Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Texas Lovin'

A good friend of ours is moving away.  BOO!  And in the midst of dealing with the fact that her husband already had to move to start his new job while she is parenting their three kids and having their house on the market, her youngest love had his first birthday.  The girl has enough on her plate! So when she asked if I would mind making a cake for his birthday party/going away party, of course I told her to just leave it to me.  She wanted a "Texas" theme, since they are moving away from here (WAH!) to New Jersey.  Then she emailed me photos of cakes she had seen online that she particularly liked and I got very scared.  VERY.  We were talking multi-tiered cakes with all sorts of fancy Texas decorations!  Yikes.  Oh, and did I mention that this little baby-love is highly allergic to eggs?  As is his brother?  Yeah.  So this needed to be a super fancy EGGLESS tiered cake.  Ummmm.  Yes, of course I can do that!

So I researched and researched the best way to bake a cake without using eggs.  I learned that the fewer eggs you have to replace the better, so I chose my very favorite chocolate cake, Beatty's Chocolate Cake.  One recipe takes only 2 eggs.  Check.  Then I had to figure out what to do about replacing those eggs.  I decided to use a flax seed gel as my eggs.
1 TB ground flax seeds 
+ 3 TB warm water
= 1 egg

I talked to a friend who owns a gluten-free bakery, and she recommended doing a "trial" cake making 1/4 of the recipe first, to make sure my substitution turned out right.  Brilliant!  I would likely not have thought of doing 1/4 of a recipe, and I am so grateful to her suggestion!  I made 1/4 of the recipe, cooked it in a cute little 6 inch cake pan, and it turned out perfectly!  I was amazed and thrilled and very very relieved.  It so happened that this birthday/going away party was planned for the weekend after we were going to be on vacation for a while, so I would not have time to mess around when I returned!  

For the amount of guests my friend anticipated, I decided on doing a three-tier cake using a 10-inch round,  8-inch round, and 6-inch round.  Since I had created an anniversary cake for my parents a few years ago, I have some limited experience with tiered cakes.  I pulled out my notes on that cake to help with this one!  I baked the cakes throughout the week, wrapped them very well in plastic wrap, and froze them until I was ready to actually construct the cake. 

I can't seem to get my printer to scan, so here's a photo of my sketch!
I had brainstormed ideas for the design of the cake already, and created a sketch on plain paper for reference. This really helps me to get my ideas out and get an idea as to how it might look at the end.  This way I can jot down my ideas and how to do some of it, so when the time comes, it is all figured out!  A little pre-planning goes a long way in my life! 

I tried to think of what she might miss in Texas (other than all of her amazing friends, of course!) and what people really think of when they think "Texas":
  • Cowboys.  I honestly thought, when I moved here, that everyone would be wearing boots and hats and giant belt buckles all the time and saying "Howdy, ma'am".  Thankfully, that doesn't happen ALL the time where I live, though I was and still am always surprised to see cowboy boots with business suits in a courtroom.  It blows my mind.
  • Wildflowers.  Texas wildflowers are simply beautiful and if you are in the Texas area during the springtime, I guarantee someone will invite you to drive out somewhere and take photos in the bluebonnets.  You just can't pass it up.  Fields and fields of these beautiful flowers.  
  • The Texas flag.   Texans are very proud of their flag, for reasons I don't actually know since I didn't grow up  here.  But, there you go.  According to Mr. Clever Mom, who DID grow up here, he had an entire year of Texas history in school, so I am sure that one day the clever girl will enlighten me with the meaning and symbolism behind the Texas flag.  I can hardly wait.
I used generic buttercream frosting for all of the layers of the cake, from the recipe that came from the Wilton cake decorating class that I took a while back.  It uses white shortening instead of butter, which is great for a cake that might be sitting out for a while.  Especially for a cake that could theoretically be outside, as butter will wilt faster than shortening.  The Wilton recipe also uses meringue powder in the recipe, but for obvious egg-allergy reasons, I left that out.  I added cocoa powder for the chocolate layer.

My first tier was the bottom.  I printed some templates for hats and boots, with the initial idea that I could lay them on the cake and ice around it.  Ha!  That would, in theory, work if I was decorating a HORIZONTAL surface, but this was the SIDE of the cake, so that idea went quickly out the window.  I added some piping gel into the white icing and free-handed some of the design, but that took a long time and made me anxious about the final result.  Then Mr. Clever Mom came up with the idea of tracing around the template with a toothpick onto the chocolate icing, and then just piping the white on top.  That man is brilliant!  The yellow on the bottom of the cake is supposed to be a lasso.  This is another example of how things are much easier when practicing on a horizontal surface than doing upright.  The "rope" looked more rope-like when I was practicing.  Rats.  But now that I said that it is a lasso, you sort of see it, right?  I mean, right???

I inserted some trimmed bubble-tea straws into the center of the bottom tier for support before setting the second tier on top.  By the way, each tier is sitting on a circle of cake cardboard, which again provides structure to your tiered cake.

This middle tier is my favorite.  I LOVE how it turned out!  I iced the entire cake in white BEFORE setting it on the layer below, and then did the decorations.  In case you aren't from Texas, what you see are my rendition of Texas Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush, two wildflowers that are known to grow crazy in Texas in the spring.  I used three different shades off blue for the bluebonnets, simply adding more and more blue to the icing as I went along.  Once the flowers were done, I added the grass on the bottom, using tip 233.  I love that tip.  It really creates some cool grass, and provides great texture.  I inserted more straws into this layer before working on the top. 

And for the top, a Texas flag!  I iced this entire tier before placing it on the wildflower tier  This was tricky, as it is hard to ice a perfectly straight line with buttercream.  It would have been much more precise-looking had I used fondant, but I am not super fond of fondant so I did my best with buttercream!  I used another paper template for the star, sort of laying it over the edge of the cake and tracing/freehanding how it might lay if draped over the side, using my trusty toothpick!  I spread the icing out over the star outline completed my Texas flag.  Once I placed the tier on the cake, I used tip 21 to make little white stars all the way around the bottom. 

I love how it turned out!  It was perfect for the party.  Not only did it look great, but it was delicious!  It stayed amazingly moist and the guests raved!  But for me, the best part was when my friends other son, age 3, asked in his sweet little voice whether or not the cake had eggs inside, and the look of pure delight when I said "no".  This little guy rarely gets to eat birthday cake at parties, so he was super thrilled to get a piece.  The look on his face stole my heart!

And then we gave the entire top layer to the birthday boy, who had never eaten cake before.  After deciding that it was a great texture and fun to play with, he ate some and was overcome with excitement....

He loved it!  I am pretty sure that I helped make his birthday the best day ever!  Yeah! 

1 comment:

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