Thursday, September 18, 2014

The One With the "How To Train Your Dragon" Cake

Do you ever have days when you just feel like you'r super failing at being a mom. Maybe the kids are all upset or you're upset and you just can't set things right. Days when everyone is falling apart. On days like those I like to remind myself that there are a few things I do know how to do. One of them is baking cakes. And so I present to you Ellie's fifth birthday cake.

The title of this cake is: Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his dragon, Toothless, flying through the isles of Berk at sunset. Featuring cotton candy clouds and rock formations made of Hershey's chocolate and Skor bars.

Ellie decided a month or so ago that she wanted a "How To Train Your Dragons" birthday party theme. Well, I'm not one for buying all those expensive and ultimately useless decorations for parties, but I do like to make cakes according to the chosen theme. When she said she wanted a cake with Hiccup and Toothless I immediately thought of the scene where they are flying through the isle rock formations at sunset. I think Astrid is with them and she reaches up and touches a pink cloud. It's such a beautiful scene and I thought that if I was going to have to do something with dragons, it might as well still be pretty. So eventually the idea evolved to making a cake that looked like the sunset. I think it turned out pretty well. 



I followed this recipe by Bakerella for the cake. I was initially disheartened when Ellie said she wanted a white cake with chocolate chips in it, because I am a chocolate cake girl all the way. And also because I usually find white cakes to be really dry and just, umm, gross. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this one turned out. I used the sugar water spray method that she recommends, and it worked splendidly.  If you must eat a white cake, I suggest this one. (Or maybe this one, although it is very rich and therefore I didn't want three layers of it for a kid's birthday party.) For the frosting, I came up with my own whipped buttercream frosting recipe, similar to the one I used for Olivia's Perfect Birthday Party Cake, but without cocoa.

Whipped Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough for one 9-inch, 3-layer cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/3 cups whipping cream

With an electric mixer on low, cream the butter. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar, in four or five increments, beating on low the entire time. Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup whipping cream and beat to incorporate. Once mixture is smooth, turn your beater's speed up slowly until you are beating on high. Beat until frosting fluffs up and resembles whipped cream, 3-5 minutes. You can add more whipping cream if you want it to be lighter or if you need more frosting (the whipped cream adds volume). For this particular project, you want your frosting to have enough substance to hold onto the chocolate candy pieces. For other projects, you may prefer a lighter, fluffier frosting.
After baking and cooling the cake layers, I cut off the rounded tops and assembled them with the whipped buttercream frosting. I separated out about a quarter of the remaining frosting and set it aside in a small bowl. With the other three-quarters, I used food coloring to dye it pink. I frosted the top and down the side one layer with the pink frosting, making whispy sideways strokes with a decorating knife. I added blue dye to the pink frosting to make the purple for the middle layer of cake. I wanted to create an ombre effect like sunsets usually are - they start out light and pink and darken until they are blue at the ocean. After the middle layer was done, I used the remaining uncolored quarter of frosting and dyed it blue for the waves. When mixing the blue dye in, it's okay to leave some white streaks in the frosting to resemble frothy waves. I whipped this frosting upwards to look like ocean waves.
I put the cake in the refrigerator overnight, but if you don't have time for that, let the frosting dry out a little bit, about an hour or two, before breaking up pieces of Hershey's chocolate bars and Skor or Heath bars and pressing them into the frosting in the pattern of cliff and rock formations. I started at the bottom of the cake and worked upwards so that the top pieces would have something to support them. I saved the biggest pieces for the tops of the rocks so they could stick up above the cake top a bit. Just before the party started, I added cotton candy clouds by sticking various size pieces into the pink frosting. It looked all beautiful and wispy for a little bit before the cotton candy absorbed some moisture from the frosting and crystalized. That made it darken and flatten out, but it was still really pretty and sunsety. (You can see it in some of the pictures.)
Finally I topped the cake with a toy Toothless and Hiccup, which Ellie can play with now that this cake has been eaten.
I felt very proud of how this turned out. Mostly because it was actually pretty simple to do, once I wrapped my head around the idea. I am all about cakes that look super impressive, but are actually relatively easy to accomplish. Those kinds of cakes make me happy. And I think it made this little five-year-old pretty happy, too. 

2 comments:

  1. You are one of the coolest moms to pull off a cake like that!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Way to go, Michelle! As a mom who once had a princess castle cake implode, I am impressed. :)

    ReplyDelete

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