Let's saw some logs! No, not take a nap. Let's make a really cool cake!
Even if you've never used fondant before, you can make a log cake like this. The best part about this cake is that you don't have to know how to perfectly ice a cake smooth, or roll out large sheets of fondant for a sleek looking cake. We do this cake the messy way! Join me as we make a log cake together!
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
You will need:
Cake (Of course!): You can use any size round cakes. I would recommend at least a 2-layer cake, your choice of size and/or flavor. In this project, I am using six layers of vegan chocolate cake to make a three tier wedding cake.
Icing: Again, your choice of flavor. You could also use a filling instead, but depending on what filling you use, you will still want some regular icing as well. Do you think I have enough????
Spatulas: I use a few kinds of offset spatulas, as well as rubber spatulas, but use whatever you have on hand. You don't need anything special here.
Cake boards: If you're just doing a one-tier cake, you can do without the cake boards, but you will still want something to set your cake on, whether that be a plate or a cake plate of some sort.
Fondant: For this project you will want brown fondant for the bark, as well as some white fondant to make the inside flesh of the tree. Some fondant tools might be handy too, but other household items would work instead.
Turn Table: This is optional, of course, but very helpful!
Some other optional items:
Brown food gel color
Food safe paint brushes
Step 2: Level and Torte Your Cake Layers
Many people would probably skip this step, but if you want a professional looking cake, don't touch that dial! If you start with nice, flat cake layers, you have a better chance of having a level cake. It might not matter if you're just making an everyday cake, but to make this look like a wood slice, you'll want it to be pretty flat. One NOTE: if your cake layers are pretty thin, do not try to torte them; leave them as is. My cake layers are about 2" high, so it works well for that height (or higher), but I would not recommend splitting them if they are much less than 2".
First, start by leveling off the top. My layers are pretty flat, so I am leaving them as is for this project.
Next, cut each layer in half horizontally. There are a few products on the market that will help you torte a cake evenly, and if you have one of those, go ahead and use it. There is also the toothpick method, where you put toothpicks at an even level all the way around and cut at those levels, but for me, this is the most efficient and accurate way to do it.
You can check out this brief video HERE, but I will try to outline the easy steps below.
- With the cake layer on a turn table (if possible) make sure you are at eye level with the cake so you can see where you're cutting.
- Line up your bread knife (or another serrated knife) with the middle of the cake.
- Keeping your arm level, gently slice into the cake ONLY about 1/2" or so in order to leave an indentation into the cake layer.
- Gently turn the cake while remaining eye level, and with making the brief indentation into the side of the layer. Keep going around until you get back to where you started. If you kept your arm steady and level, it should meet up with where you started.
- Continue going around the cake, taking the knife a little deeper each time around until it comes straight through to the other side.
Repeat these steps with all layers.
Step 3: Stack and Fill Your Cake! Yummm
Here's the yum part. If you've made a 2-layer cake you should now have four layers to play with. In order to get the least amount of crumbs, and have the flattest cake possible, you will want to stack the layers in a particular order:
- For the first layer, use a bottom cake layer, with the bottom on the bottom. That's a lot of bottoms! This means you will have a crumb side up. That's okay; we are going to fill it with some yummy buttercream to keep all those crumbs inside!
- Use your rubber spatula (or tool of choice) to put a fairly large amount of buttercream on top. You can always take some off if it's too much, but if you don't start with enough, it will be very easy to tear the cake and end up with a crumby mess.
- NOTE: if you want to use a filling other than buttercream, now is the time to do so. Make sure you filling is not too runny. If you have a filling that is looser than buttercream, make sure to put a ring of buttercream (a.k.a. a dam) around the outside edge of the layer so your filling doesn't ooze out the sides! You can use fruit curds, jellies, fruit fillings, custards, etc.
- Starting from the middle, gently push the buttercream out to the sides and around until you have an even layer of buttercream. It's okay if the buttercream goes over the sides; we'll use that too! Make sure you get down to eye level to look the the layer to make sure it's even. If your layers on not even, you could have a cake that leans one way or another. This is not a problem necessarily if you are only doing a one-tier cake, but if you plan to add any more tiers, your cake can become unstable if it is not level.
- For the second layer, take the top half of the bottom layer you just used, and put it on top, top side facing up. Make sure to add some pressure to press the layers together a bit (don't kill it; just gentle pressure)
- Repeat with the buttercream/filling for that layer, until you have another even layer of buttercream.
- For the third layer, use the top half of your second cake, and use it upside down (top side facing down into the buttercream layer you just finished).
- Repeat with the buttercream/filling for that layer, until you have another even layer of buttercream.
- For the last layer, you should be left with the bottom of the second cake. This layer will have a nice flat surface because it was the bottom of the cake. Flip it upside down and put it on top of the buttercream you just finished. Now you have a nice flat top.
Voila! A stacked cake. Step back and take a minute to look at your beautifully stacked cake and congratulate yourself!
Let's move on to crumb coating!!
Step 4: Crumb Coat!!
What the heck is a crumb coat?
Most cake has crumbs, right?
You don't want crumbs marring the beautiful surface of your buttercream, right?
In order to make sure that doesn't happen, you will want to put an initial coat of buttercream on your cake that 'seals' in the crumbs so that they don't come through to your final coat. This is called your crumb coat.
Here's what you do:
If you recall, I said that it's okay if some of the buttercream goes over the sides when you're filling your cake layers, right? Take a look at the picture and you'll see that there's quite a bit sticking out all the way around. This will be the start of your crumb coat.
First take one of your offset spatulas and spread around the icing that is already sticking out on the sides. Try to make sure your spatula is always at an angle to the cake (not flat to the surface) and gently move spatula back and forth like a figure 8 pattern. While you're doing this, turn the cake on the turn table to get the icing to spread all around the cake. By using this method and pattern, you will make sure you do not dig into the cake, thus causing more crumbs.
Once you've completed this initial step, fill in any places where you have gaps. You should have at least a thin coat of icing all over. It's okay if you can still see the cake, but there should still be some icing on it.
Using either your offset spatula, or a bench scraper (I prefer the bench scraper like in the picture), go all the way around the cake to make sure you have a thin, even coat on the surface of the cake.
Now you will want to put a thin layer of buttercream on the top. If you ended with a bottom layer on top, you shouldn't have many crumbs, so this part should be pretty easy. Make sure you make it as even and level as possible.
Repeat these steps for any other tiers you may have.
Great job! You have completed a crumb coat!
Step 5: Settle Down Now!
This step is easy, but important.
Let your cakes settle!! They've been all hyped up while you've been leveling them, splitting them, stacking them, filling them...
Let them rest.
Because they are going to settle whether you allow time for them to or not. What does that mean? Well, you just finished splitting them and filling them, right? Now there's air trapped between the layers. That air needs to go somewhere. If you do not give your cake some time to settle, and you go ahead with your final coat and decorations, there is a big chance that you will see some bulging at the sides (see pic 1). The air is going to try to escape at the place of least resistance. This will be the sides where there are gaps.
In order to avoid this, you will want to let your cakes settle BEFORE you put on your final coat of buttercream. In addition to settling, I like to put a small weight on the top of the cake to help 'push' any air out. This ensures there will be no bulging after you are done with all your decorations.
To do this, you will want a piece of parchment paper to put on the top of the cake, and a small weight. A light book, a box, etc. Make sure the item is as big around (or bigger) as the cake tier. You don't want to end up with indentations on the top of the cake form an object that was smaller than the tier.
I would leave the cake for at least an hour. Think of this as more chill time for you!
Step 6: Prepare the Worms!
You heard me. Worms! We are wanting to simulate tree bark. To do that we are going to make a bunch of various sized worms out of the brown fondant. Okay, they aren't really worms, but they look like them, don't they?
This really is fun. Pull off different sized chunks of brown fondant and roll worms between your palms (or you can roll them on you counter).
They should all be different sizes, but the ends should be tapered so that they will fit together on the 'tree' (see pics). Don't try to be neat about it; just quickly roll out some crazy worms.
Lay them all out on a piece of parchment so they are ready to go. I used about 1 pound of fondant to cover a 6" cake. All together, I used about 4 pounds for the 6", 8" and 10" cakes.
Step 7: Prepare the Tree 'flesh'
Prepare some fondant by mixing mostly white fondant with a little of your brown fondant, and maybe a drop of yellow gel coloring if you have it (the yellow is optional). Roll the fondant out to about 1/8" thick, then cut out a circle of fondant to fit the top of your cake. I had a 6" cake, so I used a 6" cake board as my guide.
Use a fondant scoring tool, or a toothpick, or even a butter knife to gently score lines into the top of the round fondant piece. This will help simulate the rings in the tree. They do not need to be symmetrical; just random lines around the circle.
In order to accentuate the lines a bit more, you can use some dry cocoa powder and a food-safe paint brush to lightly dust on some brown circles.
If you want to get really fancy, you can mix a bit of brown food gel color with some water to thin it out a bit, then use a really fine food-safe paint brush and paint the brown rings on. This is a really cool effect which I ended up using on this cake (see intro/final pics).
Just have fun with this...remember, trees aren't perfect. :)
Step 8: Put on the Final Coat of Buttercream
Now that we have the worms and tree 'flesh' ready to go, let's put on the final coat of buttercream.
While your cake is on a turn table (if possible), use an offset spatula, or your favorite icing tool, and put a thick coat of icing on the sides of the cake. We are going to take most of this off, so don't be shy about putting it on. When I'm icing the sides, I prefer to put a thick coat of icing around the bottom, a thick coat around the middle, and then a thick coat around the top. When you're putting the top ring on, make sure the icing sits above the top of the cake; this will help when icing the top of the cake. Sift through the pictures in order and you'll see the pattern I'm referring to.
Once you have an even coat on the sides, use an offset spatula or a bench scraper and scrape off the excess icing by holding your bench scraper at an angle to the cake and turn the cake on the turn table until you get all the way around. You will probably need to go around the cake about three times before you have a fairly even, smooth finish on the cake (see pics). For this cake, since you are covering it with worms, a precise finish is not necessary, so don't spend too much time trying to get it perfect.
Once the sides are complete, you should still have extra icing at the top. Use your offset spatula to bring the extra icing on the top into the center. Start with your spatula a few inches away from the icing, then bring the spatula in to the center of the cake, bringing the extra icing with it. Do this all the way around the cake until you have smoothed out all the extra. You probably have enough to cover the top, but if not, you can add some extra buttercream to the top and smooth it out, similar to how we did it during the crumb coat step.
Now we're ready to get wormy!
Step 9: Adding the Bark!
Now it's time to make this cake look like a tree!
You have your iced cake; you have your worms. Let's get going!
First, add the round tree 'flesh' to the top of the cake. Smooth it out and make sure there are no air pockets, then start putting on the bark pieces (f.k.a. Worms). Put them on randomly by squishing them together and smooshing (is that a word?) pieces into the spaces on the cake. They will not all fit perfectly; sometimes you will have some sticking up above the cake, or over the cake board at the bottom in order to make things fit, but that's okay. Just keep going until you have all the empty spaces on the sides of the cake filled up with pieces.
Now take a sharp knife (preferably an X-acto knife used for food only), and trim the top pieces so they are flush with the top. Do the same for the bottom so they are flush with the cake board.
Step 10: Congratulations!
You have completed one tier of a log cake! I am so proud of you! I knew you could do it. And we had a lot of fun, didn't we?
Want to do more? You can! Here are a few options:
Make a 2- or 3-tier cake like in the picture! Use a 6", 8" and 10" cake. Follow all the same steps for the one tier, then stack the cakes. If you haven't stacked cakes before, there are specific steps you need to take for that. Maybe that's another instructable I can do!!
Add the heart/initial carving! Use black fondant and roll out fine ropes. Shape them into the heart and initials, then 'glue' them on to the bark. You can use either a little water or extract to affix the fondant on to the bark.
Add some flowers! If you have some flower cutters, roll out a thin piece of fondant in your choice of colors, then affix them to the cake. Get creative!