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Dark Knight Marble 1/4 Sheet Cake

Sometimes you make something so cool you simply must share. My daughter's birthday cake definitely qualifies. I mean, I usually try to make birthday cakes pretty epic - it is a birthday celebration after all. But this one was special. I'm proud of the way it came out and it was relatively easy to do. Miracle of miracles – I was also done hours before the party, a personal best for me (and if I'm being totally honest, a first.)

My daughter wanted a Lego Batman themed party. My absolute favorite way to make a cake with a cartoon character on top is with a buttercream transfer. They are relatively painless to do and look very cool when you are done. I did a post about them a while back, you can check it out here. I'm not a fan of fondant so this is a good trick to getting a image with buttercream and nothing but buttercream that doesn't look like a toddler drew it. I've learned a few things since that post – mostly, I didn't pop the image in and out of the freezer. I traced the image fully, froze, added the back layer, then froze again. I've also found that the easiest, least frustrating way to get the color you want with buttercream is the buy it in gel food coloring. This is especially true for purple, pink, brown, and peach. You can get these specialty gels in a cake store or online and the results are fantastic. It is so much easier than trying to mix the color from a standard color set. Buttercream is ever so slightly yellow and it tends to throw red plus blue equals purple out the window.

​I thought it would be fun to decorate the sides of the cake with chocolate Lego pieces, so that is where I started. I got some molds online and used melting chocolate to make a whole bunch of pieces. Nothing special here, just time consuming. You melt the chocolate, pour it into the molds, then pop them out when they are set. They come out looking pretty neat. They aren't interlocking though (the inner geek was disappointed). You could try stacking the molds I suppose, but I didn't. Still, they were very cute and the kids loved eating a little piece of chocolate with their cake (I mean, who wouldn't?).

​For the actual cake, I decided to make a 9"x13" double layer cake since I was feeding a crowd. My first thought was chocolate because it is a dark knight cake and all, but my daughter wanted to make sure that her friends that liked vanilla were happy too. We ended up making a marble cake as a compromise. Rather than making a big batch of vanilla and adding chocolate to half, I decided to make a vanilla batter and a chocolate batter.

The vanilla batter is light and delicate but still holds up to the chocolate. The chocolate batter is fudgy and wonderful and the perfect compliment. True, it does take more time, but it's worth it. I have two bowls for my mixer which makes this task easier, but if you didn't you could always make one batter, put it in a bowl and make the other. .

For the frosting, I chose a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I like this one for kids cakes because you can cook the eggs to 160°, pasteurizing them, and it is a bit stiffer. It makes piping decorations easier and using it for buttercream transfers is a dream. SMB also happens to be a cinch to make as long as you follow the recipe and don't ignore it or take shortcuts. I have it on my list to do a Swiss Meringue Buttercream tutorial, but until I do, there are plenty of others out there on the web. Even though I have made it dozens of times, I still have the recipe open next to me just in case.

​This is the Batman image after I covered it in buttercream. It looks pretty gnarly from this side, but once you freeze it and flip it over - the image is pretty sweet - also flat. I always save some of the buttercream for touchups after the flip. I also love to give the hair a bit of texture. I try not to work it too much though - there is a danger of perfecting it endlessly. 

After putting it all together and stacking Legos around the outside, I ended up with a real show stopper. The kids and (thankfully) the birthday girl were very impressed. Chalk this one up to a Mom win.

Marble 1/4 Sheet Cake

Marble 1/4 Sheet Cake

Marble cake in a 9"x13" pan. Its the perfect size for a birthday party with lots of kids.


serving(s)
12 Person(s)
Preparation time
30m
Cooking time
1h
 

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake Batter

  • 264 grams Cake Flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Chocolate Cake Batter

  • 175 grams all purpose flour
  • 60 grams dutch processed cocoa
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Category
Specialty Cakes
Cost
Fairly cheap
Difficulty
Easy

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9"x13" pan and line the bottom with parchment paper and grease that. I like to use pan grease but butter and flour would work too. Set the pan aside.

Start with the vanilla batter (keep the batters separate for now) . In a medium bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.

With a stand mixer (or with an electric mixer in a large bowl), cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy - about 4 to 5 min. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined and scrapping between each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste and then the buttermilk at a low speed (the batter will look at bit curdled - its fine). Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, mixing at low speed until just combined. Set vanilla batter aside (if you don't have another mixer bowl, move the batter to another bowl so you can reuse the mixer bowl).

Make the chocolate batter. In a medium bowl, measure out the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.

With a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined and scrapping between each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste and then the buttermilk at a low speed. Add the flour/cocoa mixture in 2 batches, mixing at low speed until just combined.

Using a cookie scoop (or a large spoon) spoon the batters into a prepared pan, alternating and laying out in a checker pattern. Once you have all of the batter in the pan, take a spatula and run it through the batter (with the bottom of the spatula touching the pan) in a back and forth "s" pattern. Turn the pan and repeat the "s" pattern with the spatula (if you went long ways first, do width wise or vice versa). Give the pan a rap on the counter to help settle the batter.

Bake for 50 to 55 min or until a tootpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan to cool completely. Wrap in plastic if you aren't frosting right away. Cake can be made ahead and frozen for up to a month.

Make the buttercream (recipe follows). My cake with the buttercream transfer took two batches of frosting. Frosting can be made 3 to 5 days ahead - left at room temperature.

To make the buttercream transfer, start with an image that is roughly the size of your pan. Its easier for the picture to appear seamless if the completed image is the size of the top of the cake. I also like to use cartoon images because they tend to be less complex. Using a computer, flip the image so that it is reversed (like a mirror image). Tape down the reversed printed image on a cake board (or large piece of cardboard). Then cover the board with a layer of wax paper.

Prepare your buttercream. Mix small protions of buttercream into the various colors you will need and put the newly tinted buttercream into piping bags. I like to aslo use round tips for increased control but you can also just snip the tip.

Trace your image. Remember as you make your image that what is on the bottom will be on top once you flip it so I like to do things like fill in the pupil of an eye and then fill in the white around it. You will be able to touch it up a litte once you flip it so do your best but don't go too crazy. Once the picture is completely filled in put the whole board into the freezer for 30 minutes.

After the image is frozen, take some of the buttercream that will be the base color and spread a thin layer over your image all the way to the edges. Make the layer as flat as you can and be sure if press hard enough (but not too hard) to fill in all the gaps in the image. Once that is done, put the image back in the freezer for at least an hour. You can make this in advance if you cover the final layer with some plastic wrap for up to a week, maybe more. Keep any remaining buttercream for touchups later.

Time to put the cake together. If you like buttercream as much as I do, carefully cut your cake in half lengthwise and fill with buttercream (you'll need a little more buttercream for this option which is why I made two batches). Put on a crumb coat on your cake and put it bakc into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Carefully take your transfer out of the freezer and remove the plastic wrap (if you covered it). Untape the wax paper from the cake board and with great care, flip the image and place it on top of your cake. Peel back the wax paper so that the buttercream is now free and clear of any wrappings. Touch up any little holes or maybe add a little texture (I like to add some texture to hair or add a little to outlines or maybe a bit to the pupil of the eye).

Finish frosting the sides of the cake and add some chocolate legos if you want or trim, well, finish how ever you want. It's all delicious. The transfer comes to room temperature pretty quickly so you need to work fast.

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

European style, meringue based buttercream. Makes a little more than 4 cups.


serving(s)
1 Batch(es)
Preparation time
15m
Cooking time
5m
 

Ingredients

Buttercream

  • 5 large egg whites (room temp)
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon (generous pinch) salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Category
Buttercream
Cost
Fairly cheap
Difficulty
Easy

Directions

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer (or a medium bowl if you are going to use a hand mixer to whip later). Set the bowl over a medium pan of simmering water, make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water.

2. Whisk continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture reaches 160°on a candy (or instant read) thermometer, about five minutes. Scrape down the sides every now and then with a rubber spatula to get all of the sugar from the sides of the bowl. The mixture should feel completely smooth to the touch and quite hot.

3. Once you reach 160°, immediately move the bowl to the stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin on low speed and gradually increase the speed until you are at medium high speed. Whisk until you have stiff peaks, about 10 minutes. It looks a lot like marshmallow at this point. The bottom of the bowl should be room temperature and the egg mixture should be cool.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and begin adding butter, a tablespoon or two at a time. The butter should give a bit when pressed but not so soft it looses its form. Make sure the butter is fully incorporated before adding more. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. As you add the butter, the meringue will deflate - don't panic, its all part of the process.

5. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, whisk in the vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat on low speed for a couple minutes to smooth it out and eliminate all air bubbles.

Leave buttercream at room temperature if using that day. It can also be refrigerated or frozen, but be sure to bring it to room temperature and then rewhip for a couple minutes before using. You must bring it back to room temperature first, however, or the buttercream will seperate. Buttercream will keep 2 days at room temperature, 10 days or so well wrapped in the fridge, and a couple of months in the freezer.

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Tuesday, 19 March 2019