Monday, June 15, 2009
A fish cake for a birthday boy
This weekend, my main job was to make a cake for my four-year-old grandson. I was all set on the kind of cake he should have. It was supposed to be a monkey cake that was featured on the MarthaStewart.com website but things don't always work out as we plan -- Eli had plans of his own. His heart was set on a "fish cake" and he had every intention of helping me make it. He had even been drawing fish cakes all day. The drawings looked very much like a cute fish on a birthday card he had received earlier in the week. It also was his favorite color, orange.
I took one look at his drawings and the card and knew we HAD to make a fish cake. We had to establish some rules about putting fingers in the cake and taking bites of the cake -- things like that, but with those things taken care of, we worked hard for a couple of hours on his fish cake. Amazingly, he really stayed with it.
It is really a simple cake sculpture which is relatively easy to do, if you just have the patience. You just need a baked 9 inch, 2-layer cake, plenty of frosting, food coloring, a decorator's bag with a medium-sized round decorator's tip, a spatula, mixing bowls and spoons. I also used an ice cream scoop to form the eye but a biscuit cutter would also work. You don't necessarily need a four-year-old, but in my case it did increase both the excitement -- and the tension.
I took the two cake rounds and placed one on the plate, and with the icing, made with the recipe below and frosted the top of the first layer. Place the next layer on top and frost it, then cut out the fish shape and the fish's mouth. It will become the tail. (See the diagram, below.) With the spatula, frost the cake with a thin coat of white icing. Smooth with a spatula dipped in a small amount of ice water. The frosting will act as a glue to attach the tail. You may have to add extra frosting here and there to even things out and better define the fish shape. I took an ice cream scoop and pressed some of the remaining cake into it to form the eye shape. I then placed the eye in place and iced it with white icing.
To add the color, divide the icing into four parts. Make half of the icing light orange. Save out about 1/2 cup of white icing from the other half for the eye. Make the rest dark orange. Save about a teaspoon of the dark orange frosting and mix with dark blue to make the eye color.
After I mixed the color I piped on the colored icing in swirls until it covered the entire cake, except for the eye, and then smoothed the swirls with a small spatula. To finish the eye, pipe the icing and smooth with a spatula just as in the rest of the cake.
After I finished the color layer, I piped on the fins and scales using the lighter color. (You can use the diagram I provided to see how to decorate the fish.) Using the blue, make the pupil on the fish's eye. To finish I also piped a thin border in the same color around the eye and around the bottom of the fish. I then added the birthday message on the side of the cake.
It is a good thing to know you can make a little boy happy. What else would anyone do?
Whipped cream decorator's icing
3 sticks of butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup whipping cream
3 boxes confectioner's sugar
2 tsp. vanilla flavoring
3 boxes Confectioner's sugar
Optional: Gel food colors (like Wilton)
Cream butter and add 1/4 cup whipping cream and the flavoring. Slowly add confectioner's sugar until it is well mixed. When it gets too stiff, add more whipping cream and mix until it is smooth and creamy. (Don't add too much. On a humid day, less whipping cream will be needed.
(I will admit that it is fattening but there are no trans fats in this frosting and the whipping cream makes it lighter than the decorator icining recipes I have used in the past. I do have a problem with the food coloring and almost always make mostly white cakes. I did use the first layer of white icing and topped it with orange. I might also suggest using lighter colors.)