- I enjoy baking but that doesn’t always reflect in the end dish. I have lived with many disasters in the kitchen and then, improvised the dish to not only save face (mostly) but also ensure it doesn’t go waste.
- My husband and I decided that we would only have home birthday parties for both our kiddos and as far as possible do it all on our own which includes the arduous tasks of decorating the house and baking a birthday cake. With every passing birthday, Iam getting braver with my cake choices.
- My mom is a terrific cook and a natural baker. I still very fondly remember the Barbie doll dress cake she had made for one of my birthdays. Those times were very different. For one there was no fondant to hide any imperfections and second it required great hand dexterity to ice the cake. I wanted my buttercup to have some such memory and this year for Buttercup’s third birthday, decided to make a doll dress cake (in sync with the Barbie birthday theme).
I hope to chronicle in great detail the making of this cake for any amateur home bakers out there – who like me, get creative for their family. This is also for all the party guests who loved the design and taste of the cake and were enquiring on ‘how to make it’. I will particularly highlight the things to watch out for. There is also a ‘notes’ section towards the end. For any other reader this post may border on ‘boring’. You have been warned. Then again you can drool at all the pictures. 🙂
First thing I did was type google. Well actually I called my mother who said type google for any recipe. J After nights of surfing I came across a very detailed site to make just the cake I was looking to make.
I would read this almost every night for like 2 weeks and once I knew I had memorized it, I then started to find a good recipe for the cake. The site does mention a recipe but it seemed a tad complicated for a butter cake. Also I had managed to convince my husband to forego a chocolate cake but chocolate icing was a must. The recipe in the site had a vanilla cream and nutella frosting recipe.
Again I turned to my super chef mom for a butter cake recipe and she emailed me a Martha stewart – yellow butter cake recipe link –
Follow the recipe to the T and it will come out scrumptious. While the look is important, the taste has to be impeccable as well. So if you have a favourite tried and tested butter cake recipe – go right ahead and use that recipe.
In our chocoholic home, this was my first attempt at a butter cake so I baked one cake, tried it, loved it and went right ahead and made 5 of these cakes, which I then later halved to eventually have a 10 layer cake! At the time of making this audacious size cake, I was still dabbling in some corporate work. So I literally baked whenever I got time – a Sunday was a blessing and some nights were easier with kids in bed. I froze the batch that I baked on Sunday. The other cakes that I baked 2 days before the birthday, I put them in my very cold fridge.
While baking the cakes I would have really preferred to have the tin sizes as mentioned in the fong kitchen blog but I didn’t and was in no mood to start shopping either. So I decided to use all the possible tins I had from the largest to the smallest.
All the cakes were wrapped in multiple layers of clingfilm and then aluminium foil and only then did they enter the freezer / fridge.
Once the cakes were ready and chilling in the fridge I followed Fang’s blog post –
Day 1 – bake the cakes on this day (if you have not already done so and put them in the fridge- I baked 2 on this night) and after cooling went into the fridge firmly wrapped up. I also ensured that I had a plate underneath each cake and did not stack them in the fridge. It was my first time letting cakes lie in the fridge and I did not want them to sink with the weight of the cake on top.
Day 2 is really the tiresome part. For starters ensure you have a large enough working space. 5 cakes being halved and stacked needs space. I used a cake cutter only because I was not sure whether I would be able to make even halves with a knife. And this is where the chilling cakes part comes in handy. It’s much easier to cut a cake out of the fridge then a freshly baked one.
Once I had my 10 layers ready, I then found a perfect round mould to cut out the holes in the centre of each layer (this is where the Barbie doll would be fitted). Try to centre the hole as much as possible but don’t fret much if it’s a little off centre. When shaping the stacks excess can be cut off. Then I prepped a regular large plate that I would stack the cakes on. I basically covered the plate with aluminium foil and let extra foil hang from the sides. This way if you want to transfer the cake, you have enough of the foil to hold on to. So 10 cake layers were ready and now moving onto the icing bit.
One can make this icing in advance but there is nothing like fresh stuff.
For the chocolate frosting, there is a hands down winner loved by my entire family. And that is the icing recipe by Nigella Lawson. She really does know how to make it decadent.
I started to ‘dirty ice’ (read more details on this in the notes section below) each layer of cake and started to stack them on my prepped plate. Unlike Fong’s blog where she had more or less cut to size cake layers, I simply stacked from widest layer to the narrow ones
Once the layers were iced and stacked, it was time to get it into the shape of a dress.
This was tough for me. Imagine baking all these lovely cakes only to start slicing large chunks away. Its important to have a broad lower cake base as it helps in getting a more rounded dress structure at the top. If you see my final cake, it’s evident that I could have cut more at the top and make it much more conical (next time 😉 ). So hack away with no mercy on your creation! :). I used a long serrated sharp knife, my husband’s critical eyes and my mom’s expert opinion to really push me to cut more and more of the top layers of the cake. Also it helps to insert the doll into the cake to get that dress shape. Make sure to wrap the doll’s legs all the way till her neck with cling film before you get her anyway near the cake. If there is a struggle to push just know that your round cut is smaller and with a knife chisel out more of the cake round. If you push too hard, there is danger in the cake layer cracking.
Finally it was shaping up to what was envisioned. Then I crumb coated the outer layers and loosely wrapped the whole cake with cling film. This whole structure went back into the fridge for the crumb coating to set.
Day 3– Slowly transfer the cake to a cake stand. Insert the doll slowly into the cake. Ice a thin layer on the entire cake. This will ensure the fondant will stick to the cake,
Then I rolled out white fondant and made rectangular strips of these. I did try fong’s method of curling the strip to add the frill effect but the fondant kept cracking. So instead I decided to use a toothpick and create ripple effect. The rest I followed as in Fong’s design. Not an expert at handling fondant, there were plenty of cracks that I managed to cover up with lots of sugar paste flowers. Keep ready made sugar paste designs handy (or make them if you are creative enough). I then covered the whole white fondant with edible pink glitter paint (or just use pink fondant J). Did a few decorations around the waist, made the doll’s corset and voila the 10 layers Barbie doll dress cake was ready.
A few notes–
- The 10 layer cake decision was taken after I stood the doll up and measured how many tins would need to go into the oven. So make sure that when the cake layers are stacked up they come up to the doll’s waist. You don’t want to be rushing last minute to make another layer.
- I have an oven that overheats by about 10 degrees, which in baking terms means burnt from the top cakes and undercooked in the middle. After years of researching and trial and error I found the cure. Baking strips. You can buy them at exorbitant rates or just make your own from old cotton clothes. So if you have a similar problem as mine or face a lot of doming (those lovely peaks that no one wants to conquer) then this could be useful for you. Basically make long rectangular strips. Wet them, gently squeeze out dripping water and then wrap them around your baking tin. Perfect even cakes. No they do not burn and yes they can be reused.
- To thaw my frozen cakes, I simply took it out of the freezer and let it sit on a wire rack without removing the foils.
- The nigella icing requires sour cream, something I struggle to find here so I use the next best substitute – curd/ yogurt. Hang the curd in a muslin cloth for 2-3 hours to drain out the excess water or just use the curd as is while being careful to not take much of the liquid part of the curd.
- While doing all my research (I probably spent more time researching than actually baking and icing! 🙂 ), I discovered another technique called ‘crumb coating’or the more fun name – ‘dirty icing’ a cake. Basically it’s a thick first coat of icing on the cake. Chill the cake and then start to ice the cake. Don’t worry too much about perfection at this stage. As long as the icing has uniform thickness its good to go. Crumbs, blemishes, are all ok as the fondant will cover all this.
- For the cake cutting I made the mistake of positioning the cake too high. I have a tall cake stand on which I positioned the 10 layer cake. So ideally I should have placed the cake on a low table. It was meant to be at the child’s eye level. Well, another time.
- While cutting the cake ensure that you have a big knife and cut a straight line top down from the doll’s waist. Then at a distance cut another straight line. This will yield one long elongated piece. Then you can cut the layers ( 3-4 layers) per piece.
I knew I had nailed it for the kids when Peanut demanded that I make a 3d cake for his birthday as well.