For those who want to have their cake, and decorate it too, mother-daughter bakers, Kaye and Liv Hansen have written “The Whimsical Bakehouse.” The book is filled with recipes on fun to make cakes that taste as good as they look. The two work together at their Riviera Bakehouse, in Ardsley, N.Y., where they create their brightly decorated and delicious designs. Check out their recipes and design tips below.
ODE TO JACKSON POLLOCK
Making this cake is like scribbling on a big pad of paper. Let go of any inhibitions you might have about decorating cakes and enjoy this abstract expressionist experience. It is easy and fun, and the end result is raw beauty. This technique can be applied to any glazed cake.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
10-inch round cake of your choice — we recommend the Mocha Chocolate Chip Cheesecake, Grand Marnier Cheesecake, or Julie’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake.
1 cup each dark wafer chocolate and white wafer chocolate
1 cup chocolate shavings or chocolate sprinkles
Bake the cheesecake and let it cool completely. Unmold the cake onto a cardboard round and freeze until set, about 3 hours or overnight. Prepare the Chocolate Glaze.
Place the cake on a wire rack set inside a sheet pan. Glaze the cake.
Then, in small bowls, melt 1 cup each of white and dark wafer chocolate separately.
Dip a whisk or a fork in the white chocolate, then flick your wrist in the direction of the cake, directing the spatters over the top of the cake. Repeat a few times until you are satisfied with the pattern, then repeat the spattering process with the dark chocolate.
Lift the cake from the rack and carefully clean the bottom edge with a hot spatula. The hot spatula helps to melt any chocolate that might have stuck to the cooling rack. Press chocolate shavings or chocolate sprinkles around the bottom of the cake.
Adhere the cardboard round supporting the cake to your base.
RELIEF CHOCOLATE METHOD
Though the basic forms for decorations made with the relief method are traced and filled on parchment as usual, the finishing touches are added freehand to the smooth surface once the form has hardened and been peeled off its parchment backing. This gives the pieces dimension and texture. You can take this even one step further, by making a design in segments, then reconstructing it in layers to create a three-dimensional object.
Feel free to limit the number of colors you use on your design; the important thing is to see the raised design against the smooth chocolate base.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Sheet pan or flat surface
1/4 cup dark wafer chocolate and
1 to 2 cups white wafer chocolate
7 small plastic bowls
Orange, pink, green, yellow, purple, and blue candy colors
Draw or trace a design for a snowman. This will be your template. Tape the design on a sheet pan or flat surface. Cover the template with parchment paper. Separately melt the dark and white chocolate.
In the bowls, tint small amounts of the white chocolate light orange, yellow, blue, pink, purple, and green, leaving the bulk of the white for the body. Pour the tinted and dark chocolates into separate pastry cones.
Cut a small hole in the dark chocolate pastry cone. Pipe out the snowman’s hat. Do not trace the snowman’s outline.
Cut a large hole in the white pastry cone and pipe out three circles for the body, overlapping the hat to prevent breaking. Fill in the circles with more white chocolate. Set aside to harden.
When the chocolate has set, gently flip the design. Following the template for guidance if necessary, pipe a blue line to define the snowman’s belly. Use the dark chocolate to pipe out coal eyes, mouth, and buttons. Use orange to pipe out a carrot nose, green to add a scarf, pink for the polka dots and fringe. Pipe a purple band around the hat with a yellow buckle. Add any other details you think might make the snowman come to life. Set aside until completely hardened.
Depending on the piping application you choose you will need to adjust the consistency of your icing. Soft buttercream flows easily without air pockets and breaks, making it best for fine piping, lines, and inscriptions. Borders, rosettes, and swags need a medium-consistency buttercream that is fluid yet holds its form.
Roses and other flowers need a firmer frosting for the petals to retain their shape. To make the buttercream firmer, chill it in the refrigerator for a few minutes, stirring often so the buttercream does not solidify. Conversely, to make the buttercream softer, lightly melt it over a double boiler, stirring constantly until the buttercream is soft and smooth.
The thickness and uniformity of your piping will be influenced by how much pressure you apply to the bag and the steadiness of that pressure. Twisting the top of the pastry bag creates a natural pressure. Squeezing the bag applies additional pressure and allows you to control the flow. Use one hand to guide the bag while squeezing with the other, twisting the top of the bag occasionally to maintain pressure. Your goal is to apply consistent pressure while moving the tip or bag at a steady pace or rhythm.
For most piping applications the pastry bag is held at a 45-degree angle to the cake. To begin, touch the pastry tip to the surface of the cake where you want to start piping, allowing the icing to adhere to the surface. Lift up the tip as you begin to apply pressure. Do not drag the tip along the surface of the cake; lightly touch the surface of the cake or hover above it as you pipe.
At the end of a line or embellishment stop applying pressure to the bag and quickly spiral the tip or pull the tip downward to the side. This is known as tailing off.
Dots: round tip — Hold the bag perpendicular to the cake surface. Keeping the tip stationary, apply consistent pressure until the dot is the desired size. Release the pressure and tail off gently to the side or in a spiral to give a rounded finish.
Star tip — Hold the bag perpendicular to the surface of the cake. Using consistent pressure, pipe a tight circle. Without releasing the pressure, continue the spiral over the first circle, releasing the pressure as you tail it off.
Bead Border or shell border: Round tip or star tip — A bead border is the same as a shell border, except that a round tip is used. Vary the pressure or tip size to make different-sized beads. Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. Rest the tip where you are going to begin piping the bead. Without moving the bag, apply heavy, consistent pressure, allowing the tip to rise as the icing builds. Once the bead has formed, decrease the pressure while dragging the tip downward, forming a tail. Begin the next bead overlapping the tail of the first.
Crazy Curls: Round tip — This whimsical take on a traditional cornelli lace pattern is made with a fine tip and a continuous line. Hold the tip perpendicular to the cake surface. Touch the tip to the surface where you want to begin piping, then lift the tip up as you begin to apply pressure, moving the pastry bag randomly in a series of partially overlapping spirals, loops, and curls. To end the line, touch the tip to the surface of the cake again and discontinue the pressure.
Rickrack Border: Petal tip — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface for a flared rickrack or perpendicular to the cake surface for a flush rickrack. With the wide end of the tip up and lightly touching the cake, apply consistent pressure, moving the bag up and down in a tight zigzag motion.
Plaid: Flat and round tips — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. Pipe widely spaced equidistant parallel lines. Apply one or more additional sets of lines among the first, varying the color and tips (round and flat) to form a pattern. Perpendicular to these lines, pipe equi-distant parallel lines. For plaid on the side of a cake, begin piping at the top edge. Lightly touching the cake, pipe equidistant, parallel, vertical lines flush with the cake surface. Stop applying pressure at the bottom and pull away. Pipe equidistant parallel horizontal lines, letting the icing flow naturally over the vertical row of lines. To disguise the takeoff and end points, finish the plaid by piping a line around the top border.
Crazy Border or cloud border: Petal tip or round tip — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. With the wide end of the tip up and lightly touching the cake, apply inconsistent pressure while moving the bag up and down randomly.
Ruffled Ribbon Border: Petal tip — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. With the wide end of the tip up and lightly touching the cake, apply consistent pressure, moving the tip up and down while simultaneously raising and lowering the narrow end of the tip as you move around the cake, giving the illusion of subtle, overlapping ruffles.
Thread Swags and lines: Round tip — Trace the swags onto the cake surface with a toothpick before piping. For precise swags, divide the cake’s circumference by six or eight, then mark off the points between the swags around the cake. Holding the bag perpendicular to the side of the cake, lightly touch the side of the cake, and with consistent light pressure, pipe a string from the top edge, down through the arch, then up to the top again. Allow the icing to drape naturally in an arc, lightly touching the surface of the cake.
Spiral Swags: Star tip — Trace the swags with a toothpick before piping. For precise swags divide the cake’s circumference by six or eight, then mark off the points between the swags around the cake. Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the side of the cake. Lightly touching the cake, begin piping in a tight spiral motion from the top, arching down and then up to the top edge again. Apply more pressure at the belly of the arc to give a fuller swag, tailing off at the ends.
Lattice: Flat tip — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. Pipe equidistant parallel lines. At a 45-60 angle to these lines, pipe equidistant parallel lines. For lattice on the side of a cake, begin piping at the top edge. Lightly touching the cake at a 30-degree angle, pipe equidistant parallel lines flush with the cake surface. At the bottom stop applying pressure and pull away. In the opposite direction pipe equidistant parallel lines, letting the icing flow naturally over the first row of lattice. To disguise the takeoff and end points, finish the lattice by piping a line around the top border.
Bows: Petal tip — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. With the wide end of the tip pointed down, squeeze, moving the tip up and around to the right, ending at the starting point. Then, starting at the same point, squeeze, moving the tip up and around to the left, again ending at the starting point. (You can also pipe this portion of the bow in one fluid figure-eight motion). At the starting point, squeeze two ribbons down to finish off the bow.
Basket weave: Basket-weave tip — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. With the grooved edge pointing up, pipe a vertical line where you want to begin the basket weave. Pipe equidistant horizontal lines, separated by the width of the tip, overlapping the vertical line by 1/2 inch on each side. Approximately 1/4 inch to the right of the first vertical line, and slightly overlapping the horizontal lines, pipe another vertical line. Pipe another set of horizontal lines, starting in the empty spaces formed between the first set of horizontal lines, overlapping the second vertical line by 1/2 inch.
Flat Ribbon: Petal tip — Hold the bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface. With the wide end of the tip down, apply consistent pressure while piping a ribbon flush to the cake surface. Keep the narrow end lightly brushing the surface of the cake to ensure that it adheres. For a slightly flared, flat ribbon, the reverse can be done, piping with the wide end up and always touching the cake, and the narrow end at a 15-degree angle to the cake.
Recipes excerpted from “The Whimsical Bakehouse” by Kaye and Liv Hansen. Copyright © 2002 Kaye and Liv Hansen. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.