Hello all! I attempted one of my most daring baking feats this past week….and it worked! Sort of.
My beautiful friend is leaving our squad for greener pastures, furthering her career and reuniting with loved ones and all good things. Therefore as sad as I am for her to leave, it is a cause for celebration.
A group of us decided to host a chill, surprise goodbye celebration with casual no fuss eats like burgers, hot dogs and tortilla chips with salsa. Our resident vegan came through with a spicy tofu dish and we had mini cinnamon rolls as a sweet snack.
Like I said it was chill and relaxed just like our friend. That however wasn’t enough for me apparently. I decided I wanted to make her a cake. A celebration cake! A checkered celebration cake. A checkered celebration cake topped with cookies and chocolate. What a decision this was.
I have been seeing and admiring checkered cakes for well over a year now, dissecting the technique, pumping myself up to finally tackle it .This was the time. A word of advice is NEVER try out a new recipe just before you have an event or guests over. Did I listen to that advice? No.
So I undertook this task and I will now document it inclusive of my horrible errors so that we can all learn from my mistakes together.
Let us begin…
The cake was tri-colour checkerboard and I topped it with meringue cookies and shards of candy melt bark. I will begin with the toppings as I made them first.
(Rainbow) Meringue Cookies
WHAT YOU NEED
1) 3 med- large egg whites
2) 3/4 cup(150g) castor sugar
Tip (castor sugar and icing sugar are the same thing and it can be made by running granulated sugar in a food processor / blender/nutribullet etc for a few seconds.
3) Cream of tartar (to stabilize the egg whites)- you’ll just need a pinch of this.
4) 1/4 teaspoon rose water (the original recipe called for vanilla extract, you can substitute that for whatever flavour you prefer)
5) Multiple food colours – I used teal and purple (my attempt at orange didn’t make the cut.
6) Piping bag (or a zip lock bag )
WHAT TO DO
1) Preheat oven to 95°C (200°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
2) Beat egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar and beat until soft peak stage. (Soft peaks gently and slowly fold over )
3) Slowly add sugar beating at medium to high speed until stiff peak stage. ( Stiff peaks hold their form) then add in the rose water.
Tip : Do NOT over beat the egg. It’s better to beat,stop and check then keep beating than to overbeat the egg.
4)Using a toothpick or a knife, streak your food colouring along the length of the piping (ziplock) bag then add the meringue mixture.
5) Pipe the meringue mixture out in little dollops, according to the size you wish. The food colour should form a swirled effect.
6) Bake in oven for 1 1/2 hours (90 minutes) or until cookies are dry and crispy.
After this I stored my meringue cookies in a sealed airtight container and placed it in the cupboard for later use. I didn’t want to keep it in the fridge for fear of some moisture affecting the cookies.
The next thing I made was the chocolate/candy melt bark.
WHAT YOU NEED
1) Candy melts in assorted colours. If you are more savvy ,you can use white chocolate and colour it using non-waterbased food dye. The colours I used were really just what I had knocking around; lime green, bright yellow, red and dark blue as well as white (this poor party girl wastes nothing!)
Candy melts in white and cheesecake (off white)
2) Sprinkles – to add over the top of the bark.
3) Containers to place the candy melts in.
4) Silicone mat or other flat, smooth heat resistant sheer to form bark on.
WHAT TO DO
1) Melt candy melts.
2) Pour the melted chocolate onto mat or sheet and spread it out. I started with the white ones.
3) Add each colour and swirl it in. Add sprinkles on top.
White candy melts with red swirled in
4) Set the swirled bark in the fridge for a couple hours so it hardens completely.
5) Remove hardened bark and crack it into shards using knife or mallet
Multicolored candy melt bark
I stored the candy melt bark in an airtight container in the fridge.
Candy melt shards
So those are the toppings for this overly ambitious cake completed. This took me an ENTIRE night, good thing I started 2 days in advance. I recommend this for anyone trying this out.
Before we move on to the
mess I mean piece-de-resistance i.e the cake let me take a moment to show off my decor. It was really simple as I didn’t have a lot of time or money to get prepared.
I made the ever popular tassle/pom poms strung up and layered. I used brightly coloured tissue paper as it went along with the cake and my friend’s personality.
Pom pom tassle decor
I also hung up two balloons with multicolored marble design and lit some candles for a little ambience.
Okay back to baking. The cake! This cake takes some work and some foresight but it isnt hard. The concept behind the checkered pattern is that by creating circles of differing colours in the horizontal plane, each one becomes a square when cut in a vertical plane. Sounds a smidgen confusing but I promise it isnt.
Tri-coloured Checkered Cake
WHAT YOU NEED
1) White cake batter- This makes it easier to colour. I used a recipe from www.joyofbaking.com because any recipe that lady (Stephanie) creates is actual gold-I’m talking 24 carat here!
2) 6″ round cake tin – this is what I used. You make the amount of cake batter in accordance with the size of your cake tins and the number of layers you ultimately make.
3) Food colours -I used red,yellow, blue and green to create bright pink, bright yellow and teal.
4) Circle Cookie cutters- this is to create the circles from the cake but you can freehand it with a knife …..if you dare.
Some stuff you need for the cake
5)Icing- I’m not going to put an icing recipe here because quite frankly I have none. I attempted Italian meringue buttercream TWICE using 2 separate recipes from what I consider to be very legitimate websites but each one failed. In my online scouring I found that a lot of people attempting these recipes had similar problematic outcomes where the egg white seemed to deflate on addition of the butter. My advice from the beginning of this post remains, don’t attempt this for the first time on the day of the party/event.
In the end I had to add a crap ton of icing sugar to make my second attempt salvageable. So……find an acceptable icing recipe and make it. And if it works, leave me a link cause girl needs help!
6) Cookie butter- The idea to add cookie butter to my icing came from a video by Yolanda Gamp of HowtoCakeit on YouTube. This. Is. An. EXCELLENT. Idea. The cookie butter also helped to thicken the icing .
WHAT TO DO
1) Preheat your oven as directed by the recipe you chose.
2) Mix your white cake batter
3) Separate batter into 3 bowls or whatever number of colours you plan to make.
4) Add food colours to get desired colour-I used water based food colours because that’s what I had (they also tend to be cheaper) but gel colours definitely give me vibrant colours.
White cake batter
5) Bake cakes according to recipe, let cool and remove from tin.
Multi coloured cakes
To be honest I was initially disappointed that my cakes were so thin ( I think I made the batter stretch too far) but it turned out this was an okay height (approximately 1 1/2 inches). I think it would be best if each layer is about 2 inches tall.
6) Trim the tops of your cakes to create a flat surface for stacking-I couldn’t do this because my layers were so skinny.
7)Using your cookie cutters create 3 circles in each cake.
Cookie cutter used to make circle
Two different sized cutters used
8) Arrange the cake circles so that each cake layer has each colour in it.
Cake colours intermixed
9) Place 1st layer of cake on a level surface (if you own a lazy Susan this is the time to whip her out, if not creat your own with a bowl and a large plate.
10) Stack your layers, icing in between with the cookie butter infused frosting, then crumb coat and place in refrigerator to harden up.
Layers of cake with frosting
11) Make more icing- the cookie butter turned the icing brown and I wanted the outside of the cake to be white. Also the icing just wouldn’t harden up as much as I wanted, so I decided to make royal icing to cover it over with. Unfortunately even my royal icing recipe was not on my side and that too ended up being a bit runny. Once you have successfully made white icing, cover the cake and place it in the fridge to begin to stiffen..
10) Add the toppings. I stuck the candy melt shards into the actual cake as you would a candle. I then placed the meringue cookies on top (my placement was haphazard and by the time I decided to relocate then they had set up in the icing )
Inside of checkered cake
When it’s time to serve the cake you will see the beautiful checkered design. Eat and enjoy!
We had a great evening, it was stress free and ended on a sweet note (ba dum ching!) Thank you for reading and have an awesome day!