Friends, I am delighted today to welcome my friend Vanessa back to the blog to share something truly AWESOME she created last weekend. You may remember her from her Pina Colada cupcakes…now get ready to see her skills at work again in a major way!
Hello again, artsy friends! I’m taking over Amy’s blog today to talk cake. I will warn you in advance, you may want to put on your eatin’ dress, because this 4 layer beast does not understand the meaning of, “I just want a small slice, please.” Let’s dig in, shall we?
So, The LEGO Movie is pretty huge right now. Naturally, my son wanted his 7th birthday party to be all things The LEGO Movie. Unfortunately, there are no party supplies yet to go with this theme. I was gonna have to be sure we really tied all our LEGO hodgepodge decorations together with a great cake centerpiece. (Side note, if you do this theme, remember the entire movie is a hodgepodge of LEGO themes, so scraping together what you can find, and pulling out your own creations fits in just fine. Don’t let the lack of specific plates and napkins keep you from throwing an AWESOME party.) My son left very little up to me, as far as deciding what the design for the cake should be. He specifically requested an Emmet LEGO head cake. We also decided to have cupcakes, to be sure there was enough cake for everyone, and to have a chocolate vs. vanilla choice for our guests. Now, to pull this all off…
I will admit right here, that with everything involved with getting ready for the party (cleaning, decorating, food prep, making the main cake, and making 48 cupcakes), I was all about cutting corners. I chose to use a box cake mix for the chocolate cake layers of the Emmet head cake. I knew I was making the cupcakes from scratch, and all the buttercream, and I was going to wrestle with the fondant, so this was my little “cheat”. I used the Betty Crocker gluten free devil’s food cake mix. It was the cake mix I first used when we went gluten free, and I wasn’t ready to figure out GF baking yet. It is very delicious. You can choose to use whatever cake recipe or mix you want for the layers. Just be sure to have enough on hand to make 4, 8 inch round cakes.
This project will take hours. I blocked off the entire day to make this cake. Now, remember I did make cupcakes, too. Also remember, I have made several cakes like this before and have picked up speed. I still needed a ton of time.
To get started, preheat your oven and prepare your batter based on your particular recipe, or the instructions on the box. You will need to prepare your cake pan by greasing (I used Crisco) the pan and “flouring” it. I cannot use flour, obviously, but a great gluten free fix for this problem is corn starch! Do NOT skip this step or the cake will not release from the pan!
Bake 4, 8 inch rounds. Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes then remove them and let cool on a wire rack.
Prepare your buttercream while the cakes are cooling. I make my buttercream slightly different each time. I adjust the ingredients based on what I want from the frosting. In this case, I wanted pure white icing that was going to spread easily but hold up for decorating. (I was making the buttercream for the cupcakes at the same time, hence the need for it to be bright white to help produce true, vivid colors.)
(This is a double recipe, so cut everything in half if you just need a little. This cake needs a lot.)
2 lbs of confectioner’s sugar
2 cups of vegetable shortening
5 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of butter flavor
4-6 Tablespoons of milk
Clear Karo syrup, as needed, for thinning the icing to your preferred consistency
*Alternate suggestions: You can do half shortening and half butter, omitting the additional butter flavor. It will not be as white, and it can get extra soft on you, but it’s so yummy. Also, adjust the vanilla based on what flavor YOU want. Use clear for a true white icing. If that doesn’t matter, use real vanilla extract. The Vanilla Karo syrup is used to help get the consistency that you want, after all ingredients have been mixed together. Just add a tablespoon at a time, until you get it to where you want it. I add some when I have put the icing in the fridge, and need to rewhip it, too. You may not need to add any.
*Helpful tip: For total deliciousness, use whole milk.
Cream the shortening together with the vanilla and butter flavor. Then, start adding the sugar 1 cup at a time. Run the mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes between each addition. This really helps achieve a good, smooth consistency. After all the sugar is mixed in, add 4 Tbs of milk, and mix until it is incorporated well. If you want to add a little extra, you can add another 1 or 2 Tbs of milk, but you don’t want the icing to be too thin. You can always use Karo syrup to adjust the spreadability as well. I think I just made that word up. You’re welcome.
Now, since we are on the topic of frosting, let’s talk fondant. My favorite fondant is Fondx. It’s very delicious, and I never have to mess with trying to flavor it to make it better than it already is. It’s also “user friendly” and very nice to work with. I purchase it in 10 lb buckets. It’s important to keep it sealed up tightly. I always color my fondant ahead of time.
For coloring fondant, you will need:
Food safe gloves
And a ton of elbow grease
I used “golden yellow”, “brown”, “red red”, and “black”, to get all the colors I would need to make Emmet out of cake and icing. Decide on the amount of fondant you will need for each color (you can find guides for how much fondant you need to cover a cake easily with a simple google search). I used almost 4 lbs for the yellow. I always make a little more than I think I will need, because if you have to make more later, the color will NEVER be the same. Then, I did nearly 3 lbs of brown, and eyeballed the black and red, since those I only needed a little bit of for the face. I kept a small amount of white handy for the teeth and eyes too. Next you will want to lay down the wax paper and get to kneading the fondant like dough.
Get it softened a bit, add the color a bit at a time, and knead it in until the color is consistent all the way through the fondant. You’ll want to work quickly, and as soon as you are done, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Then, I even put it in a Ziploc bag, and finally seal it in an airtight container. Keep it in a cool, dark place. I colored my fondant the day before this time, but I have started coloring fondant up to 5 days in advance. It’s whatever works for you.
Now that you have your 4 cake layers (which you have patiently waited to cool, otherwise the icing will melt off), your buttercream, and your fondant all ready, you are ready to assemble the cake!
First, you’ll have to level 3 out of 4 of your round cake layers. I just use a large knife and a steady hand. You want to cut off that rounded top that forms when it is baking. Be sure to leave one intact, as you will need a nice dome for the shape of the head.
After you have your cakes leveled, prepare a cake board. I cut a round cake board to fit the exact size of my cake, and a piece of wax paper to go over top of it. I stuck tape between the two, just to keep it all together. Then, I started stacking the layers. Choose your bottom layer, and place it (cut side down) onto the cake board. Spread frosting on the top. I let it leak over the sides a bit, to help make things easy when it’s time to ice the sides. Then, place another layer (cut side down), on top. Repeat these steps until you place the 4th cake layer on top, domed side up. Cut 2 wooden dowels to fit down through the entire cake, but not poke out of the top. Push them down into the cake, to hold the layers together. You can use 4 dowels even. I only had 2. It worked out fine. Now, cover the entire cake with buttercream. Do not worry too much about crumbs in the icing, in this case. You will not see it. It’s just to adhere the fondant to the cake. So, do be sure to be smooth about it. It doesn’t have to be flawless, but you don’t want to glob it on there. You don’t need a blobby LEGO head. That is almost never attractive.
Now, get out your roller, and a clean surface dusted with a little confectioner’s sugar… or what I prefer is to roll my fondant out in “The Mat”. You can get yours at sweetwise.com, if you plan on rolling fondant from time to time. It makes life SO much easier. They even have a tutorial on how to roll it out, right on their website. Roll your fondant out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Too thin, and it will tear. Too thick, and it’s just too much and not so yummy. I rolled mine out to about the entire size of the mat, and by about, I mean totally. Like 24 inches. The mat also makes it easy to position over the cake, and let the fondant slowly roll down off the mat. See their tutorial for a good example of this. Otherwise, you have to try to lift the fondant yourself, center it, and lay it over the cake.
Center, and apply your fondant. Once the fondant is over the cake, I start smoothing it downward with my hand. I also use a smoothing tool. I cut off the excess with a fondant cutting tool, like a pizza cutter, and tuck in the slight edge so everything looks smooth.
Next, start rolling out about half of the brown fondant. I rolled it to the shape I wanted the hair to be, and left just enough to cover half of the top of the cake, to hold it on, even though I knew I was going to put strips of brown over it, anyway. I smoothed that down into place, and did the same cutting with the cutter, and tucking in of the edge as I did with the yellow. Next, I rolled out enough to make the “sideburns”, and put them in place. Then, I rolled out more, and cut strips to place on the top, to give texture to the hair. Lastly, I finished off with the 2 pieces to form the hair in the very front, over his “forehead”. If you need to, you can brush some water onto the fondant to help it stick. I didn’t need to, but you might run into that.
Next, it was time to create that happy Emmet face. I did get a little bowl of water, and a brush to paint on water, to help the fondant stick to itself. I rolled out the black, and used small biscuit cutters to cut out the round eyes. I brushed a very small amount of water onto the back of them, and placed them on his face. I held each one in place for a few seconds, and ta-da! He has eyes! I then freehand cut out the shape of his mouth, in black, and then moved it to a piece of wax paper. Then, I shaped some red fondant into his tongue, and rolled out some white and cut the shape of his teeth. I brushed some water onto the backs of those and put them in place on his mouth. Then I brushed the back of the mouth with water and placed it on the face. I cut 2 small circles out of the rolled out white (I used a frosting tip to get that size circle), bushed them with water, and placed them onto the eyes.
*Remember, not so much water that it runs. It will run colors down your fondant! And hold the pieces in place for a few seconds, because no one wants an eye to slide down his face. It will leave a black streak behind it, too. It won’t be pretty.
Now, your cake is done. It also weighs about as much as a hippopotamus. Keep this in mind. I knew it would need a lot of support, so I had my husband help me slide the cake from my decorating stand, onto a much thicker round base, and then onto a wooden base he had made me for my cakes, that I had wrapped in LEGO wrapping paper. To finish it all off, I placed little candy blox around the cake, instead of piping a border.
The birthday boy loved it!
We topped it off with some LEGO inspired candles, and a sparkler shaped like the number 7, and he made a wish.
But really, what more could we wish for than to have the most AWESOME party, with the most AWESOME friends, ever? Everything is awesome!