Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Twilight cake

Shortly after Zeena's cake, Mac proposed another exciting project for me -- his wife Sonia's birthday cake! This time, he made an interesting suggestion for the cake design. With Sonia's love of reading books and especially the Twilight saga, the idea was to make a rectangular cake that looks like a book with one page from a Twilight book and the opposite page displaying a birthday message. This sounded like a brilliant idea except what makes a rectangular cake look like a book and what makes a page look like one from a Twilight book? Having seen the movies, I had a vague idea of the different characters and the general story, but I was completely lost on what makes something Twilight-y. And this is where Google image search came in handy of course.

So I found images of a luscious looking red apple, red and white flower petals, red flow-y ribbon and lastly, red and white chess pieces on a chess board. I was trying to think of the different ways to make these items edible decorations for the cake. I could use marshmallow fondant like I used for my Google cake and color it red, but decided against it since I wasn't quite confident with my skills in working with fondant yet. And instead, I used my favorite moldable medium Crayola Model Magic to make the flower petals and the chess pieces and colored them red. If you've never used this clay before, do yourself a favor and try it the next time you need to mold something! It has this funky texture like marshmallow, very easy to work with, super light in weight and dries beautifully.

The Twilight cake is composed of chocolate chiffon cake layers made with just the right amount of chocolate resulting in a light textured cake that's not too rich or too chocolate-y. This was to not overpower the delicate, subtle vanilla mousse and fresh strawberries layered between the cakes. Because Mac and Zeena enjoyed the strawberry chiffon cake so much, I wanted to make this cake similar but with chocolate incorporated into it since Sonia loves Cadbury chocolate. The cake was then frosted and decorated with white chocolate frosting.

I also wanted to somehow incorporate the chocolate in a creative way rather than just including them in the cake layers. So the Cadbury chocolate bar cut into little rectangular pieces was used to make the chess board on top.

Oh by the way, I learned something new about Cadbury chocolate! Mac informed me that Cadbury chocolates manufactured in the US tastes differently from the ones made in UK! And Sonia favors the UK ones and they can be purchased at Cost Plus World Market for those curious ones out there. I would think that the chocolate recipe is unified across all the different Cadbury factories so the difference in taste must come from the subtle differences in the ingredients - their origins, taste, quality... etc. Interesting.

Anyhow, the cake was topped with a tiny little plastic apple, the chess pieces and flower petals I made out of clay, and a piece of red ribbon. Last but not least, I dug around the web some more and found this famous love quote from Twilight that any Twi-hard fan would instantly recognize along with a birthday message. I was happy that Mac immediately got it when he saw the cake!

So you might have noticed by now that the cake actually ended up not looking like a book. I realized after I had baked the cake and assembled it that the top surface was just not large enough for me to make it look like an open book and do all the things I wanted. I didn't want to waste the precious real estate on top to split in half to look like two separate pages. So I just decided to give up on the book idea.

Nonetheless, I was very pleased with how the cake turned out and even happier to hear from Mac that Sonia and others enjoyed it. Thanks Mac and I am looking forward to more interesting projects from you in the future :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Message-in-a-Bottle Vanilla Strawberry Chiffon Cake

This cake is one of my favorite cakes to date for two reasons. I recently just fell in love with chiffon cakes because they are fluffy and not too rich and they can be eaten straight out of the refrigerator. This is unlike butter based cakes that are required to come to room temperature for the best taste and texture. Chiffon cakes use oil instead of butter and is lightened by folding in beaten egg whites which result in light, airy texture. Did you know that the chiffon cake recipe was first revealed to the public by Betty Crocker in 1984? This was nearly 20 years after the recipe was first developed by some caterer and kept it a secret!

Anyhow, so I love chiffon cakes and this cake uses them. The other reason why this cake is dear to my heart is the birthday girl's reaction to the cake and how much she enjoyed it.

When my roommate Erin's coworker, Mac asked for a cake for his sister's birthday, none of us knew what kind of cake was in order. Erin and I scrambled to get as much information as possible about Zeena through Mac and also her friend. Zeena loves poems and she's a wonderful poet herself. One of her favorite poets is Sylvia Plath. She loves music and often writes reviews of up and coming bands. And she likes strawberries.

I thought about putting some musical notes on the cake - veto. Not interesting enough. I also thought of maybe I can try to write out a short poem on the cake - nope. Not enough space on the cake. Maybe write her a cute, birthday rhyme? Er, I'm not very poetic. After churning through a number of ideas, I finally decided on doing a message in a bottle theme. The idea was to print out a poem by Sylvia Plath, roll it up and put it in a little bottle to be put on top of the cake.

But all this was assuming that Michael's would carry little tiny glass bottles with cute cork bottle caps that I had pictured in my mind. Of course, all I could find was a bottle that was roughly the size of a soda can that clearly had no place whatsoever on top of a cake. After running around the different aisles at Michael's, I found these little plastic tubes full of tiny colorful beads that I ended up using in place of a glass bottle and a cork bottle cap that I then glued on the white plastic cap of the plastic tubes. With a final touch of a piece of ribbon, the "glass bottle" started looking pretty convincing.

I don't know why I picked that poem and I don't know much about poems to begin with but for some reason, I picked Sylvia Plath's Mad Girl's Love Song. I printed the poem out on a lightly pink hued paper, rolled it up and tied it up with a ribbon and placed it in the bottle with a little bit of the colorful beads.

This cake is composed of three layers. The cake itself as I mentioned before is a vanilla chiffon cake moistened with strawberry puree. Between the layers are generous amounts of fresh strawberry slices and light mousse infused with vanilla beans, providing the perfect "strawberries and cream" combination, but not overly rich or sweet.

Finally, the cake was covered in white chocolate frosting to add another layer of flavor that complements the fresh strawberries. It was adorned with more fresh strawberries, dark chocolate covered malt balls, and of course the message in a bottle.

I was absolutely thrilled to find out that Mad Girl's Love Song actually happened to be Zeena favorite poem and that she was deeply touched by it! I feel so blessed that I get to play a part in making someone feel special on his/her birthday by doing what I love.