The Cake is Not a Lie

Somehow, this blog always come back to food! At least this time I have a legitimate excuse: my hubby’s birthday! I really wanted to do something special and make him a cool cake. It gave me the perfect opportunity to try out this recipe for homemade fondant from marshmallows!

I have never used fondant or made fondant or really made any design cake, so what possessed me to try all three for the first time during the busiest work weekend of the year is beyond me. And here is the design I chose:

The Storage Cube from Portal 2

The Storage Cube from Portal 2

Crazy, right? This is from one of the hubby’s favorite video games: Portal 2. Of course, I planned to simplify the design and just go for a straight up cube, but still — way too ambitious! Needless to say, I have learned a TON.

Making the fondant actually turned out to be the easiest part. Simple recipe, just three ingredients: marshmallows, powdered sugar, and food coloring.

You get the marshmallows moist, pop them in the microwave for 10 second intervals until they are melted, and then add your dye of choice. Stir together with a greased spoon. I used the spoon to mix in the majority of the powdered sugar and finished incorporating with my hands.

Still in the sticky phase!

Still in the sticky phase!

This is a messy, sticky endeavor, but it was fun. And let me tell you, I got a great upper body workout kneading and folding that fondant! I made four colors for the cake: white, gray, blue, and also a small portion of pink. You see, for Portal fans, the Companion Cube is really popular.

Companion Cube

Companion Cube from Portal and Portal 2

But, I really didn’t want to make him a giant pink cake, so I took some liberties with the designs and combined the two cubes. It also saved me from having to replicate the Aperture symbol!

To make this cake, I used 8-inch square pans and two boxed cake mixes: red velvet and confetti, two of the hub’s favorites.

I dyed the confetti cake blue ... or tried to!

I dyed the confetti cake blue … or tried to.

I like to bake from scratch normally, but with all the decorating I had to do and my tight schedule, I went for boxed cake mixes. This was a great chance to try out some boxed cake mix hacks I had read about, and they really helped! I used milk instead of water, melted butter instead of vegetable oil, added one extra egg, and rounded off the butter by a few tablespoons. The cake turned out dense and moist and delicious!

Lesson #1 — Stacking requires the cakes to be level. I had to MacGyver up a solution of hiding caramel squares in the corners under lots of frosting to stop my cake from leaning and sagging because I just stacked them as they were without trimming.

Lesson #2 — Make the fondant the day you make the cake because it is tricky to store and a pain to re-hydrate after it has been stored. When I got ready to use the fondant a few days after I had made it, I basically had to spend 10 minutes on each batch, microwaving for 2-3 second intervals and kneading it back to the original consistency.

Once that was finished, I got my work area prepared:

Parchment paper and cornstarch puff.

Parchment paper and cornstarch puff.

The cornstarch puff is AMAZING. It makes the fondant easier to work with and smooth, and it prevents the fondant from sticking to the rolling pin or board.

Lesson #3 — Having the right utensils is key. All of my knives are serated, and that just doesn’t work well with cutting smooth lines in fondant. It also would have made my life easier to have more cookie cutters in different shapes to help in my design.

So much easier than freehand cutting!

So much easier than freehand cutting!

I did make myself little paper stencils for the many components of the cake design. Even still, it took about four hours to roll out the fondant and cut all 75 pieces.

Each side of the cube had 14 pieces.

Each side of the cube had 14 pieces.

Lesson #4 — Don’t stack fondant when you store it.

After I had slaved over my fondant, I put it up for the night, thinking it was okay to stack them because they seemed dry enough and were dusted with cornstarch. My fatal mistake — forgetting I live in the South. Darn humidity! I had to scrap pretty much all of my white pieces of fondant because they got stuck together. 😦 And many of the thin gray pieces became so brittle that they cracked as I handled them.

If I had planned a little better, I would have had time to roll out more, but sadly I did not. The pieces that did survive looked good, though!

Not bad for my first time writing with icing!

Not bad for my first time writing with icing!

After I iced the cake, it was time to place the fondant!

My Companion/Storage Cube from Portal.

My Companion/Storage Cube from Portal.

I never know when to stop, so I ended up adding black icing to the edges. In hindsight, I think it looks better and more like the Portal cubes without, but it was a good exercise in icing.

Straight lines are hard.

Straight lines are hard.

This cake was a trial, for sure, but I learned SO MUCH, and bottom line — Bryan loved it! 🙂

Happy Birthday, baby!

Happy Birthday, baby!

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Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

Some recipes carry memories better than others. From the taste and smell to all the little steps and directions, this Caramel Apple Chunk Cake recipe reminds me of time spent in the kitchen with my mother — and learning how to make caramel roses.

As I scooted around in my own kitchen this Easter, listening to music and hoping my cake would turn out, I could see the story of this recipe making another loop. This time, it was just me cutting the apples and sifting the flour. I worked alone but confidently through the directions, with no second guessing or uncertainty.

Even so, as I softened the caramels and rolled them out into petals I could see my mother’s hands, beautiful and strong, showing me how to do it that very first time. I felt connected to her and grateful that she had taken the time to make those memories with me, because the most wonderful gift you can give to your children is your time.

I will always have that day and carry that piece of her with me. And it makes my heart so happy to think that in 10 years or so the story will come full circle, and I will be teaching my own daughter (or son) how to make caramel roses.

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ShinyHappyPeebles

Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

Let me begin by saying that this is a decadent and rich cake — a destroyer of diets! However, in my own curvy opinion, it doesn’t hurt to indulge in some homemade goodness once in a while. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 2 and ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 and ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tart apples
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup whipping cream

1) Preheat oven to 350º and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.

2) Peel and cut the apples into ½ inch chunks. You should get about 3 and ½ cups of apples.

3) Generously grease a 12 cup sponge cake pan. Coat with flour, tapping out any excess. I like to use a Bundt pan that I inherited from my grandmother. I love the shape and the weight of it!

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Just think of all the cakes this baby has seen!

4) In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

5) In a separate large bowl, combine the vegetable oil, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until thick and smooth — about 3 minutes.

6) Add orange juice to the large bowl, followed by the sifted dry ingredients. Mix completely.

7) Toss the apples and chopped pecans in 1 tablespoon of flour, then add into the batter.

The batter will be very thick.

The batter will be very thick.

8) Transfer the cake batter to your pan and smooth out the top. Cook about 1 hour. Let cool 5 minutes before glazing.

9) To make the glaze, mix the butter, brown sugar, and whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil – about three minutes. This is honestly the best part of the whole, darn cake!

You could put this stuff on Wonderbread and it would taste like heaven!

You could put this on cardboard and it would taste like heaven!

10) Drizzle the glaze onto cake after it cools, reapplying as it drips down. Best served warm!

Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

The caramel roses are just a garnish, so if you don’t have the time or the patience, the cake will still taste fabulous without them!

Caramel Roses:

I use the individually wrapped Kraft Caramels, the same kind I use to make Caramel Apples at Halloween.

1) Unwrap one caramel and knead it between your fingers and palms until it gets soft. Roll the softened caramel into a small ball.

2) Coat the ball lightly in granulated sugar and use a rolling pin to shape it into a petal. Press the petal in the sugar and set aside. It usually takes 4-5 caramels to make enough petals to create a rose.

3) Jelly roll one petal into a spiral to create the center of your rose. Wrap the other petals around the center, pinching at the bottom to secure them. Adjust and open the petals as needed.

4) Use a knife to cut off the excess at the bottom and create a flat surface for placing the flowers on and/or around the cake.

5) Chill them before adding to the cake — and make sure to add them at the last minute or they will literally wilt!

Caramel Roses

Caramel Roses