As I mentioned in my previous post, my boyfriend's last name is Cowe and I couldn't resist the opportunity to make a cow themed cake for his birthday! Here it is in all its glory:
I wanted to make a two-tier cake which I had never done before, and I decided to make two different cakes for each tier - though both had to be chocolate! I flicked through my recipe books and decided on Green & Black's Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Cake and the Hummingbird Bakery's Brooklyn Blackout Cake.
I'm not going to post the entire recipes here although they are available online: this is the Green & Black's Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Cake on the blog of Natalie Seldon, who created the recipe for the book.
Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking power, bicarb of soda and a pinch of salt then add ground almonds. Melt chocolate.
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and vanilla extract
Add melted chocolate and buttermilk. I can't usually get hold of buttermilk so just use milk with a squeeze of lemon juice but this time I did manage to find buttermilk.
Fold in with the flour mixture
I have a temperamental oven that always cooks too fast and I found that the top of the cake was burning while the middle was still uncooked - grrr. So I covered the top of the cake tin with foil and put it back in for a bit longer.
Then I moved on to making the Brooklyn Blackout Cake, though I forgot to take any photos of the process. It's a reasonably straightforward cake recipe with cocoa powder for the chocolate flavouring. The most elaborate part of the recipe is the chocolate custard that is used as the frosting, but I decided not to make this as I thought it would probably be too runny.
I bought a set of three cake tins on Amazon that decrease in size, so I used the smallest for the Brooklyn Blackout cake and the medium-sized tin for the Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Cake.
This is the first cake when it came out of the oven and turned upside down
And half of the smaller cake on top. I had read a lot online about how to make a tiered cake, including using dowells and a cardboard circle under the top cake, but I decided the top cake wouldn't be too heavy, and the bottom cake was sufficiently robust, that I could bother without any of that and just place one cake on top of the other.
For the chocolate frosting I decided to use the chocolate heart that my boyfriend and I received as part of our Valentine's package at the Chocolate Hotel as we hadn't eaten it and I thought it would be nice to incorporate into his birthday cake.
I also got to try out my cake wire which you use to cut a cake neatly through the middle, or slice off the top if it's uneven. You adjust the wire so it is at the same height on both sides (there are notches so you can see easily) and then you pull it through the cake, slicing it neatly in half.
I decided to use partly a standard chocolate buttercream with cocoa power and also to make a second type of filling with the melted chocolate, butter and icing sugar.
I spread buttercream over the bottom layer of the chocolate fudge cake and was pleased that it was quite thick and stiff, so wouldn't ooze out with the weight of the other cakes on top
It looked quite neat with the top half of the cake placed on top!
Then I started on the top tier. I spread a layer of the second type of chocolate frosting on top of the base cake, and placed half the Brooklyn Blackout cake on top
In the meantime while I was waiting for the last cake to cool, I covered a cake board in fondant
Then finally placed the last piece of cake on top, with plenty more frosting. You can never have too much frosting!
I then spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the sides, so the roll-out fondant would stick.I also placed it on the cake board but covered the board with foil around the edges of the cake, so when I spread the frosting it wouldn't go onto the board. I then removed the bits of foil so the cake board was clean.
I decided to cover the whole thing in fondant, and realised afterwards I probably should have covered both cakes separately and then place one on top of the other. I found it quite hard to judge how much fondant I would need to cover two cakes and go in over the 'step' of the bottom cake. As you can see from the picture below, the piece of fondant wasn't quite big enough and split slightly on the top.
Luckily this didn't really matter as the plan was to make a cow print cake with patches of black fondant, and I realised I could strategically place the black patches wherever I had some gaps or tears in the white fondant that needed covering.
The crowning glory of the cake was something that unfortunately I have to admit I didn't make myself. I bought a Livingsocial voucher for a class in making edible ornaments for cake decoration, and signed up to the class in March - there was only one a month and my boyfriend's birthday is April 1st. Unfortunately a couple of weeks beforehand, the March was cancelled, and I was told the next available date was April 16th. I emailed the Cake Embassy, and asked for a refund as I said there was no longer any point doing the course as I only wanted it for my boyfriend's birthday cake and the next available date was after his birthday. They said that because I had already paid through Livingsocial, and they were offering alternative dates for the cancelled class, they couldn't give me a refund, but they were willing to make me one ornament of my choice free of charge, and I could also do the class at a later date. That was a very generous offer and seemed a pretty good solution, even though I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't get to make the cake topper myself.
So one night after work I stopped off in Clapham and picked this up from the lovely Timi. Isn't he cute?
I simply sat him on top of my cake
I also made a couple of butterflies out of Mexican paste that I had made for my last cake decorating class and coloured pink. I had an embossed butterfly plunger cutter that made these very simple to make, and I thought the cow could use some friends.
The finished cake - it looks a little rough and ready, but I was really pleased with it!
The cow surrounded by birthday candles - though there weren't room for 35!
It looked pretty good when it was sliced through both tiers
Mmmm... probably one of the best cakes I've made! Happy birthday Ian xxx