake Decorating, Part Two

I have come to realize that it will take a lifetime of practice to become the cake decorator that my grandma is, so for now I will get her to help me when I want to try something that is really new to me. This happened last week when my friend, Mindy, asked if I could bake a cake for her nephew's birthday party. I knew I wanted to try using a character cake pan which was something completely new to me. Mindy thought her nephew would like a Mario Brothers cake but I couldn't find a Mario cake pan so we settled on Spiderman.

Grandma and I decided to get together on Friday since she was baking a cake for my cousin's first communion. I rented a cake pan from the Bulk Barn (which has become my new favourite store for all things baking) and brought it with me to Grandma's house. By the time I got there, Grandma had her cake cooling and all of the ingredients out to bake mine. I quickly mixed everything together in her stand mixer (something I really need to get myself), poured the batter into the pan, and put the cake into the oven. I really didn't even know how much cake batter went into a cake pan but Grandma let me know that most cake pans will hold most cake recipes.

For this Spiderman cake I used a chocolate cake recipe that Grandma got from a friend of the family, Father Jack (probably many years ago). For the icing we used her original butter cream icing recipe. She still has the recipe that came with all of the cake decorating tools that she and her dad (my great-grandfather) ordered more than 50 years ago. The two of them actually took cake decorating classes together at Essex High School when Grandma was just a teenager.

Here are the recipes:

Chocolate Cupcakes (or Cake) (Father Jack's)

2/3 cup butter, room temp
2 cups brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup cocoa
1 egg
1 cup sour milk (or 1 tbsp vinegar in 1 cup sweet milk)
3/4 cup hot water
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 and 1/2 cups unsifted cake and pastry flour (we just used all-purpose)
1 tsp vanilla

In a stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, and cocoa. Add egg and blend. Stir in milk and hot water to which the 1 tsp of baking soda has been added. Add baking powder, salt, flour, and vanilla and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl to incorporate everything.

Grease entire cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. (18-20 minutes if you are doing cupcakes).

Butter Cream Icing (Verbatim from "Deco Secrets")

The most important and necessary part of the skilled decorator's equipment is a perfect icing. Without this, any amount of skill and tubes is useless.

After years of experimenting with different formulas for this type of butter cream icing, to Gene Dursch's knowledge, none equals this recipe for all-around performance and adaptability.

The following formula is sufficient for the icing and decoration of a 9 inch cake. For smaller or greater quantities, adjust accordingly.

Mix together in a large bowl:

1 and 1/2 cups shortening
1/2 tsp salt
vanilla or flavor to taste
1/4 cup water
9 cups sifted powdered sugar

Beat until ALL lumps are out and then add:

1/2 cup butter

Continue beating until light and fluffy.

After you have made a batch or two, you will be able to increase or decrease the amount of water in order to obtain the desired consistency.

For smaller quantities, decrease the measurements proportionately.


Hot Weather......Less Water
Cold Weather......More Water

Let shortening and butter become pliable at room temperature before using.

Practice Makes Perfect

Grandma has used this recipe so many times that I'm pretty sure she doesn't even bother to take it out any more. She had it out for me though and I did get to make it but if I hadn't had her help I don't know that my cake would have turned out as well as it did. She was able to tell me whether I needed to add more icing sugar or'll take me a couple of tries before I am confident in decorating with this icing on my own! Grandma also mixed the food colouring in for me to get Spiderman's colours just right.

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