Those of you who follow this blog may know that I make a new cake every week and eat it with my neighbors on Fridays, the night of our weekly barbecue. Since we rotate who hosts the barbecue each week, I like to try to keep it simple when everyone will be coming here.
This is because decorating takes a long time and it often looks like a hurricane spun its way through my kitchen. When you couple that with the fact that I still have to clean the rest of my house and/or prepare any other dishes I intend to make, the whole process takes hours!
That said, I have figured out some shortcuts along the way. For example, I don’t have to make all of my icing at once, I can make enough to fill the cake and then make the rest the next day when I want to ice the outside. It’s really all about ratios. I keep saying that!
My one regret with this cake is that up until that morning I couldn’t decide if I wanted to ice it in ganache or American buttercream. I chose ganache. But since I’d decided so late it meant that I had to make it and attempt to cool it in the refrigerator. Ideally, you want to make it several hours in advance and allow it to thicken up on your counter top. That way you get a nice, smooth, even consistency that is easily spreadable.
But the fridge—not so much. The fridge seems to be great in a pinch, but the ganache won’t cool evenly. The outside hardens while the inside remains the consistency of chocolate syrup. I learned a long time ago that if you want to do it this way you need to stir it every few minutes so that the temperature remains even throughout the ganache. If you forget to stir, good luck!
You can tell in my photographs that my cake has some texture issues. I didn’t forget to stir, but I do think I made some other poor choices in my effort to rush things. For one, I deviated from the 2:1 ratio I usually use for chocolate ganache, opting for 3:1 instead (3 parts chocolate to one part cream). I thought that this would help the ganache to set faster. Second, the ganache wasn’t cooling fast enough for me in the fridge so I alternated between fridge and freezer. Did I mention I was in a hurry? Not very smart, no.
The moral of the story is, prepare your ganache hours in advance and let it thicken on its own, unless you don’t mind this rustic look or you’ll just be covering it with fondant anyway.
Rustic. Yeah, Okay.
I’ve actually grown to hate the word rustic in the cake decorating world, especially when it’s used the way I just used it above: “Yeah, my icing looks pretty shitty, let’s just call it rustic.” No, Amanda, do not kid yourself. You were not aiming for rustic. You were aiming for a smooth, seamless look that you ruined with your rushing!
Another one I can’t stand is “homemade.” I recently watched a popular Youtuber (who claims to be a pastry chef) do a very sloppy job of putting fondant on a cake. It looked very lumpy with folds and creases all along the bottom. She didn’t say it, but I suspect it was her first time working with fondant. Not a big deal! But when some more experienced cake decorators gave suggestions on how to better smooth it out next time, she claimed she was going for a “homemade” look that her viewers would have the confidence to try at home. And it actually worked! There were people thanking her for doing such a shitty job. lol. It blew my mind. Rather than admit that she didn’t know what she was doing, she insulted her audience by implying they aren’t capable of making a nice cake and then linked “shitty looking cake” with the word “homemade” to try and make up for it. And people loved it! Crazy.
I definitely think I made up for my ganache snafu with my choice in accents: gorgeous deep pink carnations and some chocolate dipped Oreos.
The cookies are dipped in some white chocolate ganache I made using the 3:1 ratio plus a little bit of shortening. After dipping I let them harden in the fridge, which took just a few minutes. I was aiming for a moon shape while dipping, but this was a bit difficult to do because of detailing on the cookie itself. The curve isn’t quite as smooth as I would have liked, but hey, let’s just call it rustic.
To create the fan illusion with the cookies I simply stuck toothpicks in them and arranged them on the cake at varying heights.
Then, to finish the whole thing off I simply brushed on some gold leaf, including a bit on the flowers themselves. Looking back, I wish I would have added even more—perhaps radiating out from the flowers and going all the way down the cake.
That is the great thing about cake decorating. You learn things along the way and inspire yourself to do better. Being a home baker doesn’t mean you have to sell yourself short. Learn from your mistakes rather than make excuses for them, and never let some fraud on Youtube make you feel inadequate!
The cake was delicious, by the way. 🙂
Until next time! <3