Poppies cake

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This was a cake for the Wilton fondant and gum paste class series at my local crafts store. These fantasy flowers remind me of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of poppies, hence the cake name. This cake was also an experiment in making chocolate fondant. If you look closely at the fondant you can see all the cracks and can tell that the experiment did not go well. Actually you don’t have to look closely, it was that bad! It was so bad that I haven’t had the heart to try it again. One day I will but not yet! Maybe I will. Possibly I will. I don’t know if I will.

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To make the flowers, I used heart-shaped cutters; a large and a medium. I also needed some cupcake holders; the regular size and the small ones. These held the flower layers while they dried. I used the foil cupcake liners so I wouldn’t have to worry about the petals sticking to anything.

These flowers are made out of gum paste but I worked it just like fondant. I colored it and rolled it out just the same as I always do. I set a bit aside to make the centers of flowers later. I rolled it out very thin and cut out 4 large heart shapes. I put one heart on a thin foam mat and used the ball tool to ruffle and thin the edges, leaving just the bottom third untouched. (The bottom third meaning the pointy bit of the heart.) I repeated this three more times until all the hearts had ruffled tops. Then I attached the 4 petals together, using vanilla extract as my adhesive. I overlapped the petals for added depth. I also stuck small bits of paper towels in and around some of the layers so they would stick out and up once they dried. I did this same process two more times for a total of three large flowers. Then I used the medium heart cutter and did the same thing again six times. Three of these flowers will be small flowers on their own and the other three will be the center petals of the big flowers. I set these aside to dry but came back a few times to check that the paper towels weren’t sticking to anything. Then the flowers sat and dried for a few more days.

The leaves were easy to make. I colored some gum paste and rolled it out. I cut out some leaf shapes and used the veining tool to put the lines on them. I folded them in half lengthwise then opened them back up a little bit and set them on paper towels to dry for a few days.

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The day before the cake was due for class it was time to finish the flowers. I got the gum paste I had saved earlier and made the centers of all the flowers by rolling out a small ball of the colored gum paste and flattening it into a disk. I cut some stamens and stuck them into the disk while the disk was still soft. I put a small flower inside of each of the large flowers and held it in place with a bit of vanilla extract. All six flowers got a center disk which was held in place with a dot of extract. I also baked the cake layers this day so they’d have time to cool completely.

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The day of class, I torted and iced the cake layers, and covered them with the chocolate fondant. I tinted some fondant to almost match the color of the flowers. I wanted a paler shade so the ribbon decorations didn’t take away from the flowers. I rolled out the colored fondant and used the fondant punch tool from Wilton to make the fancy cut outs. I attached the pieces with vanilla extract. I didn’t put any ribbon bits in the center of the cake so I’d have a clear, flat area for the flowers. I attached the flowers with vanilla and tucked the leaves in and around them. And then off to class I went!

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Easter egg cake

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My grandmother was famous for her peanut butter eggs. Seriously famous! Every Easter the people in her town would order thousands of her candy eggs for their holiday baskets. Her eggs had a peanut butter filing, were dipped in chocolate, and then decorated with flowers and ribbons and bows. I usually make her eggs every year but I wanted to go bigger and better. That means cake! This cake was my homage to her. It was a chocolate cake with her peanut butter icing, (Icing recipe here) covered with a poured chocolate ganache, and decorated with buttercream.

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I started with a half sheet cake, the 12 x 18 inch pan. After the cake was baked and cooled completely, I cut it in thirds. The first piece was 12 x 7, the second piece was 12 x 6, and the third piece was 12 x 5. Each piece was torted, iced, and stacked from the biggest on the bottom to the smallest on top. And then came the scariest moment…Carving an egg shape out of the mass of cake. I kept cutting away little bits at a time until I had the shape I wanted. I did two thinner layers of icing to contain all the crumbs then added a regular layer of icing. Even though this cake isn’t covered in fondant, I followed the same process of smoothing the icing by rubbing it smooth with a piece of parchment. It was even more important to have a smooth base for the poured ganache since it’s not a thick covering that would hide any bumps or lumps.

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I can’t share the ganache recipe with you because I haven’t found one I love yet. And I certainly didn’t love this one. It was too thin and refused to thicken so the cake required many coats to cover it well. I put the cake on a drying rack over a sheet pan to catch the drips and then poured a coat of ganache over the cake. I set the cake aside to dry and harden and then poured another coat. I repeated this process until I had a solid covering of chocolate; maybe 4 or 5 coats. The finished egg sat for a day to harden.

The next day, I trimmed the cardboard cake board to the same size as the covered egg and attached it to the silver cake board with double-sided tape. Lots and lots of tape since that was the only thing holding this together. I piped a shell border but did it very thickly so it would cover the edge of the cardboard and where it met the silver board. Then it was time to decorate it with flowers and such to make it look like my grandmother’s eggs. You can’t really cut this like a normal cake. The dotted lines will give you a rough idea of how I did it.

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