Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fancy Schmancy Nancy Cake

My friend Nancy's going on a massive trip.  She's going on a cruise with her sister to New Zealand (yes, it's a Lord of the Rings trip there), Australia (where she'll visit friends), and the South Pacific (where she might just happen upon Green Island, where my stepfather was stationed for two years as a Navy SeaBee World War II).  I don't know if I'm upset because I'll miss her or because I'm jealous as hell.  But I do know I had to get her a going away present to show her that I was going to miss her, to let her know how much she means to me.

But what to get her?  Nifty little passport/boardingpass/ticket/ID holder?  Piece of luggage?  Booze?  No, no, and no ~ she's a seasoned traveler and a great planner, so she already has all of the above (yes, even the booze ~ she's arranged for her room on the cruise ship to be stocked with plenty of liquor ~ I didn't even know you could do that!).

So I decided to give her the gift of my time.  I spent two days baking her a cake from scratch.

I've always wanted to make one of those fancy cakes like Chef Duff makes.  I LOVED that show!  I wish they wouldn't have taken it off the air.  Yeah, there's Cake Boss, but that guy gets on my nerves.  So to get my fancy cake fix, I have to wait for the special cake contest shows.  Bummer.  There's not enough of them. 

So I decided to get my fix by making one myself.  Man, was it ever fun!!  And easier than I thought.  I made the Devil's Food cake from a recipe from Martha, the Buttercream icing from a recipe from, and the marshmallow fondant from the AClockworkLemon blog.  (Links, recipes and etc. below.)  I'd bought some gold "fairy dust" stuff from the cake decorating aisle at Michael's, along with some gold and white sprinkle stuff and some gold wire to make some sticky-uppy-antenna things.  I'd also bought some ready-made fondant, but that stuff tastes like shit, so I decided to do it from scratch instead (good choice).  I also picked up some icing tips at HEB.  Couple all that stuff with some internet instruction and VIOLA!  

I thought I'd bring it to work.  Nancy likes sharing things with people, and she really does love the people we work with.  Perfect match.  We left it sitting on the kitchen counter 'til she cut it, right after she finished lunch.  It was gone in minutes. ;)  Everyone loved it!  And I got some helpful hints from Kirk on how to make my next one even better.  I can't wait!  Christmas Cake comin' up next!


Devil's Food Cake

from Martha Bakes on PBS


  • Vegetable nonstick cooking spray
  • ¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for pans
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 15-cup nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray (I used two 8" round pans and MAN did they get full! Too full.); set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk cocoa with hot water until smooth. Whisk in sour cream; let cool. Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each; scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the cocoa mixture and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  6. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack; Re-invert cake; let cool completely, topside up.
  7. Using a serrated knife, trim bottom of cake layer to make level. Transfer to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing


  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup 2% low-fat milk (I used evaporated milk instead ~ next time I think I'll use heavy whipping cream)

  1. In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, beat butter on high until it's soft, about 30 seconds until soft.
  2. Add cocoa powder and powdered sugar and beat until incorporated.
  3. Add the milk a little at a time as you mix. Stop when you get to your desired consistency -- the more milk you add, the softer it will be.
  4. Once you have your desired consistency, beat on high for 3 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

(for writing, gluing on fondant decorations, outlines, etc.)
I just replicated the Chocolate Buttercream recipe, leaving out the cocoa and adding extra powdered sugar.

Marshmallow Fondant

from A Clockwork Lemon

  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (regular tints the fondant just a tiny bit, so use clear if you want it snow white)
  • 1 lb marshmallows
  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar
  1. Melt marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, another 30 seconds, stir, and repeat until they're good and melted.
  2. Add 3/4 of the powdered sugar to the bowl, sifted in.  Stir to form a dough.  
  3. Dust the counter with powdered sugar and turn the dough out on it.  Knead, adding powdered sugar with a sifter, until it's not too sticky.  (I rolled out butcher paper, wax side up to do this on.  Cleanup was a breeze!)
  4. Roll the fondant out to 1/8 inch thickness, powdering with sugar when necessary.  
  5. Roll fondant onto rolling pin and unroll onto cake, like putting a pie crust in a pie plate.  Form to cake gently.
  6. This recipe made plenty for a two-tier 8" cake and decorations.
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