I have known Mr. K for over 13 years now, first as a friend who eventually became my husband, and we have spent only a fraction of that time in the same country. Last month was the first time in a long time that we were in the same place on his birthday! So naturally, I wanted to make him a birthday cake that he would truly love! My idea was to combine as many of his favourite things as I possibly can in one cake. It seemed daunting in my head at first but the birthday boy sure deserved it! So I thought about it. Made a quick list of the things he would love to see on his cake. Worked on it for a few days. Aaaaaaaand…. the final result was this gloriously delicious Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting! Not just any cream cheese frosting, but Blue Ombre Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting! Oh and to customize it even further I threw in some his favourite Avengers in the form of hand-made cake toppers. Yep, you guessed it, he absolutely loved it!
The first thing I did was the Avengers figures as I needed time for them to dry out. The first time I made fondant figures was a few years ago when I made an Angry Birds cake for my mum’s birthday. These Avengers however were quite a bit harder. I started out with the Hulk as he’s Mr. K’s favourite Avenger and finished up with Captain America. They weren’t perfect but I definitely think I got better at it with each figure and you can probably see it in the finished items too, with Thor and the Cap being the last two I did and looking neater than the other two. Consequently the Cap was my favourite of the figures! My focus though was the cake itself and the fondant figures were just a quirky addition.
This post/recipe though is specifically about the Ombre crusting cream cheese frosting. I know a lot of people aren’t ecstatic about the taste of fondant in cakes and Mr. K is the same. So if you’re faced with a similar situation where you need the look of fondant but not the taste, the next best thing is crusting frosting. It looks just like fondant and dries out and “sets hard” on the outside (hence called crusting) and you can use a spatula or your smoothing tools with a Viva paper towel or parchment paper to smooth it out. This crusting frosting is made with Shortening. The fact that Shortening stays solid at room temperature means the frosting crusts well and remains sturdy at room temperature as well (unlike butter) which is why it works well in crusting frosting. In fact buttercream that is all shortening or a mix of butter & shortening withstands warmer weather quite well.
However I personally do not like the taste of Shortening in buttercream at all. It leaves a film of fat in your mouth when you eat it which is less than desirable to say the least. So I used a minimal amount of Shortening, just enough to achieve the crusting, and made a crusting cream cheese frosting which tasted amazing! I also added shades of blue that blended into each other (Ombre). It all worked out well because Mr. K is a big fan of red velvet cake, and cream cheese frosting and red velvet cake are a match made in cake heaven!
As for the red velvet cake, I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe with slight modifications. I admit living in New Zealand and Australia, I was not very familiar with red velvet cake and the first time I tried making it… well, let’s just say the end result probably could have made it to a trailer for the worst cooks in America show. It tasted like soap! This time however I used Deb Perelman’s wonderful recipe and I knew it wouldn’t let me down! And it didn’t! It was perfect in every sense of the word and tasted wickedly delicious!
- ½ cup vegetable shortening softened
- 1.25 lb cream cheese, softened
- 4 oz softened butter
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 3 lbs sifted confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tbsp Lime/Lemon Juice
- 3 layers of 8 or 9 inch Red Velvet Cake, Chilled
- Blue gel colouring (or any colour of your liking)
- Medium sized offset spatula
- Straight edged scraper
- Unpatterned Viva paper towels
- Fondant Smoother
- Beat the butter, shortening, cream cheese, lemon juice and salt till they are creamed well.
- Mix in the vanilla.
- Gradually add confectioners sugar a little at a time while the mixer is on low. Once all the Icing sugar is added and mixed - increase the speed to medium till the mix is smooth and fluffy.
- For a fluffier consistency you can add less sugar, and for a stiffer frosting add more confectioners sugar.
- This cake made just enough icing to fill and frost a 3 layered 9 inch cake. You will need to make more if you want to do decorations on the cake.
- Place the cake on a turntable to make it easier to frost the cake smoothly. Add about ½ cup of frosting between each layer of the 3 layered cake.
- Apply a crumb coating on the cake and place in the fridge for about 5 minutes, if the cake is cold, the crumb coat will set faster.
- Divide the remaining frosting into two. Divide one half of the frosting further into two bowls.
- Mix in 4 drops of blue gel colouring into 1 small bowl (which has a quarter of the frosting) and mix well. Mix only 2 into the other small bowl (the other quarter of the frosting) and keep the remaining half white.
- With a medium offset spatula liberally apply the darker frosting colour around the lower third of the base.
- Apply the lighter shade in the middle part of the cake.
- Apple the white frosting on the top third and the top surface of the cake.
- To smoothen the extra frosting off the cake, place a straight edged scraper along the side of the cake without touching the cake, but touching the frosting. Holding the scraper firm, turn the turn-table to evenly scrape off the extra frosting and smoothen it.
- Once the excess frosting is removed from the sides, smoothen the top as well.
- Leave the cake to "crust" for about 10 minutes. Touch the frosting lightly to check to see if it has crusted. If not, leave it a little longer. Do not leave it for too long however since if it crusts for too long, you will not be able to smoothen it.
- Place an unpatterned Viva towelette over the frosting and lightly rub over the frosting with your Fondant smoother or hand. When you remove the towelette, you will see that the Icing has become smooth. Repeat this process for the entire cake.
- Alternatively you could use a heated metal spatula or cake scraper to smoothen the icing as well. However, you will need to do this before the crusting has set too much.
- 3½ cups AP flour (the original recipe calls for cake flour, but I used AP)
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring or 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla
- 1¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tbsp Vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C degrees. Butter and line 3 x 9 inch round pans with parchment paper.
- Sift flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl.
- Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended.
- Beat in the eggs, one egg at a time.
- Once eggs are incorporated, change the mixer speed to low and add the vanilla and red food colouring. The batter might be quite runny, so be careful not to let it splash.
- Add flour and buttermilk alternately in two batches, starting with the flour and ending with the buttermilk. Mix until just combined. (Make sure the sides of the bowl are scraped down too)
- Place baking soda in a small dish, and stir in vinegar. This will immediately start to bubble. Add this to the batter while the mixer is running, and let it run for about 10 seconds until it is incorporated with the batter.
- Divide batter among the 3 pans. Transfer them to the oven and let them bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Once done, let the cakes cool in the pan for about 15-20 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Next time I make this frosting though, I might reduce the amount of confectioners sugar and see if I can still achieve the same level of crusting. It was still deliciously creamy though with the distinct taste of cream cheese coming through. If you can’t find unpatterened Viva towels for smoothing the frosting, you can use parchments paper, and if you can find neither, use a hot straight-edged cake smoother/spatula.
I even spray painted the Avengers logo on the cake which turned out to be a little too big as the fondant superheroes covered part of it when they were placed on top. Mr. K didn’t mind though. For him it was all a portal back to his childhood, a shout out to the boy who enjoyed the comics and the cartoons and for a day he was not just a kid at heart but in soul too.
The cake was incredibly moist and light as well. And most definitely did not taste soapy (YAY!).
His birthday dinner was fantastic too! He specifically asked for my Butter Chicken with a whole chicken (which also meant plenty of leftovers!), and I also made lentil and potato curries with cooked rice to go with it. All in all it was a great weekend and I think I succeeded in making up for all the birthdays we missed over the years. The one problem I have now though… I’m not sure I’d be able to top this next year!
So what’s your favourite cake? Mine is most definitely a Chocolate cake which, if you follow my blog, might not come as a surprise at all!
With Friday coming, I will be sharing my recipes on Foodie Fridays and Fiesta Fridays! I always look forward to checking out all the other awesome recipes there too!
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