Welcome to my inaugural post here on Books, Bikinis, & Baking! I hope that my posts will provide you with great DIY instructions and inspiration. I will be posting more about myself in the coming days, but for now, let us make cake!
Though Thanksgiving has long past in Canada, our American neighbours to the south are set to celebrate in about two week’s time. Below you will find a step by step tutorial on how to make this Pumpkin Patch Cake to delight at any Thanksgiving table.
As I celebrated Thanksgiving twice, both with my family and my partner’s family, I made two different cakes. One was a vanilla cake made from scratch (that ended up being the consistency of pound cake after a mishap on my part; three words: soften your butter) and the other was a chocolate cake that I have made a few times now, always to rave reviews. The chocolate cake recipe can be found here. The pictures of the batter below are from the vanilla cake that I made.
Ingredients and Materials:
- 2 9×2 inch pans
- Dividing Ring
- Favourite Vanilla or Chocolate Cake Recipe and Ingredients
- Orange Gel Food Colouring
- Yellow Gel Food Colouring
- Green Gel Food Colouring
- Brown Gel Food Colouring
- Buttercream Recipe and Ingredients
- Cake Pop Maker and Extra Batter or Recipe (alternatives to cake pops listed in step 5)
- Orange Candy Melts
- Black Candy Melts
- Icing Bags
- Decorating Tip #233
- Decorating Tip #4
- Cake Pop Sticks
- Foam Block
- Angled Spatula
- Cake Board
- Rolling Pin
- Food Grade Paintbrush
- Flower Nail
- Piping Gel (Your choice of colour)
- Candy Corn
- Leaf Sprinkles
*Tip: If abstaining from making the candy corn cake, prepare and bake your cake according to the cake batter recipe you are using and skip to step 4 to continue decorating. Ideally your cake should be over 2 inches when fully baked (including a dome, which is fine for this recipe), so please judge the number of layers you bake/any necessary doubling of your batter accordingly. I can tell you that I doubled my vanilla cake recipe for the first cake but used only a single prepared chocolate mix with a few additions for flavour for my second cake.
Grease and flour your pans (2 9×2 inch pans). Carefully insert the Dividing Ring, making sure not to rub the coating from the sides of the pan.
Make your batter according to the directions of your favourite vanilla recipe. I doubled my recipe as it was only enough to fill a single 9 inch pan but you can gauge if that is necessary from your own recipe. You also want to have a bit of batter left over to make a few cake pops.
Note: Though I did state that I made this cake both using a vanilla and a chocolate batter, the candy corn effect can only be achieved through the use of a light-coloured batter.
Divide your batter into three bowls; the batter should not be divided evenly. As your outer ring (orange) will require the greatest amount of batter, divide a large portion into the first bowl, a smaller portion into a second bowl for the middle ring (yellow), and an even smaller amount into the third bowl for the inner circle (white). With my recipe, the measurements for the division of the batter was roughly as follows, with some extra left over for the cake pops:
- Orange – 2 2/3 cups
- Yellow – 2 cups
- White – 2/3 cup
Using your gel food colours, tint the bowl with the largest amount of batter orange and the bowl with slightly less batter yellow. Leave the third bowl alone because, guess what? It’s already white!
Carefully pour your batter into your two prepared pans. Each individual colour will be divided evenly between the two pans, so take that into consideration when pouring. Remember, the outer ring will be the yellow batter, the middle ring the orange, and the inner circle will consist of the white batter. All layers should about the same depth so that when the divider ring is slowly and carefully removed, no single colour will overflow onto another. Rinse off and dry your dividing ring before placing it in the second pan and repeating the process. Remove the dividing ring from the second pan. When both pans are ready, bake your cake layers according to the recipe’s directions.
While your cake is baking, prepare a batch of buttercream icing as per your recipe’s directions. Tint your buttercream to a shade of green that you prefer for grass using the green gel food colouring. Thin your recipe down to a consistency appropriate for icing a cake.
Bake 4 to 5 cake pops to be used in creating the pumpkins. I have a cake pop machine thanks to last Christmas but you don’t need one. Cake pops can be made by hand from crumbled cake and extra icing.
*Tip: If baking cake pops is too much extra work, you can create pumpkins in a myriad of other ways. For example, use extra fondant or gum paste you have lying around, tint and mold marzipan into pumpkins, or, the most simple solution, use pumpkin candies that are pre-made and ready to go (you can see some hiding in the photo below)!
It’s time to decorate your pumpkin pops! Melt the orange candy melts according to the package directions. Dip the end of each cake pop stick into the icing before inserting it into a cake pop. Let cool. Dip the cake pops into the orange candy melts, covering completely, before lightly shaking off any excess liquid and placing the cake pop in a base to allow them to dry. While the pops are cooling, melt the black candy melts according to the package directions and carefully transfer the liquid to an icing bag already prepared with decorating tip #4 (ensure the liquid is not too hot before doing this). Pipe black lines onto each of the pumpkin pops. Once the black piping had hardened, dip a toothpick into the prepared green buttercream icing and touch it to the top of each of the pumpkin pops to create a stem. Twirl the toothpick as you pull away from the pop to create a curled stem.
Your cake is ready! Look at you, making gourmet cakes like you own the joint. Make sure that you cool your cake layers outside of the pans before beginning the icing process.
Use a dollop of icing to cement your bottom layer of cake to a cake board. Next,spread a layer of icing on the top of the bottom layer. Then, carefully center and place the top layer of cake on the bottom layer. Finally, spread a thin layer of icing over your stacked cake to completely coat both the top and sides of the cake (crumb coat your cake).
Transfer your remaining green icing to an icing bag prepared with decorating tip #233. Pipe your grass along the top of the cake first. When piping the grass onto the sides of your cake, start at the bottom and work in a straight line to the top of the cake. When you have finished icing the whole cake, scan it again and fill in any blank or sparse parts you may have missed. It is also a good idea to go around the area where the side and the top of the cake meet to add in additional blades of grass so that there is not an obvious seam.
*Tip: If you are not familiar with this piping technique, practise the pressure and release needed to achieve the length of grass you would prefer, allowing the icing to fall back into the icing bowl while you work. When satisfied, scoop the icing back into your piping bag. This way you can hone your skills without any wasted icing!
Create your gum paste fencing. This can also be done with fondant. Tint your gum paste (or fondant) the brown colour of wood (maple, oak, the sky is the limit!). Roll out the ball of gum paste, using a rolling pin, into a flat length, approximately 5mm thick. To add texture, you can lightly roll over the gum paste with any fondant impression tools that you may have but this is not a necessity. I used the ribbon cutter and embosser fondant tool set that I had to make some wood grain texture in my gum paste. There are molds you can buy and use also to create this effect; the choice is yours. After the texturing is complete, cut multiple strips of gum paste to create the fence posts and cross pieces. Measure the fence post pieces beside your cake to find a height that works well for the esthetic you would like. These pieces will be slightly shorter than your cross pieces. Cut out multiple cross pieces as well.
Next, create the fencing on a cutting board. I used the format depicted in the graphic below and put the the fence on the cake in pieces. Every time I created a single section on my cutting board (three fence posts and three cross pieces as pictured below), I would use the bottom of a flower nail to create the impression of a nail and secure the lengths of gum paste together where they overlapped. Place the fence posts in the icing on the cake’s side, pushing gently to secure them to the cake. Next, use a food grade paintbrush dipped in gum paste adhesive (a mixture of a tiny ball of gum paste in water) to secure the cross pieces to the fence posts. Paint a small amount of liquid on the ends of the cross piece and lightly press to the fence posts. Finally, if necessary, gently push your flower nail in the same spot as the initial indentation to further secure the cross pieces to the fence posts.
Eventually you will come to a spot where you have a small gap that is not big enough to add in another set of same-sized cross pieces. Okay, by eventually I mean that if you did not take the time to measure your cake and find the exact amount of length and height needed to evenly cover your cake then this will happen to you (as it did to me). If you are someone who took the time to measure perfectly, you do not need to create a gap-gate! For the rest of my ‘just go for it’ friends, that gate is a way to make it look like you knew what you were doing the whole time *wink, wink*. In your gap, measure approximately how many piece of gum paste fencing it will take when placed length wise to create a gate. Then shape the required number of pieces into the height you would like for the gate. Place the pieces of the gate on the cake individually, pushing them lightly into the icing to ensure they are secured. Another addition you can make to your gate is a piece of fencing that runs horizontally from a top corer to the opposite bottom corner. Again, this can be affixed using the gum paste adhesive described in step 10. You can even add a tiny piece of gum paste to make it look like there is a handle on the gate. Two pricks from your trusty flower nail is all it takes to make it look like the handle was nailed to the fence rather than attached by the gum paste adhesive.
It is time to create your turkey! Tint another small amount of gum paste the shade of brown that you would like your turkey to be. Separate into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Slightly flatten a part of the large gum paste ball so that you can work with it and so that it may sit securely atop your cake. Next, create the turkey head. Using your flower nail, poke two small holes in the the small ball of gum paste; these will becomes the eyes. Cut the white portion off of a piece of candy corn. Then, create a small indentation where you will place the ‘beak’ of the turkey. Lightly press the white piece of candy corn into the indentation to form your beak. You will then create a small slit in the back of the turkey base in which 3 pieces of candy corn may be inserted to create the tail feathers. Push the surrounding gum paste around the candy corn to secure it in place. Finally, push two pieces of candy corn into the side of the turkey’s body to create wings before attaching the head of the turkey with a toothpick to the body. After the turkey is fully assembled, squirt a small amount of piping gel into the eye indentations. I suggest a light colour like a blue or a green. If you choose something more bold, such as red, the turkey may end up looking a little evil. My partner chose this colour and his family’s turkey cake topper looked like it was bleeding from its eyes…
*Tip: You could also potentially make your turkey out of a cake pop and gum paste to make another fun and tasty edible feature of your cake.
It is finally time to assemble your cake! I chose to remove the pumpkin cake pops from their sticks at this point as I assumed the icing would hold them in place (it did). Press the turkey and pumpkin pops onto the top of the cake. Finally, sprinkle the leaf sprinkles on top of the grass, step back, and enjoy your work!
*Tip: If you are transporting the cake, ensure that there is enough clearance between the top of the cake container or cake box with the pumpkin pops and turkey affixed to the top of the cake. If you don’t think there will be, the toppers can be stored in a separate container and the cake may be assembled quickly at its final location.
I hope you enjoyed this first DIY Baking tutorial! I plan to add some of my favourite recipes for baking in the coming months, as well as many Christmas crafts, baking, and decorating inspirations (to be honest, I have been holding off until mid November to go into full-blown Christmas mode but my holiday shopping and prep is well underway). Please let me know of any suggestions you have for the blog as I would love to hear them.