Introduction: Pokelove -- Colour Co-ordinated Two-layer Mini Cakes!
Back when I was an actual child, and it was actually appropriate to be interested in such things, all my siblings and I were fanatical about Pokemon. Not the card game so much, although we did collect and horde the cards just to look through them and trade and bicker. But we were entirely bought and sold by the cartoon. I remember once when we were trapped at my Oma and Opa's house in the next city with a Pokemon marathon a mere half an hour away (four back-to-back episodes with TWO BRAND NEW EPISODES ZOMGONDFKLJSDLKFJ). We finally whined and wheedled our way home, and during the entire car ride back, we were watching the clock with tense breathing and accelerated heat beats, screaming out the theme song and the Pokerap over and over again. Super charming, sorry bout that Dad!
This year, as an actual adult, I got an awesome half-sphere silicone mold for Christmas and despite all my adult-ness, the first thing I thought of doing was creating some Pokeball mini-cakes. To make it even cooler, I co-ordinated the inner layers to match the colours of the pokeball. And with all that red-and-white, we were already halfway there, so I went whole-hog and made them into wee tiny Valentine's cakes. This is how I did it and how you can, too!
Step 1: Bake Your Cakes!
The first thing you're going to need is one of these bad boys. Silicone half-sphere molds can run $10-$20 depending on where you get them from. If you're going to be baking up a lot of these cakes, it's better to have 2-3+ molds so that your cake batter isn't sitting around for an hour while you work through 10 baking cycles. (Batter left sitting around can kill your leaveners; it's best if you get your batter into the oven as soon as it's ready to go. Even more so when you're only using baking soda!)
There isn't one critical recipe for this project; any recipe that yields a firm cake with a dense crumb is perfect. Butter cakes work well because they get harder in the fridge. If you're up to it, make a vanilla and a red velvet batter like I did. If not, just make vanilla, separate half your batter and tint it with a bit of red food colouring. (This goes for making other types of pokeballs too, to get your green, blue, etc.)
You CANNOT use cake-mix for this. I think cake-mix is a great way for people to get reliable, fool-proof light and fluffy cakes, but they are just too light and fluffy for this. The cakes are small and get handled quite a bit during this process, and cake mixes just fall apart. I made this mistake myself: I decided to test out a new brand of cake-mix for my red velvet. The first batch fell to pieces when I tried to take them out of the mold. The second batch survived with ludicrous amounts of greasing the mold, but were very very difficult to work with when covering with fondant. So if you want to save yourself a ton of hassle, don't bother using it.
Follow the steps of the recipe that you choose, adjusting the bake time accordingly--much much less. I found mine were baking in about 8-10 minutes. Let them cool fully.
Step 2: Fill!
You'll need a filling that firms up very hard in the fridge. My weapon of choice was a strawberry Swiss Meringue butter cream--it goes rock-solid when cold. You can see more how to make buttercreams in my other tutorials, or check out the inimitable Miss Bravetart.
Fill up a piping bag fitted with a large open or star tip. Apply a goodly amount to your bottom (in this case, the vanilla) circle. Top off with a red velvet circle and smush down lightly. Using a knife or a mini offset spatula, wipe the filling around the edge so you end up with a nice smooth surface. It doesn't have to be perfect, but do your best. Once you've filled them all, wrap the plate in plastic wrap and let set up in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.
Step 3: Roll and Cover!
For this step, you'll need:
- Fondant (about 1.5 oz for each minicake)
- Red food colouring
- A small rolling pin
- Circular cookie cutter
Take about half of your fondant and dye it red (or the colour of your choosing.) It often takes a loooot of food colouring to get to that deep red colour, so your fondant might be soft and sticky. If so, just let it rest for 15-20 minutes before continuing.
Apply some cornstarch to your work surface. Roll out a thin layer of fondant. The more comfortable you are with fondant, the thinner you can reasonably go; the newer you are to it, the thicker you can keep it. My cakes had a lot of bumps and bruises from making a long bus journey in a plastic bag, so I rolled it thick--about 1/8". Cut out a circle with your cookie cutter--you want the size to be just shy of fitting half-way around the cake.
Apply a very little bit of lemon extract, apricot jam, or even water to the back of your circle, then place it directly on top of your red cake layer. Cup the palm of your hand and use that to smooth the fondant down. Bring it as close to the half-way mark as possible.
You want to do the red side first. If you do the white side first, there is a chance that the open red side might give off a few crumbs while working and they will show up horribly in your white fondant. It's best to contain the coloured cake first.
Step 4: Again!
Wipe down your surface very well, rubbing it with a paper towel to make sure no red dye is left. Rinse and repeat with your white fondant. Don't worry if the point where the colours join up isn't perfect, we're covering that up anyway!
Place your cakes onto a plate or tray and tap them just a bit to flatten them on the bottom. This way they'll stand up and won't roll around.
Step 5: Make Stripes!
To make the stripes, colour some fondant black. I find it easier to start with chocolate fondant, to avoid glooping in 1/2 a bottle of food colouring. Let the fondant rest covered for 15-20 minutes so it's easier to work with. Keep your cakes in the fridge until right before you're about to put the stripes on.
Apply some cornstarch to your surface and roll out a thin sheet of fondant. You can use a pizza roller, an exacto knife or a very sharp kitchen knife if you have a steady hand. I decided to use a gem cutter so they were all the exact same. Make your cuts, then let the fondant dry out for 3-5 minutes to make it easier to handle. Now's a good time to go get your cakes.
Apply a tiny bit of lemon extract, clear alcohol or water to the back of your stripe, then carefully wrap it around the ball. You have a few seconds to push it into place, but be aware that damp black fondant on top of white fondant will leave really bad smudges.
Step 6: Make Hearts!
I used a fancy-schmancy Wilton punch-cutter to make my hearts, but any tiny cutter will do. If you don't have a cutter, you better get a small, sharp knife.
Roll out a very thin bit of black fondant. Punch out your hearts, making 1.5X what you need to accommodate for dropping, making ugly ones, etc. Flatten them slightly so that they are bigger all the way around.
Roll out a piece of white fondant and punch out the same number of hearts. Don't smush these ones. Let them dry for 10-15 minutes. Then, using a tiny paintbrush and some water or lemon extract, apply a dab to the back of the white hearts and press them onto the black ones.
Step 7: Paint and Apply Hearts!
Put one or two drops of lemon extract or clear alcohol into the lid of your black food colouring. Thin it down to a painting consistency. Use a tiny paintbrush to paint thin hearts onto the white tops. If you make some ugly ones, well, that's why we made extras! Let this dry for another 10-15 minutes. Then, wet the backs of the hearts and apply them gingerly onto wherever you want the front of your mini-cake to be.
Step 8: Gift or Devour!
Aaaaaand we're done! Eat them, or give them away to your sweetie. Maybe with an "I choose YOU!" Valentine.
This method of filling and covering is very versatile, and you can decorate the mini-cakes in a bunch of ways--for example, the three kitties in the last picture. I recommend making a bunch and then going crazy with decorating experiments. Yay, cake-science!