Monday, September 9, 2013

Baking: Lego Cake

When my sister asked me to make a Lego cake for my nephew's birthday, I agreed with hesitation. I've never made specialty cakes before. In fact, my cakes are classic and "rustic" and are usually round or rectangular with frosting on the outside. I focus on the quality of the taste as opposed to the look of the facade. However, with some research and brainstorming, I figured out a way to make it without stressing myself out and most importantly, without compromising the taste of the cake.

The cake needed fondant. I hate fondant. I really didn't want to use it. But when I came across a recipe for marshmallow fondant, I was intrigued. I'm okay with marshmallows. They taste fine.
So I tried it out. Melted marshmallows with blue coloring and shortening.
I kneaded it until smooth then wrapped and sat overnight at room temperature.
I also made some chocolate ganache for the cake. Unfortunately, it was too loose.
A quick fix would be adding some powdered sugar. It makes the icing much sweeter but this is a kid's cake so that was okay for me.
And now the cake. Usually, I bake this cake recipe using 2-9inch round cake pans. But I needed rectangular cakes for the Lego block. So I poured the chocolaty cake batter into sheet pans instead.
The baking time is severely altered so you'll have to sit and watch the cakes for doneness. I think these only took about 15 minutes.
Let cool then slice into equal rectangular pieces. I used an offset spatula to help get the cake off the pan.
Layer one slice of cake on your board.
Then top with frosting. Continue layering trying to keep the cake evenly leveled.
When you're done leveling, then frost the entire cake and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
After the frosting has set, I trimmed off the sides to make clean even sides.
Here's a closer look at the layering. As you can see, I had too much frosting leftover so the top is overly heavy. Also, you can see that I had issues with the corners as they dipped down. I tried added more frosting to the corners to even it out.
Next, the pegs of the Lego block. Here, I used Oreo cookies. I used one whole Oreo cookie with another half Oreo with cream. So basically, it's 3 cookies and 2 layers of cream. Press them in firmly to secure them.
Then I rolled out marshmallow fondant using lots of shortening to prevent sticking. Allow yourself to roll it out to a even thickness. If the fondant is too thin, then it'll show a lot of lump and bumps (like the below). Once you put on the fondant, you can't really peel it back off to reuse it. It's really once and done. Anyway, I carefully place the fondant over the cake smoothing it out around the Oreo pegs and around the sides. Trim off any excess fondant. Then I went to press in the fondant even more. Big mistake. This showed even more lump and bumps in my cake. Next time, just gently nudge the fondant against the cake.
Then I refrigerated the cake overnight (covered) until the fondant is fully set. The morning of the birthday party, I placed mini Lego people on the cake along with some candles. This made the cake a bit more kid friendly (each kid received a Lego person to take home). The decorations also hid a bunch of mistakes on the fondant. Awesome!
The cake came out a lot better than I thought it would. I'm satisfied with my first attempt on a fancy cake. The fondant work could have been better but the overall look was fine. And most importantly, the flavor and texture of the cake was not compromised. This cake held up really nicely to the multiple stages of refrigeration. It was still a delicious chocolate heaven.

Recipe below is courtesy of Scharffen Berger

That Chocolate Cake
Serves 8 to 10
For the Cake
INGREDIENTS
Unsalted butter and flour for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup SCHARFFEN BERGER unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk
1 cup boiling water
For the Frosting

Frosting
INGREDIENTS
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
5 ounces SCHARFFEN BERGER 99% Cacao Unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

PREPARATION
For the Cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment and the sides of the pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing on low speed. Mix in the eggs, oil, and milk.

Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the water. The batter will be soupy.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn the layers out onto the rack and cool completely.

When the cakes have cooled, check the frosting. It should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If it is still too thin, allow it to cool longer.

For the Frosting:
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cream and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes. Add the chocolate and butter and stir until melted. Pour into a bowl and stir in the vanilla.

To Frost the Cake:
Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread the frosting with a hot palette knife or icing spatula to give the frosting a beautiful shine. Run the knife under hot tap water and dry with a towel. Spread about ¾ cup of the frosting over the top of the first layer. Top with the second layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, heating the knife again as necessary.

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Recipe below is courtesy of Wilton

Marshmallow Fondant
Makes about 2 pounds

Ingredients:
1 package (16 ounces) white mini marshmallows (use a good quality brand)
2-5 tablespoons water
2 pounds (about 8 cups) sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

Instructions:
step 1
To make marshmallow fondant, place marshmallows and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds on high; stir until mixed well. Continue microwaving 30 seconds more; stir again. Continue until melted (about 2 1/2 minutes).

step 2
Place 3/4 of the confectioners' sugar on top of the melted marshmallow mixture. Fold sugar into marshmallow mixture. Flavoring can be added at this point if desired. Place solid vegetable shortening in easily accessed bowl so you can reach into it with fingers as you are working. Grease hands and counter GENEROUSLY; turn marshmallow mixture onto counter. Start kneading like you would dough. Continue kneading, adding additional confectioners' sugar and re-greasing hands and counter so the fondant doesn't stick. If the marshmallow fondant is tearing easily, it is too dry; add water (about 1/2 tablespoon at a time) kneading until fondant forms a firm, smooth elastic ball that will stretch without tearing, about 8 minutes.

step 3
It's best to allow Marshmallow Fondant to sit, double-wrapped, overnight. Prepare the fondant for storing by coating with a thin layer of solid vegetable shortening, wrap in plastic wrap and then place in resealable bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Marshmallow Fondant will keep well in refrigerator for several weeks.

step 4
When not working with fondant, make sure to keep it covered with plastic wrap or in a bag to prevent it from drying out. When ready to use, knead fondant until smooth. Roll out fondant 1/8 in. thick.

step 5
To color fondant: If you need to tint the entire batch of fondant, add a little icing color to the melted marshmallow mixture before adding confectioners' sugar. For smaller amounts of tinted fondant, add icing color to portions of fondant as needed.

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