One of the biggest joys of making cakes, for me, is being able to make a family member or loved one’s birthday cake a tad bit more special than just a plain cake. Does that make me a cake snob? Hmm, maybe, but I do get super excited to think that maybe their cake will be a good memory of its own. Especially when its unique and a one-of-a-kind cake. So if you’re going to make a cake from scratch, go big!
One such special person in particular is my most awesomely cute great-nephew, Nash! He is vibrantly energetic and is the life of the party at all family gatherings. Just look at those eyes! So when his first birthday was upon us, I begged for the chance to make his cake and I was overly pleased when his parents consented.
Okay, so maybe I didn’t exactly beg, but I did strongly insist.
Now Nash loves dogs! His love of furry creatures is currently expanding but when he was turning a year old, he literally squealed at the sight of dogs, and I think that a dog’s “woof” was his first animal sound.
At this same time, I was starting to look into making gum paste figurines and flowers for cakes instead of just using fondant. When it comes to gum paste for figurines, I think it is a better option rather than fondant. Mainly because it dries harder, faster than fondant and you can also make the figurine well in advance of making the cake. That way, all you have to do when you are ready to decorate is place it where you want it and do any piping around it.
So, for Nash’s very special 1st birthday cake I wanted to focus on his love of dogs. Scrolling through cake ideas with dog decorations literally is very time consuming. I had to buckle down and think of how I wanted this cake to look. My thought process focused on how this kid loves to play, play with dogs, laugh, and I didn’t want it to just be a stationary thing, I wanted what it to be engaging with different elements. Then the idea struck me to have the dogs playing in the yard with balloons because its a birthday party, after all.
Being a self-taught in cake making, I used a few tutorials in how to model the gum paste to get the main gist of how it’s done. Tutorials help a lot and can guide you in the right direction if you have haven’t worked with gum paste or fondant before. Especially when it comes to the tools and supplies to use. You can view a couple of the tutorials I used here, here and here. The third link is in Spanish but there are pic-by-pic steps so that you can get the idea if you don’t read in Spanish.
Now on to the cake!
Mocha Espresso cake with fudge filling
For the cake:
3oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ c hot brewed coffee; I used instant espresso powder the you will need for the filling, that way you don’t need a coffee maker if you don’t already have one
2 ½ c flour
1 ½ c unsweetened cocoa powder, I used special dark cocoa power and it turned out great
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
¾ c vegetable oil
1 ½ c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
For the filling:
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
½ heavy cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Directions for the cake:
Preheat your oven to 300°F and prepare your cake pans by lining them parchment paper or you can grease with butter and dust with flour. I recommend using the parchment paper because this cake is super moist and will stick to the pan easily.
In a small bowl, pour the hot coffee over the chocolate chips and let it stand until the chocolate begins to melt. Stir until smooth and allow it to cool.
In a medium bowl, sift together your dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa powder, soda, baking powder, salt). In large bowl, begin to beat your eggs until they become frothy and lighter in color. While beating, slowly add in the oil, buttermilk, vanilla and melted chocolate mixture, combining well. In small batches, begin to add your flour-cocoa mix into the egg mixture on medium speed until well combined.
Divide your cake batter evenly among your prepared pans, bake for about 60-75 minutes remembering to adjust your cooking times depending on your pan size. Insert a tooth pick into the middle, it comes out clean when the cake is done. This recipe yields enough batter for 2 nine-inch round pans. A good tool to have on hand is a conversion chart of cake pan sizes and yields plus cooking time conversions, the site I used can be found here.
Allow your cakes to cool enough to where you can touch the pan before inverting onto cooling racks to finish cooling completely.
Directions for the filling:
In a saucepan, mix together the cream, sugar, espresso powder, salt and syrup over med-low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring it a boil and then remove from heat. Slowly add your chocolate and whisk until melted then add the butter in pieces until smooth. Allow it to cool before spreading over your bottom cake layer. Place your top cake layer and use your favorite frosting or a good buttercream.
The frosting for this cake was a simple Buttercream Frosting that I colored green. Because the cake was so moist, it became a little difficult to spread evenly. That’s where the piping became useful. Using Wilton’s grass tip #233, I piped the frosting over my goofs to complete the grassy-yard look . To make the sides of the cake be more decorated without taking attention away from the top, I melted down green candy melts then piped them out onto parchment paper and allowed to harden into the grass-like effect. When they were hard, I simply pressed the pieces onto the frosted sides of the cake.