Peggy's Baking Corner -Valentine's Day Cake
by Peggy Weaver
This year I decided to make a 6-inch cake because an intimate Valentine's Day dinner for two calls for a smaller dessert. The design idea went just fine and the baking went just fine, but trying to cover my cake with a pretty coating of Buttercream Icing was just murder. To top it off, the final step was a…… well…… I’ll just say for now, unpleasant at best!
Your favorite cake recipe:
1 batch of Buttercream Icing (click on the underlined for the recipe)
Food Gel Color: red, leaf green, and brown
5 pastry piping bag or parchment bags
2 cake boards that fit the size of your chosen cake. Stack them and cover in aluminum foil.
You will need:
Food Gel Colors: 8 ounces leaf green, 10 ounces red, and 4 ounces of brown. Leave your remaining icing white.
I chose to use a white cake mix today. I wanted a slightly denser cake so when the recipe called for 3 egg whites, I used 3 whole eggs instead. I also added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract because I love vanilla. The little extra dash of vanilla extract, heightens the taste of the cake.
Bake your cake in well-prepared cake pans at 325 degrees F. The lower, slower baking is better for the cakes' texture and moistness. It also will dome less, so you’ll have less to do later before icing.
If you are using a 6x3-inch cake pan, you will need to bake for about 42 minutes, but start checking before at 40 minutes with a toothpick.
When the cakes are finished baking, remove the pans from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Immediately, using a tea towel (remember the cakes are very hot), gently press down on the dome of the cake with your hand to gently help flatten the top. This will help increase the denseness of the cake and improve your texture.
Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, remove them from the pans, and allow them to finish cooling with the bottom side (the part that was inside the pan) facing up. By cooling your cakes this way, when the time comes to do your icing, you will have a crisp edge to start with and your icing will have a better visual look.
When your cake is completely cooled it’s time to slice, fill the cake, and then coat with, what is called, a crumb coat. This thin coat of icing will help lock your wayward crumbs into place and really help with the time and quality of the final icing. Believe me, you really will save time and energy. Let the thin coat of icing crust up, usually 30 minutes is more than enough.
NOTE: Often I’m trying to work ahead, so I will bake, cool, and crumb coat one night and decorate the next. If you are using a dairy based filling, you should to do things a bit differently. Since you need to refrigerate a cream cheese filled cake, you will have a difficult time with crumb coat when it is removed from the refrigerator as the cake will start to collect condensation and soften up again. Allow the cake to come to room temp before applying your final icing.
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Check out some of Peggy Weaver's many Cake Decorating Articles, Tutorials, and Q&A pages below:
Fondant Icing 101
Buttercream Icing 101
Decorating Wedding Cakes
Peggy's Cake Decorating Idea Photos
Take a close look at the cake photos above. This is a really messy Buttercream Icing job. No matter what I did, I could not get the Buttercream smooth. I let it sit at room temperature and tried to fix it with a knife. I put it in the refrigerator for an hour and then tried to fix it with the knife again. So I decided to use the parchment paper trick below:
Poke the tip gently into the icing so that you secure the leaves to the cake, squeeze the bag, pull the bag away from the cake and release the pressure. This technique will help the leaves to “float” in the air and appear graceful. Don’t forget to twist and turn a few of the leaves like Mother Nature does.
Place your dark green icing in a bag with the #352 tip. Pipe random leaves that are 1 to 1 ½ inches long. You can pipe larger leaves if you are decorating a larger cake. Remember to be delicate with a small cake and go bolder with the larger cakes to keep things in proportion.
I take a spatula, a gob of green icing and I smear the icing on the side of the bag. Drop in a spatula full of white icing and repeat the process. I like to do this 2 or 3 times and then plop a gob of white in the center, then a gob of green, etc until the bag is about 1/2 full.
I noticed years ago that if you have a level icing problem the more decoration you put on the cake, the less noticeable it is because everyone is so caught up with the fancy stuff, the basic are often unnoticed. That is why we are doing the color striping, seed pods, flower buds and flowers. You can skip any of these steps but the end results won’t be as nearly as dramatic.
To make the flower buds: Look at this photo on the left. Notice that this time I’m holding the tip just the opposite than I did for the leaves. Now the point of the V is on the side and the icing comes out with a tall ridge. On the branches, pipe individual flower buds or little clusters of 2 or 3. The icing should be coming out the tip in streaks not in a continual color.
Pipe a few buds over the top of the leaves you piped earlier and if you can, jam the tip under a few of the leaves and make the buds look like they are growing from under the leaves. Make sure you are piping randomly, the way that Mother Nature grows and so that you are also covering up any the icing problems.
Toward the end of your vine tip, pipe little beads in clusters like tiny grapes. I like to have 7 to 15 seed pods in the cluster but let the size of your piping and the cake, be the deciding factor.
Fill your piping bag with the red icing and Tip #103 and pipe your roses randomly on the top of the cake. The size of the rose you make and your placement will determine the quantity. You might even consider making a few rose buds laying on their side.
If I’m making a larger cake, 9 or 10 inches, I will also make a few roses with the remaining green striped icing.
If you need to refill the piping bag, just put in white icing so that only a very little green shows through. You want to have a very pale green rose so that it will act as a filler and give you a feeling of stability.
The last step is to place your cake on the
serving plate and pipe a row of shells around
the bottom of the cake. My preference is a
size 16 tip for this step but you can be
creative and use larger or smaller sizes as you
Don’t tip the cake plate while decorating so that you can get that flower on.
I did and I had to clean up the counter and the floor, my hands and my blouse. I even had to help clean up my Husband who was there with a glass of wine. He had just poured my glass and was watching me put the last flower on the cake.
The whole side of the cake was trashed and in one place, my whole thumb went inside.
Luckily, I only needed to take pictures.
The final picture I took was of the other side of the cake that survived.