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    Baby Cake

    January 19, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    I was shocked and dismayed to learn that thirty people RSVP’d in the affirmative for this weekend’s baby shower. Typically, we have a huge invitation list because we know that only a third of the folks on the list will actually be able to participate. But this was different. Most of the ladies were able to attend.

    We had a good time, other than my extroverted {or, at least, I perceive her as more extroverted than I} aunt deciding that a good idea was to have her introverted niece run the game.

    Hello? Haven’t you been reading my blog?

    Apparently, she has a life.


    The real fun for me was in making the cake, and again in making sugar cookies for the favors. I had planned a normal size of a cake, and as the RSVPs rolled in, the cake got taller…and taller. What you see in the pictures is three boxes of cake mix {yes, I make homemade frosting, but use a plain old less-than-a-dollar box}. I baked this in only two layers, the cake pan being large enough for one-and-a-half boxes to fill it.

    Our theme was based on some disposable napkins and plates my mother purchased that are, I think, intended for christenings. They had baby booties on them, pink flowers, a little silver cross, and had “A Baby is a Blessing” inscribed on each and every one.

    When I saw a pair of size zero patent leather off-white booties, I knew what I had to do. I had to figure out how to use these as a cake topper without ruining them, so that my cousin (the mother-to-be) could keep them and use them for the baby. I am thinking these will be fabulous shoes for Easter.

    While I was out buying my supplies, I grabbed a 99-cent bit of fake flowers that looked similar to what I was imaging for the cake, just in case I needed them. Wow, am I glad I did that!

    But before I share the photos, I have to tell you my Cake Horror Story. Part One is fairly typical. I flipped the cake over in the Usual Way, to remove it from the pan in order to continue its cooling. I couldn’t believe how perfectly it came out–not a bit of it had stuck to the pan. It was, however, quite raised in the center. I knew I’d need to slice it down to level it a bit, but I was going to let it cool just as it was. All of a sudden, it gave a little shudder. It looked like an earthquake, and it split lengthwise, perfectly down the center.

    Three years ago, I would have panicked, but now I know that this happens about every three cakes. So, I called my husband to help me wrap it in plastic wrap, and we held it together as best we could and popped it in the freezer.

    Did you know it is much easier to frost a cake if it is frozen?

    This was only Part One!

    The next day, I was going to frost the cake on-site so that I didn’t have to risk transporting a decorated cake. I don’t have any of the right equipment for transporting. I packed my beloved industrial mixer into the trunk, along with the two frozen layers of cake, and a laundry basket full of cake decorating supplies.

    As I rounded a corner midway through my drive, I heard my mixer turn over. Oh. My. Word. I knew this was bad, but it was very foggy and the road was narrow and there was nothing to do but to keep driving.

    When I opened the tailgate to retrieve my supplies, I found the mixer–the entire mixer–on top of the cake!

    Score two for freezing cakes! Had they not be frozen, they would have been destroyed, but instead all we had was a dramatic indentation in one of the layers, meaning we knew which layer was going on the bottom.


    End Horror Story.

    Now, for the photos. Here, we have the top of the cake as I was beginning. I had entirely frosted what I call my “base coat” and added on the booties and the fake flowers which ended up being indispensable:

    Here is the top after I had finished with the inscription and done the borders. I always do flowers last because I don’t really know how many are appropriate until everything else is done. One of my weaknesses is inscription, and that is mostly because I have no practice. Writing with frosting is quite different from writing with pen. You cannot lift up as easily, and the cursive is true cursive, with all of the letters completely attached to one another.

    Here is the finished product. The lighting is also better here. You can see another one of my weaknesses in this photo. See how the border reveals a hill-shaped top of the cake? Someday I will buy a real cake leveler, but for now I use a knife, and I am too timid in using said knife to level it well. But it works, and I don’t think most people noticed. In fact, that is my Philosophy of Imperfect Cake Decorating: people want to like the cake. They aren’t looking for imperfections, unless they are the typical American bride, which is why I would probably never, ever do a wedding cake.


    As I was saying, here is the photo:

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  • Reply Emily January 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I have to tell you, the first time I did fondant, I was totally winging it, learning from a book my sister-in-law bought for me. So, I’m self-taught in the cake-making and decorating department.

    People loved it…especially the kids. 😉 I wasn’t crazy about the taste, but then again, I’m strictly a chocolate girl. You don’t need to bake a cake to experiment with the fondant. Just get an instruction book out of the library, make a small batch and have at it with the kids. Edible playdough!

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    KM, I will have to write a post on some basic tricks I’ve picked up from people who have taken classes and actually know what they are doing…it really does make a difference.

    Dawn, I admire that you pulled it off! You have me more interested in wedding cakes now that you pointed out the lack of writing! 😉

    Emily, Maybe someday I’ll try my hand at fondant. One of my issues is that I never bake a cake just for fun…it is always for something that it needs to turn out for. Because of that, I’m not a huge risk taker, and fondant feels like a risk, only because I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe someday I’ll take the Michael’s class…

    Tell me, though: do people actually eat it? Does it taste okay?

  • Reply Emily January 20, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Kansas Mom,
    There are certain types of cake that lend themselves better to being frozen and iced. What I used for the wedding cakes was a traditional English recipe. It was very similar to a pound cake in consistency.

    The fondant really isn’t that hard; it’s just time-consuming, and the finish comes out so smooth. You can make all kind of neat little figures and such, not just flowers, although the flowers come out looking almost like bisque. Several people thought they were real!

  • Reply dawn January 20, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Beautiful! A friend of mine and I actually did a wedding cake and had some similar horror stories, but it worked out OK in the end, was lovely, and the bride was happy. The bonus to wedding cakes is the lack of writing, which I’m pretty terrible at, you did a great job.

  • Reply Kansas Mom January 19, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    You know, I’ve tried freezing the layers and putting on a base coat and I still end up with tons of crumbs. It was a source of much distress before First Son’s birthday party (partly because hosting birthday parties in general causes me great stress; I’d cancel them all if Kansas Dad would let me).

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Emily, You have done wedding cakes? You did your own wedding cake? I am amazed and impressed! And working with fondant…that is something I honestly haven’t tried.

    I keep thinking I’ll take a class so that I really know what I’m doing, but so far I just pick up tricks while decorating cakes with other people who are better at it than I am. I learned the freezing trick from an acquaintance who made perfect cakes every single time. What a difference that made!

    Jennifer, Maybe sometime I’ll compile the little bag of tricks for decorating that make it so much easier. Or, I’ll just trade you. I’ll make you a cake, and you can make my girls a dress. 😉

    Rebecca, Thanks. I know I wasn’t the only one eating cake this weekend. Hope L.’s cake turned out well…wish I had been there.

  • Reply Jennifer January 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Brandy! That is beautiful! Cakes elude me. Great job. Thanks for the tip on frosting a frozen cake, too. That will surely come in handy.

  • Reply Emily January 19, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    So glad your “horror story” had a happy ending, Brandy. The cake looks so sweet with the little booties on top. I’ve made a few cakes in my day….and speaking of wedding cakes, my husband’s brother and his bride asked me to make their wedding cake several years ago. She picked out the design which included the rolled fondant icing and handmade fondant flowers. It was actually fun, but it took me two weeks to make all the flowers. I did my own wedding cake that summer, and yes, freezing a cake is always wise; thank goodness you did!

  • Reply Rebecca January 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Nice job, Brandy!

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