Sunday, July 2, 2017

Some Cakes Are out of This World

I tend to go above and beyond when it comes to making my husband's birthday cakes. I try to outdo myself every year, which has helped me to come up with some gems like this zombie birthday cake, a Cookie Monster cake, this giant 3-0  birthday cake, and my personal favorite, this 8-bit Legend of Zelda birthday cake. But when we've taken to calling the week of his birthday "Derekpalooza," it's kind of a big deal to make a cake that is even half as awesome as the man himself. I knew this year was going to be the year--I was going to make a mirror cake. I'm sure you're familiar with this trend...a cake so shiny you can literally see your reflection in it as you inhale slice after slice. When I write it out, it seems like the kind of thing you'd actually want to avoid, but thankfully this didn't stop me. My husband not only tolerates but also embraces the entire crazy package that is me, so to celebrate his birthday (and extraordinarily high level of patience), I was determined to make this cake the most spectacular thing I've ever decorated. A cake that was out of this world...and thus, the galaxy swirl mirror cake was born amidst a Big Bang level of kitchen mess.
Worth it.
Do you see how unbelievably shiny that cake is?! And swirly? And downright friggin' awesome?! I've done a lot of things in my life that I've considered milestone moments--getting my Master's Degree, getting married, buying a Camaro, rescuing the world's cutest dogs, and this cake is officially added to the list. I literally almost cried when I was done with the mirror glazing because I was so happy it turned out and didn't end in a disaster and very quick trip to the nearest bakery for something I could stick a candle in and call it good. To say this mirror glaze process made me anxious is like saying Jupiter's a sorta big planet...a massive understatement on all accounts. But I did it. With tons of emotional bargaining, a lot of cursing, and so much breath holding I nearly fainted, but I did it. And you know what? It was so much easier than I thought it would be. So this pretty much means I'm going to mirror glaze everything from now until the end of time. But I'll let you in on my secrets and the whole process in a crappy photo montage bigger than planet Pluto (it will ALWAYS be a planet to me).
Yeah, I'm a rebel...rival cake mixes and all.
 I did want to cut as many calories as possible since this cake was getting topped with a layer of buttercream and an additional layer of mirror glaze. Since a lot of the glaze ends up dripping off the cake, two 6" rounds stacked with buttercream and glaze ended up being 400 calories a slice for 12 very tiny slices. It wasn't my birthday, so calories unfortunately and inevitably still counted. To make the galaxy swirl cake, you'll need:
  • 1 can of Sprite Zero, divided
  • 1/2 a strawberry cake mix
  • 1/2 a vanilla cake mix
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • Blue, turquoise, and purple gel dye (or whatever colors you want your cake to be)
Preheat your oven to 350 and grease your pans (this will make enough batter for two 8" rounds or two 6" rounds and two additional mini 4" rounds). Take half of the box of vanilla cake mix, one egg, and 5 ounces of Sprite Zero and blend well in a stand mixer for 2 minutes. Divide this into two large bowls. Dye one bowl of vanilla cake mix blue and the other bowl turquoise. Clean out the stand mixer bowl and then add half the box of the strawberry cake mix, one egg, and 5 ounces of Sprite Zero. Mix well for 2 minutes and add in the purple dye.
Things are about to get fun.
 Now, gather up three spoons. Take a spoonful of purple batter, plop it into each of your cake pans, grab another spoon, take a spoonful of turquoise batter, plop it into each of your cake pans, and finally take the last spoon and gather a spoonful of blue batter, and plop it into each of your cake pans. Continue plopping random spoonfuls of each color so they're overlapping and each color is getting distributed on top of another:
Will look like you've mixed Play-Doh.
 You'll have about half the purple/strawberry cake batter left if you're using 6" rounds.
But they work out great a single serving pieces! These only need to bake for 10 minutes.
Now, you can gently tap each pan on the counter to get out any air bubbles. To create an even trippier effect, take a knife and gently swirl (don't stir!) the batters to mix the colors in a swirling fashion. I meant to do this...and I promptly forgot because I was simultaneously making dinner, proving once again, there's not enough hours in the day for me to kick all the ass that I want to. Still, the cakes looked other-worldly after baking at 350 for 20 minutes and letting cool on a rack:
Definitely spacey. Like my head after a long day...
 Be sure to cut a cake board to the exact size of your cakes while they cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn them out on a towel on top of the cooling rack to finish cooling.
Oh yeah, the good stuff...
I haven't had buttercream frosting in a very, very long time. I had long since forgotten that wonderful, make-your-teeth-rot sweetness that comes with a perfectly crafted buttercream. Dear God, did I miss it. To make my buttercream that works with the Viva paper towel trick, you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup of Crisco
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 3 TBS skim milk
Blend the butter and Crisco together, then add the vanilla extract, a tablespoon of milk, and two cups of powdered sugar. Slowly blend together, and then add the last cup and a half of sugar and last tablespoon of milk. Blend, and then scrape your frosting into a piping bag with a large open coupler or open round tip.
Like the world's coolest Oreo...
 Take the completely cooled cakes and place one round on your prepared cake board. Pipe a circle of frosting around the edges and a bit on the middle of the cake. Use an angled spatula to evenly distribute, then take the other cake round, and flip it upside down so the bottom of the cake is facing out (you want a smooth surface for your glaze later).
Admittedly, also been a long time since I smoothed a cake..
Use the piping bag to pipe up and down the sides of the cake and circle around the top. Use a large angled spatula to spread the frosting out and get it as smooth as possible. Place your cake in the freezer for 15 minutes, then take it out and use a textureless paper towel to smooth out any imperfections. The glaze will show any uneven spots, so work carefully to smooth out. You will want your frosting to be frozen before you pour molten hot chocolate on top of it, so place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.
I bought three bags of chocolate melts in case I screwed up. I'm now rich with chocolate melts.
So this glaze doesn't require anything out of the ordinary to make if you're close to a Hobby Lobby or Joann Fabric or Michaels. Guess who does not live close to any of these? Mhm. So I bought three bags of melts on my excursion to JoAnn's in case I ruined everything and had to start over or attempt to eat my weight in chocolate melts to cope. I found this tutorial (and aside from how annoyingly chipper the girl is) it is quite useful, but I like my instructions in the written form, so I'll walk you through how I made my glaze. To make, you need:
  • 8 ounces of white chocolate melts
  • 5 teaspoons of plain gelatin
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • A separate 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • Gel dyes in black, blue, turquoise, bright electric blue, and purple 
  • Black edible disco dust
And every pan, bowl, and utensil you have.
 In a bowl, dump the 1/2 a cup of water and measure out and add 5 teaspoons of gelatin. Whisk together until it starts to thicken and bloom and look like the world's grossest applesauce. Set this aside. In a sauce pan, whisk the 1/4 cup of water, sugar, and corn syrup together and heat on medium to a low boil. Boil for 7 minutes, until the sugar is totally dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in the bloomed gelatin followed by the sweetened condensed milk. Take a large bowl and dump in your chocolate melts. Pour the mixture you just made on top of the melts, and let this sit for 4 minutes.
Gather the rest of your entire kitchen at this point.
 While the chocolate melts...melt...get out 5 more bowls (one larger than the rest), 5 more spoons, the gel dyes, a strainer/sieve, and a hand mixer or whisk. Take the cake out of the freezer and place on a baking sheet covered with foil or Parchment paper. Elevate your cake using a vase, large mug, container, etc. so the chocolate mix can drip off the bottom. Now, mix the chocolate melts/gelatin goop together with the hand mixer until no lumps remain. Take the largest bowl you just set out, and place the strainer on top of it. Dump the chocolate melt mixture over the strainer to get rid of bubbles and any small clumps. Split the chocolate between the 5 bowls and work quickly to dye each bowl one of your colors of choice. I used:
  • In the largest bowl where I strained my chocolate, 5 drops black and 5 drops blue
  • 6 drops of electric blue and 2 drops of blue to another bowl
  • Several drops of turquoise to another bowl
  • Several drops of purple to another bowl
  • Several drops of just electric blue to another bowl
Yep, that's the bottom of my butter bell under my cake.
Shaky cam to show my rush and high level of anxiety best described as "human treed by a bear."
In the largest bowl that I dyed the darkest color of black and blue together, I dumped in the bowl that I had dyed electric blue mixed with a few drops of blue. DO NOT MIX, but gently swirl these two together in that large bowl. This creates a really cool two-toned effect. Hold you breath, pray to whatever deity you believe in, and dump this bowl on top of your frozen cake.
Things will be okay, I promise!
 The great thing about this mirror glaze is that you can see your entire life flash by in it while you hope it turns out alright. It will drip off and ooze, but the entire cake should be covered. To complete the galaxy look, drizzle spoonfuls of the remaining three colors on top randomly:
All the while making a glorious mess.

Like melting crayons.
 To meld the colors together, take a large angled spatula and very gently smooth in one direction. To finish, sprinkle the black disco dust on top:
Because nothing I make can be void of glittery sparkles.
But really, it the galactic sparkling cherry on top.
 Let your cake continue to ooze for 20 minutes. Prep whatever you're going to keep your cake on, and get ready hold your breath all over again.
Because now you have to move this without ruining the glaze. Like the world's stickiest game of hot potato.
Since I used 6" rounds, my cake fit on a large dinner plate. I very, very carefully and very, very aware of how uncoordinated I am, placed my fingers under the cake board to transfer the cake from the top of my butter bell to the plate it would call home. Moving it from one spot to the other felt to be about six light years long.
Stars were born in the time it took me to plate this.
 But I did it without ruining everything in the end. A cake so shiny, you can literally see the reflection from my flash bulb. I'm thrilled with how this turned out, but even more so, so was the birthday boy.
I think he was happy I didn't use any hot pink dye, too.
 I honestly wasn't sure how great the mirror glaze itself was going to taste. My doubts were met with what could best be described as pure tasty bliss when we each had a bite. This mirror glaze is like Magic Shell for cakes...it's a top layer of slightly hardened chocolate that tastes like a sugary sweet dream. Not to mention it has a full layer of vanilla buttercream to back it up. It's definitely a decadent and savory cake, and cutting into it was an insanely thrilling moment:
Kate, creator of (cake) worlds!
I've been too busy to really spend a lot of time baking lately. I managed to cram in baking and decorating this cake over two evenings, and although I was so, so tired, I was also so, so happy with how it turned out. It was a great reminder of why I started baking in the first place--to challenge myself to learn something new and find a way to express my creativity. And to boot, it bears tasty outcomes for me and my loved ones. Derek and I had a wonderful day in Pensacola for his birthday, eating delicious Irish pub food, sampling beers from a local brewery (him, not me, all those calories were saved for dessert!), and later having our cake and eating it, too. Thirty-one looks great on him, and hopefully this cake will fair as well on my hips, too. Totally worth it for an intergalactic dessert experience! When in doubt, you can make a mirror glaze cake without going completely mental--I mean, I was half mental when I started, and still just about as crazy when I finished, so anything's possible. There are worse ways to lose my sanity than trying to make my wonderful husband the best birthday cake ever. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

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