filling covered in handpainted vanilla marshmallow fondant
and decorated with a sugar pointsettis and fondant mushrooms. All edible.
One of the great things about being a cake artist is when the holidays hit you get to make a great cake just for you and your family. The only time schedule you have to follow is your own and the only artistic input needed is your own imagination. This week's cake is the one I made for our own huge family Christmas dinner.
When deciding what to make I took into account the other holiday cakes on the books and suddenly knew I wanted to do a very different type of cake for our holiday celebrations this year. A Buche Noel, or Yule Log, Cake is usually a rolled sponge cake that is covered with chocolate buttercream icing that is scraped to look like a wood finish. The mushrooms are usually white to stand out against the chocolate coloring of the log and they are usually made out of meringue. Well my son is not a fan of chocolate and my youngest daughter is 6 mos pregnant and chocolate is just not part of her palate choices right now so I wanted to make something very vanilla for my kids. And, yes, if my other daughter had been here this year she would have appreciated the anti chocolate theme as well. Go figure, eh? LOL. So while the usual choice for a yule log cake is chocolate buttercream I chose vanilla fondant instead. So my thought was to make it look like a white birch log which is one of my favorite trees. Then, having just seen The Nutcracker this year, I thought why not make the mushrooms the red capped variety so they would stand out against the white fondant as well as represent a favorite thing to do with my kids during the holidays, which is see The Nutcracker. (For those who have never seen this ballet, there is a certain part where lots of red capped mushroom children fill the stage).
The work began weeks ago when I made sugar pointsettias for a client cake. I made an extra one just for us to use on whatever cake I decided upon. Then a week ago I formed the mushroom caps and stems and set them aside to dry. They need to be totally dry before painting. Getting a bright red is not easy to do so I handpainted the caps with several coats of red gell color mixed with vodka. This took a few days to get the depth of color I wanted. Everything else with the cake has to be done last minute so I could get the fresh taste and texture I wanted for the final result. Now the secret of the week comes with the cake. I bake all of my cakes a few days before I need to decorate them then I wrap them well and freeze them. After I take them out of the freezer, unwrap them and fill them with whatever filling I am using I then "crumbcoat" them with buttercream and let them thaw out for several hours before the final coat of buttercream or fondant goes on. The freezing captures the moisture inside the cake making for a wonderful moist cake when you finally do cut into it. The crumbcoat seals in that moisture as well. Once the cake comes out of the freezer it doesn't go back into it or the fridge for more than a few minutes to set up icing coatings, nothing more. The fridge will actually dry out your cakes! So there's your tip of the week...just make sure to wrap the cake well. My wrap of choice is Press and Seal. LOVE it!
For this cake it was just a matter of looking at what a real white birch tree looks like and try to copy the look of the bark on the cake. And I have to say that once you get to the finishing touches like piping the "grass" then setting the mushrooms into place, it all starts really coming together and what started out as a vision in your mind comes to life in cake. It truly feels amazing.
Today began our holiday celebration of Kwanzaa and it goes on till New Years Day so the only cake in this house will be cupcakes my son and I will make later this week for New Years. I'll post what we come up with next Sunday! In the meantime I hope you are enjoying your holidays and HAPPY NEW YEAR!