Checkerboard Cake How-To

Originally posted April 9, 2012

So, remember that lovely Easter Bunny Cake Topper? I had the cake topper prepared, but I needed a cake for it to top. What I settled on was a checkerboard cake. This was a 3 layer, 9″ round cake that, when cut, looks like a checkerboard on the inside. It looks pretty neat, and is much simpler to make than many would care to believe, so today I’d like to share with you how it’s done!

The first thing you’ll need is cake. I used a simple vanilla cake recipe and then coloured half of it pink, and the other half light yellow, after separating the batter into two separate bowls. You can also use two cake batters, such as vanilla and chocolate, or whatever suits your fancy. Keep in mind, however, that when using two different batters you’ll have to pay attention – not every cake has the same baking temperature or baking time, which could be problematic. For simplicity’s sake, that is why I chose to simply colour my cake batter. Given that it was for Easter, I thought the pastel colours looked nice together and suited the occasion nicely.

The next thing you’ll need is a checkerboard cake pan set. I’m sure that if you can’t find one of these handy sets (I found mine at a local Michael’s), or if you just don’t want to pay for one (I found mine on sale), there is probably a way to do this in some makeshift fashion – I found an alternative to the pan set, which you can see here. Let me know if it works!

Now that you have the batter, and the necessary equipment, what you’re going to do next is actually quite simple:

1. Grease cake pans (or flour them, or prepare them in some way so that the cakes don’t stick)
2. Place the dividing rings in the first cake pan, and fill the center ring with cake batter. I used pink first, and found it was easiest to fill the pans using a large serving spoon.
3. Fill the middle ring next, holding the divider in place, with the second colour of batter (yellow, in my case).
4. Fill the outer ring with the first colour (pink), still holding the divider in place. Once the third and final ring has been filled, pull the dividing ring out of the cake pan, being sure to lift it straight up so as not to disrupt your cake batter.
5. Rinse the dividing ring thoroughly and dry it, before placing it in the next cake pan. Then, proceed to fill the second cake pan in the same way that  you did the first. Use the same colour pattern, which in my case was pink in the center and outer rings, with yellow in the middle. These two layers, which are now the exact same, will be the top and bottom layers of the cake.
6. For the middle layer of the cake, again rinse the divider and then position it in the third pan. This pan is going to be filled in the opposite way of the first two. In my case, I filled the center with yellow, then proceeded to fill the middle with pink batter, and then the outer ring with yellow batter.
7. Bake and cool the cakes as directed according to the recipes.8. Level the layers as necessary, and then frost and layer the cake. Begin with one of your two matching layers, as it will be the bottom. Layer icing over the top (I used vanilla buttercream) and then position the opposite cake layer on top. Again, ice the top and then position the third layer.
9. Now, ice the cake as desired, cut, and serve!

When you cut into the cake, you should find that you have achieved a checkerboard appearance! This cake has always been a hit for me, and it can be done in so many ways! Once  you get the hang of the dividing ring, feel free to change up the colours, add more in, change batters, etc! I have made several checkerboard cakes, and a few of my favourites included:

– A vanilla and chocolate checkerboard cake with raspberry buttercream icing
– A chocolate and banana checkerboard cake with cream cheese icing, and
– A vanilla checkerboard cake that I coloured using red, green, and white for christmas

Try out some of your own combinations and please feel free to share them either in the comments below or on the Facebook and Twitter pages! Feel free to subscribe the blog, and enjoy your checkerboard cakes until next time!

DIY Cake Topper

Originally posted April 5, 2012 (This is an Easter themed post, but the same idea would apply for any cake topper you wanted to make)

Happy Easter! With Easter looming on the horizon, I needed a cake for the big family dinner – and no ordinary cake, mind you. Something special. After seeing a video on Youtube, I knew just what my cake needed – a white chocolate Easter bunny topper.

Not only did this cake topper look great, it was so simple to make! Much simpler than your friends and family will care to believe, trust me! In fact, I’m going to tell you exactly how you can do it yourself (or any other topper you wish, really).  The steps are as easy as can be:

1. The first thing you’ll need to do for this bunny cake topper is find a relatively simple bunny image (Google Images works wonders for this) and print it.
2. Tape the image to a cookie sheet, making sure that it is laying perfectly flat and will not be moving around on you.
3. Tape a layer of waxed paper over the image (this is going to be your working surface, so make sure it’s secure). You’ll want to use waxed paper because you can see through it to see the outline of your image.
4. Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.
5. Let the chocolate cool just slightly – you want it to still be liquid, but you don’t want to burn yourself if it’s too hot.
6. Prepare a decorating bag with a small round tip, and then fill the icing bag with the white chocolate.
7. Follow the outline of your bunny, tracing it with the white chocolate.
8. Fill in the remainder of the bunny (once I’d done this, I also used a spoon to smooth out the chocolate a bit. I still wanted some texture, but not quite as much as filling in the bunny left)
9. Decorate if desired – I added some mini marshmallows for a fluffy tail, and a butterscotch chip for an eye
10. Allow to cool and harden (I put it in the freezer – it doesn’t take long, and will keep overnight for use later if desired)
11. Position on the cake, and voila (I stood it up in icing and found that it remained quite stable).

Easy as can be, right? And it looks pretty nice on that cake! (Which I’ll be telling you about in a couple of days, once I have photos of the inside, because there is quite a surprise in there awaiting you! You can subscribe to the RSS feed to find out about that post ASAP) This can be done in smaller versions for cupcakes, and of course you can use any image for any time of year. This process can also be done with buttercream icing to make an icing transfer by simply allowing each colour and layer of buttercream to freeze entirely before moving on to the next layer of colour.

Try out your own cake toppers and leave a comment about how it works!

Cake Pops How-To

Originally posted March 6, 2012

Recently, I was asked to make cake pops for a child’s 6th birthday. Never having made cake pops before, I took on the request though I didn’t make any promises for success. The procedure is pretty straightforward but it’s a finicky process. A finicky process that I’d like to share with you.

To make the cake pops you will need: cake and icing of your choice, sticks for the cake pops, candy melts and sprinkles/decorations to decorate as desired

1. The first thing you’ll need to do is bake a cake. I used a basic chocolate cake, and chocolate icing for the cake pops.

2. Once the cake is cooled, crumble it up into a large bowl, and add a few cups of icing (you may want more depending on how much cake you have – you’ll be able to judge an appropriate amount), combining the two thoroughly until the mixture can be shaped into balls.

3. Once you’ve reached the desired consistency, shape the mixture into balls, and position them on a tray, cookie sheet, or other flat surface that will fit in a fridge or freezer. I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Allow the balls to cool in the refrigerator overnight or in the freezer for a couple hours until they are chilled through and hard.

5. Melt the candy in a microwave-safe bowl or over a double boiler. Dip the sticks in the melted candy and then insert them into the chilled cake balls. Allow the sticks to sit for a couple seconds so that the candy hardens.

6. Coat the cake pops in the melted candy. At this point, you’ll want to decorate them (if you’re choosing to do so). I used candies to make eyes, faces, etc. You’ll want to be careful here. The candy melts, while still wet, will run off the cake pops to some extent and your decorations could run off. However, the candy melts harden quickly, so waiting too long will make it impossible to attach the decorations to the pops.

7. Once the cake pops are dressed to your liking, allow the candy melts to harden completely, and enjoy. While the candy melts were hardening, I used a strainer so that any candy that dripped off had something to drip into, and the holes in the strainer were a good size to hold the pops apart from each other while they were drying.

The cake pops turned out alright. They were not nearly as pretty as I would have liked, however there is something of a learning curve when it comes to getting them to look nice. Until I’ve mastered the art of decorating them though, I’m just going to say they’re supposed to be alien cake pops. And now, you know how to make them too!

DIY Heart-Shaped Cupcakes

Originally posted Feb. 9, 2012

Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovebirds reading this today! I wanted to share with you today some quick and easy heart-shaped cupcakes to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

After seeing a photo on Pinterest, I improvised a method to do the same thing as there was no corresponding link to instructions. So, I’ve created a little how-to for you, based on how I accomplished these cupcakes, so that you can make something special for your special someone.

You will need:

  • Your favourite cake/cupcake batter, and icing
  • A regular muffin pan
  • Muffin pan liners
  • Marbles or glass rocks, or other heat-proof round objects
  • Sprinkles, candies, sugar dust, etc. to decorate
From what I could tell in the photo on Pinterest, they used marbles. I didn’t have marbles so I improvised with decorative glass stones. I also used a Red Velvet cake recipe from Baking With The Cake Boss (I’ve still yet to watch his show), as well as a Cream Cheese Icing from the book. Once you’ve got your batter prepared, this is what you’ll want to do:

  1. Line muffin pan with liners (I used Valentine’s Day themed liners)
  2. Fill each liner with your cake batter (using something like an ice-cream scoop will help alleviate any mess and ensure that the cupcakes are roughly the same size)
  3. Using your index finger, push the liner towards the centre of the muffin hole
  4. Fill the resulting space with marbles or other objects to hold the liner in place (you’ll want to stack a few on top of each other, so that the batter doesn’t bake over top of the marble)
  5. Bake cupcakes according to recipe directions
  6. Let cupcakes cool, and remove from pan – be careful, the marbles may still be warm
  7. Allow cupcakes to cool completely and ice as desired
When icing my cupcakes, I chose to decorate them with red and white sugar sprinkles, heart-shaped candy sprinkles, and silver sugar dust. I used Valentine’s Day themed cookie cutters on top of the cupcakes and filled the cookie cutter in with the dust (or sprinkles in some cases) to leave the decorations in the shapes of hearts, flowers, bells, etc.
These were quick and easy, without the cost of purchasing a heart-shaped pan, or the need to elaborately decorate a cake! You get delicious results, and more time to spend with loved ones!
On a side note – the Red Velvet cupcakes stayed nice and moist, and tasted pretty good, however the recipe only calls for 1tbsp of cocoa powder. I found that this left them a bit bland, as red velvet is supposed to have that cocoa taste. I’ll be using my old recipe next time!

Mini-Marshmallow Fondant

Originally posted Feb 3, 2012

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a photo of homemade fondant on Pinterest, and re-pinned the photo/link so that I could refer to it in the future. The future has arrived, my friends.

Until now I’d always been using store-bought fondant. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and felt that it was best to stick with the pre-made stuff. Having said that, let me tell you that buying fondant is expensive. Especially for any fondant other than basic white. So I finally decided that I’d attempt to make my own, keeping in mind the link I’d found (click here to see it for yourself). I didn’t have the web page open in front of me, but kept it in mind while making the fondant.

Like the instructions showed, I used multi-coloured marshmallows. I bought two bags and sorted through them to separate all of the colours, and set each group aside in its own Ziplock bag.

The first colour I used was the pink, and it didn’t go nearly as smoothly as the green and yellow did – I ran out of icing sugar before I got to make the orange. Anyway, the instructions say to toss the marshmallows in a small amount of water. I forgot that step, and ended up with a sticky mess that was a nightmare to work with. The marshmallow goo got stuck to the spoon, to the bowl, to the counter, the cutting board, my hands, everything you could imagine. The hassle of getting the sticky gunk off everything was nearly enough to put me off making marshmallow fondant again.

Rather than give up right away, however, I checked back to that link, via Pinterest, and found that I had forgotten one tiny, simple step. I decided to try again with the yellow marshmallows and found that it worked much better. So, the key is to toss those little marshmallows with water! It made the whole process so much smoother, and it actually ended up being pretty simple. By the time I’d moved on to the green marshmallows, I felt like a pro.

Now, I don’t really like the taste of fondant, though it looks nice (thank heavens for the real icing layer that’s found under fondant), but the marshmallow stuff tastes worlds better than the store bought kind, and its so much nicer on the wallet!