Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cake Fun - Small Wedding Cake with Honeybees and Hydrangeas

An old friend from high school is a frequent reader of my blog.  She contacted me when she needed someone to make her (small) wedding cake and asked if I might be interested in making it for her.  How could I say no?

She said that she wanted blue hydrangeas and honey bees.

The bees took three tries to get right, but I have to say, they represent one of my prouder cake decorating moments!

I found this post with royal icing bees, and I knew that was the direction I wanted to go.  But - I wanted the wings to look more lifelike, so I decided to make them out of gelatin!  When we visited the Montshire museum recently, I took some inspiration pictures of honey bees, so that I would have something to work off of.
That's about the right color
For the royal icing, I used the King Arthur Flour recipe and their meringue powder.  I colored some of it an orangey-yellow to mimic the color of a honey bee's body, and I colored some of it black for the head and legs.  I used food coloring markers for the stripes on the bees.

For the wings, I made gelatin plastic.  I made a half recipe from what the tutorial used.  To one packet of unflavored gelatin, I added 3 Tbsp of water and heated, adding just a tiny bit of gold food coloring.  Once dissolved, I poured the gelatin onto a silicon sheet and allowed to harden, making sure it was spread quite thinly.  It ended up beng about the thickness of paper, which was perfect for cutting out wings.  I let it harden completely before working with it.

The first attempt was piped onto parchment directly.  I did not like the way they were flat and lifeless looking.

The second attempt was piped onto rounded plastic molds that I got for making fondant leaves once.  They looked awesome - but they were stuck on the molds and I couldn't get them off!  I was very sad.

Finally, I scraped the poor second attempt bees off the molds, lined the molds with parchment, and got to work on what would be my third and final batch of bees.  They were perfect.

To make them, I first piped ovals out of the yellow and allowed them to dry entirely.

When they were dry, I used a black food coloring marker to draw the stripes.  The bodies kind of look like Charlie Brown shirts to me.

One of these bees has no wings yet!
To the bodies, I piped little heads and legs, and then used some of the black icing to attach the wings to the bodies.  I just put a little bit of royal icing on the tips of the wings and then carefully and gently pressed them onto the bees' backs.

So now, I am really good at bees - and I want to try making butterflies and dragonflies!

For the hydrangeas, I just made a small batch of marshmallow fondant and colored it blue.  I then used a hydrangea cookie cutter to cut the flowers themselves, drew veins down the petals and poked a little hole in the center.  I used wire stamen to attach the flowers to the cake - these are not edible! (I warned the bride about that)

Now, the cake!  She wanted a layer of chocolate, a layer of vanilla, and a filling of dark chocolate ganache with crushed hazelnuts.  I also made a couple dozen cupcakes for her.

For the dark chocolate ganache, I used a Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Pound Plus bar - and found out that the necessary 2:1 ratio of mass of chocolate to mass of cream works out perfectly to use one package of the Trader Joe's shelf-stable whipping cream for one bar of chocolate!  I chopped up the chocolate in the food processor after breaking it roughly, and then heated the cream until hot but not boiling, then stirred the cream into the chocolate to melt.  It made perfectly smooth and creamy ganache.  I allowed the ganache to cool to spreading consistency before filling the cake.

I made a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream to frost the cake.  This is the same frosting that I used for The Boy's birthday cake, and I think it is my favorite cake frosting.  It takes a while, but it is satisfying to make and both beautiful and delicious.

To assemble the cake, I cut a hole into the center of the cakes with an apple corer.  I made cake boards with cardboard and covered them with saran wrap and also cut holes in the center to match the holes in the cake.  For each layer, I sliced them in half with a sharp bread knife and used my cake spatula, then piped some buttercream around the edge of the layer before filling with ganache and sprinkling with hazelnuts.  I layed the second layer of the same size on top of the filling, then continued by adding the cake round and the next size layer.

At the end of construction, I filled the hole in the center with dowels, to keep the layers solid.
Crumb coat
Once construction was complete, I did a crumb coat on the entire cake and let it set for about half an hour.  I followed that with a thicker layer of the buttercream, smoothing as much as possible.

Finally, I placed the flowers and bees on the cake, an finished off by piping some little rosettes around the edges.

Voila!  One wedding cake  - plus cupcakes (filled with ganache and hazelnuts)!!  It was fun to do, and I hope that they have a fantastic wedding!

Disclaimer: Though I used Trader Joe's products, this blog is not sponsored by Trader Joe's.  All opinions are my own (or the kids')

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  1. Wow! Looks beautiful and delicious! Thank you for sharing your experience and process with this.