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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

the guide to the perfect cake (with easy fondant roses)

One of the first things I learned about my husband was that he loves Red Velvet Cake. I learned this in our first conversation (which lasted six hours) and what I also learned is that Red Velvet Cake is sacred.  It. Is. Sacred. There is no other choice in cake BUT Red Velvet. So, yesterday for our anniversary I wanted to make L. a very special Red Velvet Cake. I wanted this cake to be small, multi-layered and memorable. So I stopped by Dawn's Candy and Cake shop and with help from the owner, Dawn, I learned how to make a cake that literally brought tears to my husband's eyes last night.

With Dawn's help, I bought two small 5" pans called Fat Daddios. I also bought a #18 frosting tip, a small fondant rolling pin and a disposable frosting bag.

Expert Tip #1: Cut out parchment paper for the bottom of the pan and do NOT grease the sides of the pan because cake needs to rise. If the sides are greased then the batter can't cling to the side and rise. Makes sense (and it worked.)

Next, I asked if she had a small bride and groom topper but they were all too overpowering for this cake so she taught me how to make cake roses from fondant icing in literally one minute.

First, take gum paste and roll it out until it is VERY thin. You can then cut this piece into two strips. the next steps are shown in this video of Dawn making the roses.

Once home, I made the cake batter following the Barefoot Contessa recipe (for cupcakes) and divided the batter into the two small pans. (Duncan Hines also makes a really good mix in a pinch) You will cook these pans longer than the traditional cake pans because the cakes are not as wide and they are deep. Watch them carefully. The baking time was about 28 minutes. Use a cake tester to make sure the batter is cooked.

Expert Tip #2: If you're in a rush (as I was yesterday) once the cake pans have been out of the oven to cool for a few minutes (and the pans aren't hot to the touch) place the pans in the freezer to chill while you make the frosting.  Dawn said this will lock in the flavor as well. 

I then followed the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for frosting but doubled the batch. (I would be slicing the one cake into four layers and would need the extra frosting for these layers and the piping around the bottom of the cake.)

Once the cake is cool (1/2 hour), remove from freezer. Run knife around edge of the cake and it will easily slide out. Remove parchment paper from bottom of cake. Set aside one cake. You will only be using one cake. (You can easily freeze the other cake.)

Slice cake into four layers. (This was much easier than I expected it would be. Use a long knife and place the palm of you hand on top of the cake to give it some pressure while you slice. Go slow.)

Place bottom layer on the plate/platter you will be using to serve. (You are not going to be able to move the cake once you start frosting.)

Begin by adding frosting to the first layer then add the second layer. Frost. Add the third layer, frost and add the top layer. 

Expert Tip #3: If your cake is domed, to get professional looking results, slice off the rise on the top so the top of the cake is flat.  (It makes for a nice chef or kid'streat!)

Begin frosting sides of the cake. Frost the top last.

Expert tip #4: If you get cake crumbs in your frosting, it can seem impossible to fix. Just pop the cake in the fridge for a few minutes to harden just a little. It will be easier to then add another thin layer of frosting on the top of the crumb laden frosting.

Clip the tip of the pastry bag and insert frosting tip to add decorative piping. You really can't go wrong here. Just go slow, apply even pressure to the pastry bag and it will look wonderful.

Add flowers to top.

Expert tip #5: Make your cake really stand out by adding height. If you don't have a cake stand, stack five or so books and throw a white cloth napkin over it to show off your handiwork!

Easy, pretty and memorable!

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