UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS TOWER CAKE​

Ok, I have to say that this cake was the tallest and took the longest amount of time to create. It took me 4 days to complete this cake and it stood 44 inches tall, but I am getting ahead of my self. So... ...my aunt called and wanted me to make my cousin's Engagement Party Cake, and she thought that it would be fun if the cake was the University of Texas Tower, seeing as my cousin and her fiance both attend THE University of Texas! My aunt asked me if I was up to the challenge? I said OF COURSE I am up for it (though if I'd known just how much was going to be involved, I might have qualified my enthusiasm just a bit, lol)! I asked what flavours of cake did she want? She decided on Chocolate Cake with Bailey's Irish Cream Mousse as the filling (in honor of her daughter "Bailey") for one of the two-tiers. She wanted the other tier to also be Chocolate Cake, but this time it was to have a mint chocolate chip filling (in honor of Bailey's fiance, whose name was Snow! I began work on the cake by first doing some research on what others had done before me. Some cake Towers looked fabulous, and others looked like "a dog's breakfast" (as they say in England). I had to decide how BIG to make this Tower and finally settled on making it a scale model. The actual Tower is about 400' tall with 30 floors, so I decided to make mine an inch per foot or 40" tall, and 30 rows of inch tall windows, and the two cakes would be stacked as the base. Later, it turned out that my Aunt was expecting something MUCH more modest! Lol. I began by making the batter for an 8-inch square cake, chocolate of course, and then a 10-inch square cake to go below. I popped them in the oven. When my cakes were done and are chilled, I spread some buttercream icing over them to keep them moist, and as a crumb coat to prevent any stray crumbs from spoiling the final and more decorative coats. I spread Bailey's Irish Cream buttercream between the three 10 inch layers, and then Creme de Menthe and crushed Junior Mint buttercream for the three 8 inch layers. These two cakes were stacked and re-chilled before being covered in their final coat of modeling chocolate and decorated. That was the cake part done and ready for transport. That left me with the harder part...the Tower! There was just no way that a four-inch square, four-foot tall CAKE was ever going to survive 3 hours in a car in warm weather! So I decided to make the Tower out of styrofoam blocks that would be iced in home made fondant and LOOK like cake, but that I could glue together for stability. I knew I was going to have to transport the Cake and Towers seperately, as there was NO WAY that the completed structure was going to fit in my car. In fact, the Tower itself just barely fit! As it turned out, I used 8 lbs of Burnt Orange, 4 lbs of black fondant, and about a lb. of white fondant. That's a LOT of sugar! Lol. I rolled out panels and columns and thin tubes for the scroll work on the faces of the building and it's cornices and clocks. But the thing that took the most work time on the Tower was putting on all the individual little one inch white squares of fondant for the 30 tiers of windows on the Tower, and then painting each one with gold luster dust in sugar glue, to make them shine. But when the light hit those windows, they shone like glass caught by the setting sun. They were magic! Once the parts were completed, it was a mad dash to arrive at the party location. We arrived with an hour or more to spare for construction. Everyone there pretty much stopped what they were doing in awe of the parts as they were carried into the kitchen. Then they all watched in amazement as I inserted 3 wooden dowels into the base of the styrofoam Tower, and then inserted them into 3 bubble tea straws that were already in place through the center of the cakes. Without this structural support the Tower would have begun listing worse than the Leaning Tower of Pisa! The top bit of the Tower has a clock on each face, and that was attached by means of another dowel. I finished decorating the base of the Tower and the base of the Cake and it's corners with piped on chocolate buttercream to finish off the rough edges. There was a quick dusting of powdered sugar over the entire thing in honor of our Mr. Snow, and VOILA...we had several impressed structural engineers standing in amazement, and a very, very happy newly engaged couple!

Gender reveal cake 

I had a client order a Gender Reveal Cake for her son and daughter-in-law, at their request. They wanted to find out the sex of their baby at their Shower Party, and have their excitement caught on camera! After the sonogram, my client learned that their baby was to be a girl, and was thrilled to be able to surprise them with this special cake. She ordered my Strawberries and Cream Cake. However, she asked to have it be a Strawberries and Chocolate Ganache cake, instead of a Strawberries and Cream cake, as the parents particularly love chocolate dipped strawberries, and this would be that in cake form.  To start the cake I made a strawberry puree from 10 lb. of frozen strawberries with a 1/2 cup of sugar. These were stewed down into a thick beautiful red puree to flavor the cake and the pink butter cream roses.  While I was waiting for my 1/2 sheet cake to finish cooking, I made a Swiss buttercream icing and I split it into two bowls. One of the bowls was colored blue and the other bowl was made pink with the strawberry puree. I piped roses from the two colors of buttercream, to keep the decoration of the cake gender neutral, and set them aside to chill and harden. I cut the 1/2 sheet cake in half so that I now had two 1/4 sheets of cake. I iced the first layer of cake with whipped chocolate ganache and strawberry puree and then put the top layer of cake on and crumb coated the whole thing before putting it in the fridge to chill.            After the cake was thoroughly cold and firm, I finished icing the cake and decorated it with a shell border on the top and the bottom. Then, I put a dome of buttercream in the center of the cake before pouring a lake of strawberry puree around the dome, and held in by the shell border. The pink and blue buttercream roses went on top of the dome of buttercream and on the corners of the cake.           So, the proud parents discovered that their baby was going to be a beautiful bouncing baby girl named Emmaleigh when they cut through the chocolate icing with pink and blue roses to find a bright strawberry pink cake inside! They were ecstatic with joy, and they LOVED the strawberry chocolate cake, as well. 

Berry Tres-Leches Birthday Cake​

I was watching a Buzz Feed YouTube video, looking for inspiration for something different to make, rather than my brother's usual sheet pan Tres Leches Birthday cake. I stumbled upon one show about two guys tasting three different cakes at three different places and three different price points, and then deciding which was the most worth the money. The cakes ranged from a Tres Leches cake to a Devils' Food layer cake with coffee buttercream to a $1000 specialty cake with all kinds of complicated decorations. The first cake was one guy's favorite, and it caught my eye as combining my brother's usual Tres Leches Cake with layers and fresh fruit in between them. The two guys commented on how the fresh fruit balanced the sweetness of the cake and it's various milks, and in the end, was one fellow's favorite of the three. But I was also interested in learning how on earth they kept the milks IN that multi-layered cake. So, I just had to give it a go!

The Lumberjack Cake​

I had a client who wanted a unique birthday cake for her 15 year old son's birthday party for 40-50 people. I found the inspiration for a Lumberjack Cake on Elizabeth Marek's Sugar Geek Show, and my client thought the idea was so fun. I decided I would make a two tier cake that would look like two round stacked logs, with an ax imbedded in the top. I wanted the inside of the cake to continue the woodsman theme by resembling a Lumberjack's checked flannel shirting.  Several days before I began baking, I created my ax from fondant. I formed an angle in a strong piece of metal wire to become the support structure for my ax. It would carry the weight of my fondant sculpture into the core of the top tier of the cake. I shaped a block of black fondant into an ax head around the middle of the bent wire, leaving enough stem"to insert into the cake later for support. I textured the ax head by scoring and putting notches in it, and then "aged" it with a light dusting of powdered sugar. This was set aside to harden overnight. I then combined light and dark brown fondant around the remainder of the wire to form the ax handle, which I textured to look like aged wood. After leaving that to dry out for a further night, I then used the food dyes to paint the handle to look more realistic. Everything was left to cure while I baked the actual cake.  I made the bottom tier of the cake 12" around with 3 layers and the top tier 8" around with 4 layers. I made alternating layers of cake from concentric rings of red (white Vanilla cake dyed light red), dark, dark red (Red Velvet cake), and black (dark Chocolate cake) to make a checkerboard effect for the cake itself. In between the layers of cake for both tiers, I used whipped chocolate ganache. I crumb coated the two tiers and chilled them until hard. I piped a coat of ganache on the vertical sides of the tiers with a pastry bag fitted with an Ateco 826 star tip to begin creating the bark effect on my logs. I piped in straight lines, wavy lines and circles and then chilled the cake once again. When the tiers were again thoroughly chilled, I melted some of the ganache and using a silicone basting brush, I textured the cold piped ganache with the warm ganache to complete the bark look. For the tops of each tier, I textured white Fondant with concentric rings and cracks to simulate the cut end of my logs, and then used gel food coloring mixed with a bit of vodka to lightly paint the fondant shades of brown to look like wood, with darker brown in the cracks. I used bubble tea straws to add support to the bottom tier in order to hold the weight of the top tier, when stacked together.                     Final assembly was done at the event. I stacked the two tiers, pushed another bubble tea straw in the center of the top tier, and slotted the ax's support wire down into the straw. I was pleased to see it all come together so nicely. My clients were thrilled, as were their son and his guests, who all LOVED the delicious and multi-flavored surprise of the Checkered Flannel looking cake inside!                    

Lemon Ricotta Cream Cake with Fresh Berries​

​I was inspired to do this cake because my big brother went to a wedding reception and the dessert that they served was a Lemon Ricotta Cream Cake.  He said that it was amazing.  So, being a baking nerd, I had to try to replicate the cake and add my own touches.  I got started by making 4 layers of lemon chiffon cake and I soaked the layers with a lemon simple syrup.  I made lemon curd to be folded into the Lemon Ricotta Cream filling, which I then used to fill between the layers, topped each time with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.  After filling the cake, I then crumb coated it with a lemon swiss meringue buttercream and chilled the cake for 30 to 40 minutes.  While the cake was chilling, I made meringue mushrooms for some of the decoration.  This process involved whipping egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar into stiff, shiny peaks and then piping the meringue into round mounds to become the mushroom caps.  Piped verticle lines of meringue became the stems.  Baking the meringue shapes low and slow dried and firmed them.  Once baked, I cut the tip of the stems off in order to give them a flat top on which to attach the two pieces together.  I then painted melted chocolate on the bottom of the caps and attached the stems and let them dry.   When they were dry, I dusted the caps with cocoa powder and cinnamon to give them a realistic look.  I stored them in an air-tight container until needed.  For final assembly, I pulled the cake out of the refrigerator and did the final coat of lemon swiss meringue buttercream.   I wanted to make the cake look like a birch log, so I painted the surface of the icing with brown food coloring on a toothpick until it resembled birch bark.   I then added the remaining berries both around the base and on top of the cake and strategically added my meringue mushrooms for effect.  I was thrilled to learn that people thought my cake looked realistic that they kept trying to touch it!  One guest later told me that he'd never liked lemon cakes but that mine had converted him over completely!

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This is a mockup. Publish to view how it will appear live.

 

 Sarah Epps