Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jugle Cake & Vegetarian Red Velvet Cake & Disaster

What a week! I had parcelled out the various tasks for my niece Hannah's jungle-themed birthday cake and on Thursday got a last-minute order for a vegetarian red velvet cake. Sunday I made fondant leaves for jungle trees and fondant ears for the elephant cookies. Monday I attempted to peel the leaves off the bowls I had set them on to dry curved and the elephant ears off the cutting board. They absolutely refused to come off. I ended up scraping them off with a steak knife and then scrubbing the bowls and cutting board. I got off what I could and then put them in the dishwasher.

Ok, so no fondant leaves or elephant cookies. Alright, that's ok. I can make leaves with the green royal icing I had made. There were no elephants on the party themed plates so we could live without those. Monday I baked the sugar cookies with zebra, lion, and giraffe cookie cutters from Wilton's Animal Pals Cutter Set. I always forget how many thin rolled-out cookies my sugar cookie recipe makes. So with about 80 cookies I fathomed I would decorate them all and we could have cake and cookies.

Tawny's Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp lemon or almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp sour cream
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter, shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, then lemon extract, vanilla extract and sour cream. Beat until creamy. Sift flour, baking soda and salt and combine with wet ingredients. Chill overnight and then roll out on a floured surface for cutters or into balles and then flatten with the bottom of a sugar coated glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes just until the edges start to turn golden (bake time varies depending on the thickness), do not over bake.

Wednesday I worked late and then started frosting the cookies. This frosting can be used to outline the cookie and then thinned to fill-in the outline. This was my first time attempting the fill-in method, I had only used it to pour over cookies before. It was taking me a long time so I thinned the icing a bit more. Then I filled-in a whole bunch that looked perfect. They looked perfect until the icing kept settling after a few minutes and spilled right over the outline.

It was bedtime at this point so I scrapped the "decorate all the cookies" idea and picked three of the nicest lion & giraffe cookies. I frosted those and then picked the best of each animal, set them to dry and tossed the rest of the cookies. I know, sounds like a waste, but I didn't like cookies at this point and my husband didn't like the lemon or that they weren't frosted with buttercream, which is tasty but you can't make it perfectly smooth easily.

Poured Cookie Frosting
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Combine all ingredients and add coloring as desired. Use full-strength icing to outline and add milk to thin for filling-in.

Thursday I baked the white cake. Once again I couldn't get it perfectly white, it browned a little. The first layer came out nice, so I was hoping to avoid my previous crumbling experience. Have I mentioned that we are moving soon? There are boxes everywhere. While I was baking my husband had moved a large houseplant in front of my one access area to the table so he could see the TV better. I had already flipped the cake onto a board so I could then flip it onto the cooling rack right side up. By the time we got the plant moved and I got the cake onto the rack it had broken into three pieces. I was prepared this time with double everything so I had plenty to make more.

I also worked on the trees, the royal icing leaves had dried and I only broke a few trying to get them off the waxed paper. I dried them flat to be on the safe side. I used more royal icing to attach the leaves to pretzel rods. This was very difficult and most of the trees broke at least once and some of the glue icing dripped down a bit. I held the pretzels upright with scrunched paper towels in a round pan and let them dry in the fridge.

Friday I got a last minute order for a vegetaria red velvet cake. I was very excited to use egg replacer, I had always used water, flour, and oil to replace the eggs. I am still perfecting my vegetarian cake recipe to make up for the missing eggs and it's still a bit crumbly. I also bought Bake Even Strips so I wouldn't have to handle the cake so much to level it. They worked great, the cake did rise evenly so I didn't have to level it. With both of my new toys the cake ended up even crumblier than before.

I had thought about using xanthan gum, a common ingredient used in gluten-free baking to help bind it together. It is pretty expensive so I wanted to try the egg replacer first. So now I am going to make a test cake with some xanthan gum and use the bake even strips again and see how that goes. I have another vegetarian cake to deliver on Saturday so I hope this does the trick.

Saturday morning I frosted the jungle cake and finished decorating it. After the party I rushed home and decorated the red velvet cake with whipped cream.

In the end, both cakes turned out beautifully and I am happy to take my findings and continue on my baking adventures.

If you can't tell, she started eating the grass before we could get a picture and light the candle.

The candy letters are a thin layer of baby blue for the letter-front and chocolate for the backdrop.

Make it a sweet day!

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