Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Out of this world birthday cake

First, we have a seven-year-old boy.  Next, we have his nine-year-old sister who spends one afternoon per week as my art pupil.  Third, both children are practically my niece and nephew.  That's how important their family has been to me and my immediate family.

So, naturally, I beg for the opportunity to do the special cakes for their birthdays.  Last year, I built the circus tent cake, followed by the cheeseburger cake.  This year, the first cake was, again, chocolate cake, but with white fluffy whipped frosting and almond bark (aka white chocolate), plus a bazillion other ingredients.

You can see most of the bazillion, here.

The cake is a basic devil's food mix, with a little bit of buttermilk added for moisture and cohesion.  Since the whole thing was going to be fed to a mob of youngsters with undeveloped taste buds, I didn't worry about making a special frosting -- I bought a couple of tubs of whipped white, vanilla-flavored brand-name frosting.  I needed one and a half of them.

The cake was baked in two parts: a half-filled semi-cylinder loaf pan, and a basic tube pan (you could accomplish the same in a bundt pan, but ours needed a little love, so I went straight angel-food-tube pan.  Neither gets filled completely, unless you want to get wild and do a double-batch, in which case, you will have a leftover slab of your loaf cake.  As it was, I had a small section I didn't need for the sculpture, so I set it aside for a later, quiet family moment.
Anyway.  Once the cake was baked, cooled, and removed from the pans, I wrapped it and popped it in the freezer to make it easier to sculpt with.  In the meantime, my star pupil came over to help build the "alien robots" to decorate the cake.  This was done using both regular-sized and mini marshmallows, which were punctured by toothpicks (it helps to wet the toothpick, first), then stitched/pieced together to provide limbs, using Twizzlers® Pull-Aparts in both cherry and green apple (those would be the red and green strings).  Some of the faces were painted on, using a toothpick dipped in food coloring, while others were made sticking colored jimmies into the marshmallow. 

Note:  It's always helpful to have a child's imagination in building alien robots.  The birthday boy's sister has considerable talent, there.
The rocket ship was a little tricky.  Having a section of cake rise from the rest means building a support structure, or your cake will be nothing more than a straight layer.  I melted almond bark in a shallow dish, then dipped the butt end of a tall plastic container into it at an angle, to build a parabola (the container was approximately the same diameter as the loaf pan, so that the cake would rest easily inside it when the bark firmed up). When the belly of the rocket was firm enough to remove from its mold, I attached a pair of slim bamboo skewers to the base (using plenty more almond bark), sticking out from the flat back end.  These would be used to anchor the rocket to the rocky planet's surface.

Ah, yes, the rocky surface.  That would be (a) the coating of whipped frosting, followed by (b) a mass of Cracker Jack® popcorn (see pic below).  That's just the front end of the cake.  The back end is also frosted, but is piled with marshmallows (the larger ones were cut in half and stuck on, cut side into the frosting), to represent the cloud of smoke/steam of the rocket's exhaust from takeoff.

But, back to the rocket.  Once the almond bark was fully hardened for the base, and I was confident the skewers would hold the weight, I added wings: more almond bark, poured into a small square mold (actually, the indentation in the top of a plastic container's lid), then cut diagonally with a hot knife.  I attached them with more melted almond bark, placing the structure in the freezer to set up more quickly and firmly.

The round-bottomed loaf was long enough to make two rockets (just in case I was clumsy), so I cut it in half and trimmed away one to make a point, setting it in the almond bark undercarriage and coating it with frosting to make it appear one solid piece of food.  I finished it by adding silver jimmies along "seams", blue decorator sugar for the windshield, and large marshmallows for the jet engines on the back (each having been moistened at the end and lightly coated with red decorator sugar to indicate the engines were hot.  I inserted the skewers at an oblique angle, through the center of the base, then frosted the rest of the cake, then piled on the rocks, smoke, and aliens.

The candles I arranged as though the ones directly behind the jet engines had been blown over.  The advantage, here, is that they're all on the same side of the rocket, so a little boy doesn't have to dance around the cake in order to blow them all out.

Before anybody cut the cake, I helped pull the rocket off the top, and set it aside as the special piece exclusively for the birthday boy.  One of the aliens managed to stay clinging to it, so it will live to see another day.

I didn't need the second half of the loaf in order to make a rocket, so I used the remaining frosting and some jimmies to make a little side cake, just for the heck of it.
I had, actually, planned to tell him that the dog had eaten the big cake, and this was all I had left for him, but he saw the big cake box before I could hide it all away, so... gosh darn it, the joke was spoiled.  Still, he and his friends seemed to enjoy the out-of-this-world cake, piled high with soft ice cream.  I was glad to see he was not disappointed with his cake, this year.

And, since the party was a few days before his actual birthday, he gets his own birthday cake twice in one week.    We all should be so lucky!

I don't know what I'll do next year, though.

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