I was inspired by this cake available through Williams Sonoma.
I wanted to make a really special cake for my Mom's birthday, and her only requests were that the cake should be chocolate and the decorations should be pink and purple. I wanted to make a bigger, better version of the flower pot cake! Here is how I did it, and how you can do it, too.
3 6-inch Chocolate Cake Layers (Recipe included, or use a cake mix)
Chocolate Frosting (Recipe included, or use 2 cans store-bought)
Store-bought Fondant ~2 lbs
Oreo or chocolate cookie crumbs
Food Colouring in red/pink, violet, green and terracotta (Or, red, yellow and brown to create Terracotta)
Royal Icing Flower Centers or Small Yellow Candies
So let's get started!
Step 1: Step One - Bake Your Cakes
For this cake, you'll need 3 6" cake layers, preferably chocolate to go with the dirt-in-a-pot theme. You can use your favorite recipe, or even a cake mix.
Here is the incredibly easy recipe I used, from an old Betty Crocker cookbook:
Black Midnight Cake
2 1/4 cups pastry flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Pile all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Use hand mixer on low for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides with a spatula as you go, then mix 3 minutes on high speed, scraping down the sides occasionally.
Portion equally among 3 6" round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 27-30 minutes. Cakes are done when toothpick comes out almost clean - don't over-bake or it will come out dry!
Set aside to cool completely.
Step 2: Step Two - Make Your Frosting and Crumb-coat the Cake
You can use store-bought frosting, of course, but I prefer the flavor and texture of home-made better. I've included my frosting recipe, if you'd like to give it a try. You may need to double the recipe for this cake - better to have leftover frosting than not enough!
Easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter (use salted, it's way too sweet if you use unsalted. Seriously.)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 + tbsp milk
With an electric mixer, combine room-temperature butter and cocoa powder until smooth. Start slow so you don't coat your kitchen in cocoa. Slowly add the 2 cups of icing sugar. Add the vanilla and milk.
From here you have to add a bit more milk, a little at a time, until you get your desired consistency. This will vary a bit depending on humidity and such, so just test it after each addition of milk until it's spreadable but not runny. Then you're good to go!
Once your frosting is made and your cakes are completely cooled, trim them as necessary to make the cakes as level as possible. Then spread your chocolate frosting on the bottom layer, and stack the second cake on top. Repeat to add your third cake.
Then, using a large offset spatula, or a large, straight knife, spread frosting all around the cake. Try to make it as smooth as possible, but don't sweat small streaks and such because we will be covering it with fondant.
Step 3: Step Three - Prepare Your Fondant and Cover the Cake
Speaking of fondant...
Tint a good portion - at least 1 lb - of your fondant in a terracotta shade. Use terracotta food colour if you have it, if not, add a bit of red, yellow and brown paste or gel colour at a time, kneading thoroughly between additions, until you have your desired shade. I used an actual terracotta pot for colour reference.
Tint small portions of fondant in the colours you want for your flowers. I went with purple and pink blooms with green leaves. Of course, you can be as creative as you like and use any colours, and any kind of flower shapes.
But to get back to the task at hand - once your terracotta fondant is the colour you want, roll it out about 1/8-1/4 inch thick (Thicker will be easier to work with, but also means more fondant on your cake, which not everyone loves.) Cut out a large rectangle to wrap around your cake. Frankly, I just eyeballed it for mine, but by all means, measure it if you like!
You want to apply a bit more fondant than you need, really, because you can always trim excess away. Covering up a shortage is much harder.
In any case, I wrapped my fondant around the cake, which was a little tricky. It might take you more than one try, I sure did. Once it's on, smooth it quickly with clean, dry hands. Use a fondant smoother if you're fancy.
Roll out your remaining terracotta fondant and cut a long, wide rectangular strip out of it to wrap around the top of your cake as the pot lip. Use just a little bit of water, brushed on, as adhesive and stick the pot lip to the top rim of the 'pot'.
For an extra detail, use a dry pastry brush dipped in icing sugar to add brush strokes around the cake. I saw there were such subtle markings on the actual pot I used for reference, and wanted to emulate them here. It's hard to see in the pictures, but it worked out quite well.
Step 4: Step Four - Make Your Flowers
Roll the fondant out about 1/4 inch thick, and use a small circular cutter to cut out petals. I worked my petals with my fingers to give them a more natural, not-so-perfectly-round shape, and to make them thinner. Arrange 5 petals together into a flower shape and use just a tiny bit of water to dampen the petals where they overlap - this will cement them together.
Optional step: place flowers in small dishes if you wish for them to be a bit more 3D. Be sure you sprinkle some icing sugar or cornstarch in the dish to prevent sticking.
Dye a portion of fondant green and roll it out to ~1/8-1/4 inch thick. I free-hand cut leaf shapes, but use a leaf cutter if you have it. I used the back of my paring knife to make vein impressions in the leaves.
Step 5: Step Five - Plant Your Flowers in Some Good Topsoil
Spread a good, generous layer of chocolate frosting over the top of the cake, covering the top of the inner layer of fondant.
Now cover the entirety of the frosting with Oreo or chocolate cookie crumbs until it looks just like a bit ol' pot of dirt! Appetizing.
Next, use a small dollop of frosting to adhere each of your flowers and their leaves. If, like mine, your flowers have a small gap in the middle, let a small amount of frosting squidge up through the gap and use it to adhere your hardened royal icing or yellow candy flower center.
And voila! A gorgeous, springtime cake to impress your loved ones and feed a crowd! We got 16 servings out of this cake at my mother's birthday party, and everyone was quite happy with their portions.
So try it yourself! This cake is definitely time-consuming, but quite simple to put together, and a lot of fun. Enjoy!
If you liked this, check out more at my blog: bakerinthebasement.blogspot.ca/