I am glad that a lot of you like the cake from my last post, and as promised I will share here the step-by-step tutorial on cake decorating and tips that I learned along the way. This post will cover on all aspects of basic cake decorating such as type of cake, frosting, and technique..and I hope that you could also leave a comment and share what you know too, so it can also benefit the readers here. As the BBC Good Food Asia which features the cake is still on newsstand, I won’t be able to share the full recipe yet, they will become available on the blog later in couple of months time here, a page I dedicate solely to share about the column on monthly basis. The good news is, I have emailed a few of you who are not able to get a copy of the magazine for geographical reasons, so please feel free to contact me if you want the recipe pronto-).
Of course, we can frost any cakes we want, but I find that some cakes just go so much better with certain types of frosting. For example, a dense red velvet cake goes pretty well with cream cheese frosting, whilst a sponge cake goes very well with fresh whipped cream. Any buttercake or fruit cake, given their density and moisture level could be decorated with dense frosting such as marzipan, or royal icing.
Which frosting should I use?
Dairy versus non dairy whipping cream:
For the hazelnut sponge cake, I used non dairy whipping cream. Generally fresh cream ( dairy ) is suitable for cold climate, or for filling profiteroles or éclairs. Non dairy whipping cream is usually sweetened, so there is no need to add more sugar during whipping. The cream comes in liquid form and takes usually around 10 minutes on high speed stand mixer to reach its stiff peak consistency. It takes longer on hand mixer and I don’t recommend beating with whisk as it then takes forever to whip!
Fresh cream, airy or non dairy is the perfect choice of frosting for sponge cakes, especially if the cakes are frosted as layers. The fresh cream can also be flavoured with cocoa powder or chocolate emulco once whipped, without affecting the texture of the cream.
This is very easy to prepare, and done correctly, gives a superior sheen with glossy finish to the cake. Liquid ganache wit equal chocolate: cream ratio is for pouring method of frosting. Ganache with higher ratio of chocolate to double cream can be chilled then whipped to stiff peak consistency if the ganache is to be piped onto the cake with decorative designs. Please see end of post for classic chocolate ganache recipe, which I used for the Chocolate Hazelnut cake.
Buttercream versus Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For cupcakes or light textured fairy cakes, I prefer using swiss meringue buttercream as the frosting is very fluffy and complements the cake very well. Bear in mind though, SMB can be quite tricky, and highly influenced by the weather! Hot climate= clumpy, yucky buttercream!
The classic buttercream, in spite of its high calorific content ( aren’t all frostings sugary?!), tends to be more stable for cakes that need longer storage eg wedding or celebration cakes. The buttercream can also be frozen for months and thawed just prior to use.
Marzipan, Royal icing, Fondant, Marshmallow fondant
Marzipan is used as a layer-in-between the cake and the fondant, and it does help to lock the moisture of the cake, and retain the colour of the frosting. This is especially useful for high density cake such as butter cake or fruitcake, which can be covered neatly with heavy fondant. Marshmallow fondant is in trend now, and I am posting my recipe on fondants and royal icing very soon. I tend to reserve royal icing for decorating sugar cookies, or pipe decorations on fondant covered cake.
- Spatula: This is essential to get a smooth frosting finish especially if you are using fresh cream ( dairy or non dairy), and buttercream. Apply pressure on the distal end of spatula and rotate the cake through without moving your wrist. The spatula comes in various sizes, a 15 cm length and 2 inch diameter is more than sufficient for most round cakes.
- Rotating cake stand: not essential but it does help to move the cake steadily whilst the spatula is doing its job
- Thread and toothpick: The cheapest way to cut cake int desired layers; using a ruler divide the cake into 2 or 3 layers, mark it with toothpick and run a thread across to cut the cake into uniform layers.
- Parchment or baking paper: Cut paper into 8x 8 cm squares and place them on the cake plate before placing the cake on top. This is useful to avoid messy cream on the cake plate- inevitable during decorating time!
- Cake comb: gives a great finish on the side, and especially useful if you are new and uncertain on how to get a smooth finish with spatula alone.
Below is the step-by-step on how I frost the hazelnut chocolate sponge.
1. Whip the non dairy whipping cream on high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Usually the cream is already sweetened so sugar is not needed.
2. Cool the sponge cake and cut into 3-4 layers- use serrated knife or place toothpick all across the cake and run a thread across.
3. Place few baking paper on top of the cake stand before placing a cake layer. Make sure the baking paper covers the cake stand and you can pull the edge out after decorating.
4. Lather a generous amount of cream and place all the cake layers as per picture- don't worry you can skimp off the excess amount when smoothing the cake with spatula. If the cake is drier, ie butter cake, brush some sugar syrup before putting the cream on.
5. Smooth the edges with cake spatula ( pic above) and edges, or alternatively cake comb for the edges.
6. Pull off the baking paper from underneath.
6. Pull off the baking paper from underneath.
7. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 mins before pouring the ganache, or alternatively pipe decorations using the remaining whipped cream.
Note: 1 litre whipping cream is sufficient for a 9 inch round cake
8. Prepare the chocolate ganache.
Basic recipe:100mls double cream ( use single cream, same amount for a healthier option)200g dark chocolate couverture of at least 56% cocoaSimmer the cream up to boiling point then pour into chocolates in a bowl.Combine until chocolate is fully melted and glossy.
9. Pour onto the cake and let it drizzle over. As the whipped cream is cold, expect the ganache to set quite quickly. Chill until serving time.
Feel free to ask questions in the comment section below.