Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Joe!

Today is my husband Joe's 35th birthday. It's hard to believe that I'm married to someone that old!
I had asked him what he wanted me to do for his birthday cake a couple weeks ago. He said that he'd like it to be golf themed. He also requested german chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting, but I already knew that was his favorite flavor, so I had those items stockpiled a while. The frosting was free (I love double coupons!) and the mix was an ok sale price.

So I brainstormed for a while and decided that I wanted to use the Wilton Sports Ball Pan. I wanted a design that would permit part of the cake to go with him to work yet still leave some at home for the family. I toyed with the idea of a golf ball stuck in the rough as well as one on the fairway. The "rough" version would include one-half of the sports ball sitting on top of a square or round cake with grass icing to give the impression that the ball was buried in the rough. The "fairway" version was pretty much the same thing except there would have been the whole ball resting on shorter grass. My sister said the "fairway" cake would be more impressive with its 3D ball, so I was leaning that direction. Either way the cake would be destroyed if I tried to take the sections apart, so that he could take some to work and leave the rest at home. I just didn't like that idea.

Then a couple days ago while lying in bed, I got the idea to do cupcakes. It solved my separation issue, but posed a new one. How would I incorporate the coconut-pecan frosting in a cupcake that would be iced with buttercream? I knew I would fill the space between the two ball halves with the coconut-precan frosting, but I had never tried filling cupcakes before. No time like the present, right?

Wilton sells a cupcake decorating kit that includes a Tip #230, which is a long round tip that can be inserted into a cupcake or other baked goodie to be filled. I really want this tip, but I haven't seen it sold separately and I already have or don't want the other items sold in the kit. I would have to make do with what I already own. I decided to use the largest round tip I own, a #12. I filled the bag with frosting and inserted the tip into the cupcake and squeezed. It worked rather well other than the clogging pecans. Note to self: if you add nuts to a piping bag, make sure to chop them smaller than the opening in the tip.

After filling the cupcakes, I covered them with green grass and placed one buttercream golf ball on each. Ordinarily I would have smooth-iced the cupcake first and then used the grass tip #233, but I like the brown cake peeking through. It makes it kinda look like dirt and grass.

One day when Joe wasn't around, I pulled a golf ball out of his golf bag to use as a model for his cake. It happened to be a Nike One Platinum that he found while out golfing one day. I changed a couple details to emphasize that this is his 35th birthday. Can you guess which ones?

The dimples were tedious, but relatively simple to make. I smooth-iced the cake first and let the icing crust over a bit. Then I used the ball end of a ball and veining tool to carefully make the impressions. I used cornstarch to keep the tool from sticking and pulling away too much icing.

This was my first experience with a three-dimensional cake. It was a little scary and not without its mistakes. I have definitely learned some things from this cake:

1. DO NOT listen to the Wilton directions concerning the quantity of cake batter, baking time and baking temperature when using Betty Crocker (maybe other brands too) cake mixes. I used one mix and it made two ball halves as well as 4 cupcakes. The balls baked at 350 for about 44 minutes. After cooling and settling, that seemed about perfect.

2. DO use a firm textured cake to ensure that the assembled cake will hold up. Wilton suggests using only 1 T of oil per cake mix.

3. DO ice the cake on its final cake board. It is impossible to move it without digging your fingers into the icing when you only have a small board supporting the cake.

4. DO make sure the bottom hemisphere is perfectly level before filling. Shave more cake off the base if necessary.

5. DO dowel the cake as an insurance policy, but cut it a tad short so that it won't show through if the cake continues to settle after icing or in transport.

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