Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig,...

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I am writing this from my Mom's living room as pies are being baked in the kitchen and 23 family members are preparing to make the venture to Virginia.  Currently the immediate family is reveling in the small amount of calm before the storm.  A storm that we grow more excited for with every waking minute, a storm of laughter, food, love, craziness, and loudness.  I can't wait! 

With a number of posts that could be written today I asked my sisters which they wanted to see.  After going back and forth on whether or not a sappy post about Thanksgiving was something I wanted to do (did the first paragraph suffice?) they responded in unison that they wanted the Spider-Man Cake.  So here it is:

Last weekend was The Husband's birthday and as he is a big fan of Spider-Man I concluded there was only one cake that I could make.  Besides, I've always wanted to try my hand at a shaped cake and a super hero who's face is really just an oval seemed easy enough.  Oh, how little I knew!  What started as a nice thing for The Husband ended with a gosh darn it this cake WILL be made!  The final result only occurred after two previous attempts ended up in the trash and many more hours than anticipated were spent carving and anxiously hoping it wouldn't fall apart.  While it was difficult I did learn many tips and tricks that will make this significantly easier in the future and my hope is that it takes the intimidation out of making a shaped cake.

Bake two layers of cake.  Because I planned to shape and decorate I wimped out and used a box cake mix.
Level both layers.  A bread knife or chef's knife works really well.  I found I preferred the bread knife because of the long blade.
And this would be how NOT to decide to shape it.  I mean it makes sense right?  You trace around what you already have?  Yeah, no.
Placing aluminum foil over the cake pan allows you to be as messy as you need to be when icing the cake, this is always a good thing!
A regular store bought icing was used for the filling
This would be how you start to shape!
Hey look!  It's Spider-man!  Or maybe Iron Man? 
Yay for trash bits of cake, I highly recommend snacking on these while cakes are cooling/icing is being made/just for fun.
I made a homemade icing which I then dyed red with lots and lots of red food coloring, but it's not pink so I call it a success.  Due to a number of different factors the icing didn't end up as firm as it should have which made the following steps interesting.
Hmm, still could be either Spider-Man or Iron Man.  You can see the icing dripping down the sides at this point the cake was thrown in the freezer for a bit to keep the icing from completely falling off.
Before dying the majority of the icing red I put aside a small bit aside to dye black which only needed a couple of drops.
While the cake was in the freezer I practiced with my white icing and a tip to make dots that would be used for the eyes
Now it looks like Spider-Man!  Woohoo!  I used a toothpick to outline the eyes and lines for the web so I had a basic design to follow with the piping bag.
You can see how the black icing started moving to one side since it wasn't firm enough.  At this point I was running out of time so put the eyes on quickly and stuck it in the fridge for an hour or so.
When the aluminum foil is pulled away there's no icing on the platter.  It's a Birthday Miracle!  Next time I'll take a knife and run it around the edge before pulling the foil away for cleaner lines.
And there you have it!  
All in all it was a rousing success at The Husband's party so I would say my job was done.  

The things I learned along the way are as follows:
- Once the cakes have cooled on a rack place them in the fridge for a number of hours.  I was worried this would dry the cakes out but this was not the case.  Mine ended up sitting in the fridge overnight because The Husband wasn't allowed to see them and they were still perfectly moist.
- Don't skimp on the filling and fill the entirety of the cake, not just the general area of the shaped cake.
- Toothpicks are your friends!  Use them to help outline the shape you're cutting into the cake as well the designs on the icing.  Icing is forgiving and you can go back over it if you make a mistake.
- Aluminum foil under the cake was much easier to deal with than I expected.  I would use a butter knife around the edges for better separation of icing on the cake from icing on the foil.
- I doubled the icing recipe which I didn't need to do and I think it would have firmed up better if I'd done one batch and then made more if necessary.
- Above all take your time!

Thanks for reading and happy baking!  

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