For #1s first birthday I was busy packing for our move to Korea, so I bought him a cake. For his second birthday I was heavily pregnant and too tired, so I bought him a cake. No excuses this time, so I made him a decorated cake (my first time working with fondant) for his third birthday, and boy did I love making it! Now I know why so many people make fancy cakes - it was a lot of fun and came out surprisingly well for my first go.
My eldest's current obsession is Pink Panther - my hubby loves the feline character, so it's no surprise our kids do too. After doing a bit of research, chatting to friends experienced in the subject, and gaining advice from staff from my local cake store, I set out to make a fondant covered chocolate cake, with ganache and cream layers. I needed to invest in some fondant icing, some fondant tools a cake tin and cake board. For the cake topper, I made a 3D figurine of Pink Panther on top. I'm very happy with how everything turned out, and have definitely learned a few lessons along the way.
I used this buttercake recipe I found online, and transformed it into a round 22cm chocolate cake by adding 2 tbl of cocoa powder as recommended in the comments section on the page. However, I found while cutting the cake into layers, the sides crumbled and broke off. Next time I think I'll make my Vanilla Buttercake instead, which is extremely moist and tasty. I made some basic chocolate ganache (equal parts dark chocolate and cream, plus a bit of cocoa powder) for the layers, along with chocolate whipped cream (thickened cream with a little bit of icing sugar and cocoa powder), and covered the top and sides with the same ganache. I made the cake Thursday afternoon, and assembled it Thursday night.
After cutting the cake into three 1.5cm thick circles, I swapped the layers around accidentally, so the sides of the cake were not very straight. I should have neatened the sides so they were in line and straight, but I was too tired and didn't bother. The ganache was then spread around the sides and top of the cake as best I could to hide the unevenness. The ganache was initially too warm and dripped everywhere, so I left it in the fridge to cool down for 15 minutes or so, and then it was more manageable.
As you can see, the sides are a wee bit wonky. I managed to disguse it well with the ganache, but once the fondant was placed on the cake, you could notice some obvious bumps and bulges. I wasn't TOO bothered by this as this cake was just for the family brunch.
I made the Pink Panther topper using this awesome tutorial, and let that dry on some baking paper. That was another mistake as when I placed him on the cake, a few cracks formed on his legs, and his tail broke off. I also dried the number three and found it cracked as well when placed on the curved surface of the cake. I made paws and stuck them on the sides while they were fresh and those came out nicely. Next time I will have all figurines ready to go and placed in position before leaving in the fridge.
As I had used cream in the layers, the whole cake needed to stay refrigerated, which meant that when brought to room temperature, the fondant sweated slightly, and the chilled fondant wasn't as firm and dry as the figurines stuck on top (but that was not a huge deal taste wise). On the Sunday morning of the brunch, I removed the cake from the refrigerator and stuck the toppers on top. Whilst cutting the cake the fondant wasn't very dry as it didn't get a chance to dry out at room temperature for days, but the layers inside the cake were beautifually moist and the cream was an excellent addition to the top layer.
Overall, I was quite happy with how things turned out, and am very happy with my choice to make instead of buy this year. I have learned a few things to improve for the next cake, and oh yes there will be another cake - I feel an addiction starting...