I said I would and after giving some thought for an idea to the cake and cupcakes, I decided I would do a jungle animal theme. Just right for a two year boy who was fascinated with animals. As the birthday party was on Friday (lucky for me it was a public holiday here in Singapore), I had to plan ahead early in the week. The 6" cake layers were baked on Tuesday night and I managed to come up with 6 layers in total. The cake required the height to make it stand out. And the cupcakes were baked on Wednesday night. I dedicated Thursday evening after dinner to decorate the cake and cupcakes. Initially I had wanted to split the decoration over Thursday night and Friday morning, but once I was into the project on Thursday night, I decided to complete everything in one-go. Would you believe that I finally finished the cake and cupcakes at 2am on Friday morning!
The end result was a fondant 4-layer chocolate cake sandwiched with buttercream and chocolate ganache. The entire cake was covered with a chocolate fondant. Tall trees wrapped the sides of the cake with a snake going around one of the trees. Eyes of animals peered out between the trees and two elephant trucks appear to be coming out from the depth of the forest. Above the tree foliage pops the heads of two giraffes. The giraffes are made of gumpaste and I hand painted the spots and drew out the eyes, mouth and nose.
To complement the cake, the cupcakes were decoated into a variety of jungle animals -tigers, zebras and lions.
I was extremely pleased to hear that the birthday boy enjoyed his birthday cake very much and the rest of the kids loved the cupcakes. This really makes my weekend!
Chocolate Butter Cake
Recipe Adapted from Joy of Baking
(Serves 8 - 10)
4 ounces (150 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
2 1/4 cups (315 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
370 grams granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) milk
5 ounces (140 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) milk
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
4 cups (1 pound) (454 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, and line with parchment paper, two - 9 x 2 inch deep (23 x 5 cm) round baking pans. Set aside.
2) In a stainless steel or heatproof bowl place the chopped unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and cocoa powder and stir until they have melted. Set aside to cool while you make the batter.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk to combine, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4) In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy (this will take about 3-5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate mixture and beat to combine.
5) Add the milk and flour mixtures in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until the ingredients are incorporated.
6) Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Butter or lightly spray a wire rack with Pam before inverting the cakes onto the rack to prevent the cakes from sticking. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.
Melt the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool. Then place the melted chocolate, milk, confectioners sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer.) Add the pieces of softened butter and beat on low speed for about 2 minutes. When the frosting starts to come together increase the speed to medium and beat for about 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for 1 - 2 minutes more or until it is of spreading consistency. If necessary, add more milk or sugar.
Place one layer of cake, top side down, on your serving plate and cover with a layer of frosting. Then place the second layer of cake, top side down, onto the first cake layer and then frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Can garnish with fresh fruit or shaved chocolate.