I decided to make a special cake for our family's Christmas get-together because a) I need the practice, and b) I was anxious to try a few new recipes.
So here is my Christmas gift box cake. It's two layers of poached pear & cranberry spice cake, with marscarpone frosting sandwiched between, coated with a generous amount of Swiss buttercream, and encased in homemade fondant.
I was so excited when I came across this festive cake recipe ( http://thecakeblog.com/2013/11/pear-cranberry-cake.html
) a few months ago and immediately began making plans to use it around Christmastime. The recipe says it fills four 6-inch round pans, so I made 1 1/2 times the recipe with the hopes of filling my three 9-inch square pans. Unfortunately I didn't increase the recipe enough -- probably should have doubled it -- so I wound up with only two full pans. This affected my original design, as I had planned on a tall, lidded box cake. But since I was just making it for my own pleasure, I shrugged and let go of my tall-box-with-a-lid visions to settle for something that would look more like a simple wrapped box. In the end I was still pretty happy with how it turned out.
I got a little nervous while the cakes were in the oven and began to second guess my recipe choice. (What if the cranberries were too tart?) But when I trimmed my cakes I gave the excess to my toddler, and he kept coming back for more. Toddler approved! It was also a hit at the party, and not just because my Mom asked everyone, at least twice, "Have you seen the cake?! My daughter made it!" The cranberries burst during the cooking process and become a sweeter, more compact version of themselves. The texture of the poached pears and the cranberries goes so well with the texture of the cake you're not really aware you're biting into pieces of fruit, but at they same time they're not mushy or soggy. If you can find an excuse to make this cake I highly recommend it.
The recipe I used for the Swiss buttercream ( http://thecakeblog.com/2014/06/no-meringue-swiss-buttercream-recipe.html
) was another one that I've been itching to try. It's a different take on the traditional Swiss meringue, just minus the meringue part. It was super silky, delicious, and not excessively sweet. Most importantly it was very stable and held its shape under the fondant without any trouble. I will definitely be using this recipe again in the future.
The marscarpone frosting that I sandwiched between the layers was even more delicious. (Recipe can be found on the same page as the cake recipe). It was a little sweeter than the buttercream and overall kind of like a cream cheese frosting. I would have liked to have covered the whole cake in this stuff, but I don't think it would have held up very well once the cake came to room temperature. I had plenty left over though, so I plopped some on top of a slice of pumpkin pie last night, and I was in heaven.
My final recipe experiment was my homemade fondant. The last time I made my own fondant I was so disappointed. It was sticky and extremely difficult to work with, which resulted in multiple tears and elephant skin patches that had to be corrected using a sort of fondant spackling technique. It was a disaster. But I decided to give it another go because store-bought fondant is freakin' expensive. This recipe ( http://artisancakecompany.com/2012/11/the-best-marshmallow-fondant-recipe-ever/
) is it, y'all. It's the one
. It stretches without tearing, and it doesn't taste like cardboard. What more could one ask from fondant?
And here are the details about the, uh, details:
The bow, gift tag, and holly leaves are made from a 1:1 mixture of fondant and gumpaste. I painted over the bow loops and ribbon with a combination of red gel color, gold luster dust, and vodka. "Merry Christmas" on the tag was also hand painted using black gel color and vodka. I brushed a very thin coat of Crisco over the holly leaves after they had dried to give them a glossy look.
The little gold snowflakes on the sides of the cake are made from rice wafer paper. I sprayed the wafer paper with Wilton gold color mist, used a paper punch to cut out the snowflakes, and then gently pressed each one against an (unused) damp sponge before applying them to the cake. The punch I have is actually intended to be the center of a lily. But I thought it looked close enough to a snowflake, so I went with it.
The only thing I didn't make was the rosemary because, really, who needs that kind of headache when you have gorgeous (and already edible) rosemary sprigs at hand?
This was my first time making a square cake, but I think with a little more practice I'll have the kinks worked out. If it wasn't going to be covered in fondant it would have needed some more smoothing. I'm also not entirely happy with the corners and edges, but I already know what I'd do differently there next time. Regardless, I'm happy how it turned out, both aesthetically and culinarily. (The latter so much so that I had a generous slice of cake with my morning coffee. Yeah.)
If this post was a little TL;DR for you, I totally understand. But, as always, thanks for looking!