Onto the 3rd and final installment of the bee baking adventure weekend – the cake!
The coworker who ordered the cupcakes and cake for her daughter’s first party wanted the vanilla for the kids, but something more decadent for the grown-ups. It only took the suggestion of chocolate with strawberry filling to make her eyes go glossy and a thin line of drool to appear on her chin. I needed something sturdier than buttercream to make transporting the cake slightly less nerve-wracking so my fellow baker friend Erin (her name is Erin too, this isn’t one of those conversations with the voices in my head) suggested I try ganache. Evidently it’s the only thing she uses. She was absolutely right. Surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as “ganache” sounds. In fact, it’s easier than buttercream. I’m a convert.
I used the chocolate cake recipe that I use for everything now. It’s reliable, it freezes well and it’s damn good. No need to change it up. I was scared enough about the ganache to try something new with the cake.
Little did I know, it would all go far more swimmingly than anticipated. Basic ganache is just hot cream and chocolate whisked together (I feel like I’m letting some sort of culinary secret out of the bag here). I used 2 C of heavy cream and 18 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips. I didn’t chop them up or put them in a food processor or do any of the fancy things some websites tell you to and it came out just fine. But you can be fancier (and do more dishes) if you want.
Hot cream, chocolate chips, in a bowl, all whisked up. And there you have it. Ganache. Done. That is the yummy stuff people pour over the tops of cakes to make them look all fancy. Who knew (other than the people who do that, I suppose)? So, to make that into frosting, either put it in the freezer for 20ish minutes, or let it come to room temp over several hours (or a combo of that, which is what I did because I’m impatient), then whip it with a hand mixer or a stand mixer and you have that, but in frosting form. Magic. Light, fluffy, chocolatey magic.
On to the filling: Fresh strawberries.
And now, the building stage. I baked 2 8″ round cakes and 2 6″ round cakes, cooled them, leveled them, wrapped them in saran wrap and froze them. They’re way easier to work with frozen (and they’re way easier to level before they’re frozen, as I discovered the hard way a while back when the knife I was using sliced cleanly into my thumb rather than the frozen cake).
Take the first layer of cake, put it on whatever you plan to serve it on (you’re not going to want to have to move it again once you get this party started). Frost the inside with a layer of frosting, then use a large round piping tip or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut out and pipe a fat layer of frosting around the outside to serve as a wall for the filling.
Place the second layer on top. The 2nd tier gets a little tricky. I used a 6″ cardboard cake board underneath the 2nd tier, so the top half wasn’t actually resting on the cake. Makes it easier to serve and a little more stable. I also put dowels (I used big fat drinking straws) in both layers to keep them from sliding on their strawberry filling goodness.
Once you have it all assembled, crumb coat the whole thing and put it in the fridge for an hour or so to set.
Here’s the cake frosted with a layer of the non-whipped ganache on the top:
I used the small grass piping tip (Ateco 133 for those who care) to make the green grass on the outside. I also used the weird “decorator icing” I mentioned before, dyed with Leaf Green color gel.
I used the same yellow buttercream from the cupcakes to pipe a 1 on the top for the birthday girl and used toothpicks to mark where I thought the flowers and bees should go before putting them in the cake…I have found over the years that if I don’t plan ahead, whatever project I’m crafting will look like the work of a 4-year-old.
The final product:
Next up? The Boston Cream Pie cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes and an apple tart thing that is so ridiculously easy you will be ashamed you didn’t think of it yourself (not that I did. I’m still wrestling with the shame).