See the lady to my right/on the left side of the picture? That’s Tanya.
She’s one of those girls that you want to hate because she’s way classier/prettier/more put together than you, but you just can’t because she’s so darned sweet.
Seriously though, her classiness intimidates me.
While I barely know what I’m doing in photography (hellooo straight up copying the setups of my favourite food bloggers without understanding it!) Tanya’s camera is epic and her post-processing skills make my head spin. Her flickr makes my photos look like Sears Family Portrait Studio. She took and edited all the photos in this post! There’s a photo of fondant gears below that I can’t stop staring at. For serious.
Oh, also, in her spare time she’s a ballerina.
While she’s perfecting her pas de basque, I’m looking up ballet terms like “pas de basque” to include in a blog post.
But with the being sweet, when she asks where to find a great bakery that sells specialty cakes for her boyfriend, Gerry, and his 30th birthday, you come up with a crazy idea.
WE will make this cake.
This idea is in fact crazy. Very crazy. Yes, I bake all the time, but my idea of decorating usually consists of “Mmm… I love frosting, let’s have more of that. Everywhere.” Not so much fancy piping or fondant for a “specialty cake”. In fact I have never used fondant before.
So I, of course, decided this is what we’d use for Gerry’s cake. Not only use it, but make it. Because who wants to eat plasticy store-bought fondant?
Don’t believe that I’ve never used fondant before? Check out that cake cover job. Lump city. All the layers, clear as daylight. Nice. My smile hides the stress. Luckily we had additional fondant plans to hide the lumpiness.
But before that, we had big plans for the top. The “crown” of the cake if you will.
See, Gerry and I originally bonded over our common obsession with anything nerdy/geeky. Video games, super heroes, sci-fi and fantasy, many discussion were had on all these topics. I met Tanya through him and while not as nerdy as the two of us, she understood her nerd and wanted to celebrate that side of him.
Gerry is a big Transformers fan.
So a fondant transformers logo (Autobots to be exact) was in order. Pro-tip for fondant first-timers? If you want to do something unique that doesn’t come in a cookie-cutter shape, print out your symbol ahead of time on paper, cut it out with an exacto knife and use the cutout pieces as templates for the fondant. Planning out the image directly on the fondant is way too intimidating for me. Also, images/logos that are all straight lines are a GODSEND and play super nicely with an exacto knife.
Okay dudes and dudettes, my favourite picture of any baked good I’ve been involved with ever is about to hit your screens…
Check out that depth of field.
And it even tells the story well. We made fondant gears using round biscuit cutters of different sizes and then cut out little notches using exacto knives.
Serious photo skills. This is my jealous face.
And this is another favourite part of mine, the part where I hide the lumpies. Hooray!
We even get to hide an unevenly trimmed bottom with edible gold beads. You can get candy to stick to fondant with a tiny daub of piping gel. No sweat. Hiding your flaws is way easier than not having them.
And TA-DA! My very first fondant decorated cake. Not too shabby if I do say so myself, lumps and all. Was it too pretty to eat? Nah, the fondant tasted like marshmallows and there was a friggin’ four-layer Nutella cake inside. FOUR-LAYER NUTELLA CAKE. Did I mention that was the other way Gerry and I bonded? A common love for Nutella! The cake was heartily and quickly consumed, and thus I have no photos of its sweet innards. Although I’m not sure you’d want to see it anyway when I call it “sweet innards”.
Additional note to all, I’m going to Japan with a couple girlfriends starting this weekend for two weeks! This means no new posts for the next two weeks, but hopefully this epic cake tides you over until then.
I’ll miss you, but I promise to come back!
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 (16 ounce) package miniature marshmallows
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, divided
- gel food colouring (optional) (I use Wilton)
- corn starch (optional)
- Place the butter in a shallow bowl, and set aside.
- Place the marshmallows in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on High for 30 seconds to 1 minute to start melting the marshmallows. Carefully stir the water and vanilla extract into the hot marshmallows, and stir until the mixture is smooth. (If only making one colour of fondant, now is a good time to add your food colouring.) Empty out melted marshmallow mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, a cup at a time, until a sticky dough begins to form. Reserve 1 cup of powdered sugar for kneading. The dough will be very stiff.
- Rub your hands thoroughly with butter, and begin kneading the sticky dough. As you knead, the dough will become workable and pliable. Turn the dough out onto a working surface generously dusted with confectioners’ sugar and continue kneading the remaining confectioners sugar into the fondant until the fondant is smooth and no longer sticky to the touch, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Form the fondant into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. To use, allow the fondant to come to room temperature, and then knead it until it becomes more pliable. If sticky, knead in small amounts of corn starch. (If making multiple colours of fondant, now is a good time to separate out your fondant into portions and knead the gel colouring into the fondant. Make sure to use gloves!)
- Roll fondant out onto a flat surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar until approx. 1/8-1/4 inch in width.
Nutella Layer Cake
Adapted from Woman’s Day
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread; buy two 13-oz jars in total)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico hazelnut liqueur (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Nutella
- Frosting Prep: Put chocolate in a medium heat-safe bowl. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat, just until bubbling. Pour over chocolate; let stand 5 minutes. Stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.
- Cake: Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9 x 2-in. round cake pans and line bottoms with circles of parchment. Grease the parchment and the flour the pans and parchment. (two 8×3-in round cake pans also work for a taller cake.)
- Whisk cocoa powder and water in a medium bowl, then add Nutella, buttermilk, Frangelico and vanilla, whisking until smooth.
- Beat sugar, butter, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl with mixer on medium-high speed for 3 minutes or until pale.
- Beat in eggs 1 at a time. On low speed beat in flour in 3 additions alternating with cocoa mixture in 2 additions, beating just until blended. Pour into prepared pans.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes in preheated oven until a pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of each layer; turn out on rack, remove parchment and cool completely.
- Trim any doming on top of the cakes to make two flat, even layers. Eat cake trimmings or save for another application. Cut each layer evenly in half with a long serrated knife.
- Frosting: Beat cold chocolate mixture on medium speed until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted. Put Nutella into a bowl; stir in 1 1/2 cups chocolate mixture until smooth to lighten it. Fold into remaining chocolate mixture until combined.
- Assembly: Place 1 cake layer on serving plate; spread with approx. 1 cup frosting. Top with second layer and another cup of frosting. Repeat with third layer and more frosting. Top with last cake layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting over top and sides; refrigerate 15 minutes to firm. If not using fondant, spread top and sides with remaining frosting. If using fondant, cover the cake with a thin sheet of rolled fondant and save remaining frosting for eating later. Perhaps with the cake scraps, in a bowl. Or something.
- Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Can be stored and refrigerated for up to three days.
Cooled cake layers wrapped in plastic wrap and frosting stored in an air tight container can be made up to two days ahead.