I, by no means, am an expert cake maker or baker or decorator or whatever you want to call it. I’ve never taken a formal class on cake decorating. I am self-taught from countless episodes of Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes and all of those other cake challenge shows. Having only made a small handful of cakes my self I will share with you my basics for carving a cake. Keep reading to find out how….
First things first, what kind of cake are you decorating? Who’s if for, what is the occasion, what’s the theme…? Make it simple. This week I made two hat cakes (cakes that look like baseball hats). Once that is decided how many people does the cake need to feed? There is no magical equation to figure it out. Just take a guess at how many cakes you will actually have to bake to feed everyone you need to and to make the specific design you have decided on. For my Monster Hat cake I used two boxes of cake mix, which made four-nine inch round cakes. I used all four cakes to make the hat and it fed eight adults and five kids, with plenty of left overs.Now you have to bake the cakes. (Seems obvious, I know) If this is your first time carving a cake I recommend using a box mix. (I know some of us cake enthusiast cringe at the thought of using box mix, but trust me on this.)Once the cakes are baked, freshly out of the oven and still in the pans, place a clean tea towel over the top of the cake and lightly press the steam out of the cakes. This will help make the cake a little more dense and easier to carve. Then place the cakes on a cooling rack and stick them in the fridge to cool.While they are cooling you need to cut a cake board (the cardboard piece that goes under the cake to support it) in the shape of your cake. It needs to be the same size and shape the cake will be. For example, with the hat cake a took a 10 inch by 12 inch cake board, placed one of my husbands hats on the cake board and traced around it. Then cut it out with some heavy-duty scissors cause I couldn’t find my exacto knife. In the picture below you can see the cake sitting on top on the cake board. What will be the “bill” on the hat is still exposed cake board.After the cakes have completely cooled you can start stacking them on your cake board. I stack all my cakes whole then cut extra off. I like to do a dry stack fist, to make sure the height is right. Then I disassemble the cakes and go back and frost in between each layer. (I prefer homemade butter cream but if this is your first keep it simple and buy the pre-made stuff.) You don’t need to put a ton of frosting in-between each layer, just enough to help the cakes stick together. Now it is time to carve. You’ll need a long serrated knife, I use the bread knife that came with our knife set. (This is where directions can’t really help anymore, you just have to go for it) I like to start with the shape or out line of the cake. Follow the shape of the cake board with your knife. Then work on taking the cake off the top to make round or what ever. ALWAYS take the cake off little by little. You can always take more off till you get the right shape, but putting it on doesn’t always work.If you find that the cake is too crumbly while you are carving it, stick it in the freezer for 45 minutes or so. That will help stiffen it up and cut better. Once you get the shape you want it is time to “Dirty Ice”.To dirty ice, or crumb coat the cake simply cover the entire cake in a thin layer of frosting. If there are any spots that you feel you took away too much cake now is you chance to fill it in with some frosting. Don’t worry about crumbs getting in this coat of frosting, the whole point of it is to lock in the crumbs to keep them out of the final layer of frosting. after the entire cake has been crumb coated place it in the fridge or freezer to let it set up.After the dirty icing has set you can cover and decorate the cake however you wish. I prefer to use fondant and add more intricate detail on top on the fondant with royal icing. Again, if this is your first cake keep it simple, use butter cream to cover the cake any royal icing to do the details. To keep the royal icing smooth while you are putting it on have a glass of warm water handy to dip your spatula in and wipe off the excess frosting.FINALLY, you get to show off your master piece…..(or eat it before anyone see’s how terrible it looks)
This was the second cake I made this week. I used home-made cake and the ganache recipe on this blog. This cake was also a little smaller, (Only three nine-inch round cakes instead of four). ALSO the first cake I made for a wedding!! Very exciting stuff for an amateur like me! This cake and the Monster cake are covered with marsh mellow fondant, I’ll have a picture tutorial on hot to make marsh mellow fondant and how to cover a cake with it for my next post.