The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A Pokeball cake for an 8th

The boy turned 8 recently, and a few months ago he had requested a Pokemon-themed cake. He had lofty ideas but since I was the one who had to make it, I presented a simpler and less time-consuming cake. It still took me almost a week to make it, as I could only work on it for an hour at a time. It was also my first time using fondant. I started making themed birthday cakes since my son turned 3, and all these years I'd deliberately avoided fondant because I want my cakes to taste good, favouring buttercream instead. The style of cake I wanted to make was best decorated with fondant, so I decided that now was as good as any time to try fondant. It was also my first time using an enhanced cake formula, which I only considered because my trial run using the new ball-shaped cake pan with a made-from-scratch recipe yielded a less than satisfactory result. The doctored cake mix recipe takes advantage of the reliable results of a cake box mix, while offering a more homemade flavour. It was in fact my first time using a box mix ever, and I honestly still prefer the taste of made-from-scratch cakes (though hubby insisted there was not much difference except for the time saved). However I do see great advantages in yielding reliable results, especially now that three kids means I'm time-poor and cannot afford too many cakes flopping on me. Hubby and the kids love either cakes the same, and the differences are only noticeable when compared side-by-side.

While searching the internet for ideas, I came across a design of a central Poke ball cake surrounded by cupcakes with faces of several Pokemons. I toyed with the idea of using making a layered cake using a normal circular cake pan and carving a ball shape out of that, but in the end I ordered a Wilton soccer ball cake pan from Amazon to make my life easier. If I had to do it all again, I probably would choose to bake individual layers to shape rather than a large half-ball, because the cake took a long time to bake, and I had to try and counteract the drying effects of a long baking period. For inspiration and tips on decorating, I watched How to Cake It's Poke Ball Cake video tutorial and Cupcake Jemma's fondant masterclass. I also enjoyed watching this video on making a Pokeball cake. I made a chocolate cake with plain buttercream for one half-sphere, and a white cake with chocolate buttercream for the other half-sphere. I used ganache to crumb coat the cakes before laying the fondant - a white chocolate ganache for the chocolate cake and dark chocolate ganache for the white cake. For the cupcakes, I bought edible printed icing with images of various Pokemons, because I didn't have the time nor talent to decorate each individual cupcake. The only problem was that no one could remove the printed icing from the backing paper (and I followed every instruction and tips!), so as a last resort, I cut out each circle of image, and instructed the parents and kids not to eat the topping.

I used the following tips from this Super-enhanced Cake Formula to keep the cake moist:
- made a simple syrup of equal parts water and sugar, to brush onto the cake after it came out of the oven while still in the pan.
- laid plastic wrap on the cooling rack, and after cake has been out of the oven for 10 minutes, turned the cake pan onto plastic wrap, then brushed the sides and bottom with more simple syrup. Then wrap cake completely in plastic wrap.
- allowed to cool completely (took a couple of hours).
- when it came time to torte the cake, I brushed on more simple syrup before adding the filling

Other tips I found useful were:
- buy a lot of fondant! I had 2lbs each of the red and white fondant, and only a miniscule amount for the black. I had to make more black fondant using the white fondant and the black Americolor food gel from the boy's 6th birthday
- crumb coat with chocolate ganache, then let it set before frosting the second layer. The cakes were frozen (as I had to make them several days beforehand) and the cool temperature helped the ganache to set quickly
- use cornflour to dust while handling the fondant
- roll out the fondant to approximately 5mm thickness

At the end of the day, I decided that I don't like fondant. Working with fondant and eating it. For me, taste always trumps aesthetics, and I felt like I'd compromised on my principle with this cake. I'll stick with delicious buttercream for cake decorations.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes

I had a lot of buttermilk to use up from the first made-from-scratch cake recipe I attempted with the ball pan; hubby could only find organic buttermilk in 1L cartons, and I didn't have the heart to throw most of it out. I used it in the cakes and cupcakes, and they all turned out quite nicely. For the cupcakes, I modified this Taste of Home recipe for chocolate buttermilk cupcakes. I used 1/2 cup less sugar, substituted decaf coffee for the water, and used cake flour to yield a more tender crumb. It was a hit! The texture was extremely tender, the decaf coffee added a subtle dimension to the chocolate flavour (without the caffeine!). The boy wanted to help make the cupcakes, and it was easy enough for him to help measure out the ingredients and mix them.

Makes two dozen (24) cupcakes.

1/2 cup (115g) butter, softened
1 cup (200g) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups (190g) cake flour
1/2 cup (60g) baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk
1/2 cup (125ml) decaffeinated coffee (can use water instead)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
3. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
4. Combine buttermilk and water.
5. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and water, beating well after each addition.
6. Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
7. Frost with buttercream frosting.

Cupcakes were the first to go as soon as the candle was blown:

Super Enhanced Cake Formula

Copied from Cake Central

1 Cake Mix Box (Duncan Heines®, Betty Crocker®, Pillsbury® etc.)
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
1 cup (225g) melted salted butter
1 tablespoon of Vanilla
3 mounded tablespoons of cocoa powder for the chocolate mix

Instructions for Extending Cake Mix
For this recipe you are only going to use the actual cake mix powder, do NOT also add the ingredients from directions on the cake mix box. Just ignore any other ingredients or directions listed on the cake mix packaging.
Preheat Oven to 160°C
Mix flour, sugar, cake mix, baking powder, salt and **cocoa powder together with fork, set aside.
Add eggs, water, sour cream, butter, vanilla, and cream to Mixer bowl
Add dry ingredients and mix well on (about 2 minutes on lowest speed).
Bake for 65 minutes for 9 in. cake pan.

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