Its the time of year where all we seem to do is eat. Here is a simple cake decorating Instructable that is easy enough for the non-baker, yet impressive enough to "wow" the in-laws!
Step 1: I Need It!
First things first, what do you need to make such a cake.
1. Bunt Cake
Whether you want to take the time to make a homemade cake, or simply use a box mix. Both are technically made at home, so add a box of pudding to a cake mix along with some extra vanilla or butter extract and no one will tell if its box mix or not...our little secret.
2. Cake Icing
The type of icing is up to you, I prefer cream cheese but again its totally my taste buds making that decision.
3. Cloth artificial leaves
This is your preference. If you are making a Christmas Wreath cake use fake holly leaves, for a more Thanksgiving/Fall theme use maple or whatever you find more "fall-like".
4. Melting Chocolate & Food Coloring
If you are making a Fall/Thanksgiving cake you will need autumn colors, orange, brown, yellow...
A Christmas cake you will obviously want to purchase form green melting chocolate.
To speed up the leaf making process
6. Soft Caramel Candies & Brown Sprinkles (Only needed for Thanksgiving Cake)
Doesn't matter the brand just as long as they are pliable enough to shape into acorns.
Step 2: Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness.
If you have just purchased the artificial leaves I recommend cleaning them before using them to make this cake. Unless you aren't going to eat any of the cake, and frankly don't care anything about the people that are going to partake in the consumption of such a beautiful cake; then again I don't see putting the time into cooking for people you loath.
Anyways, you may want to soak the leaves in a soapy water solution for 30 min or so and rinse them thoroughly just to be on the safe side.
Step 3: You Only Live Once, Lick the Bowl.
Before you can impress anyone with a totally amazing wreath cake, you must first have a cake to decorate, So you must make a bunt cake. As I stated before you can make one from scratch if you feel the need, however I don't find that necessary when I can tweak a box mix to taste just as good as homemade if not better. So follow your recipes or read the back of the box.
Once your cake is baked, set it aside to cool. You want the cake to be completely cooled. A warm cake will melt your icing causing it to run and make a sticky mess, not to mention if you place your leaves on a warm cake they will also melt.
Step 4: You Make Me MELT.
You want to take a microwave safe bowl, I used a basic glass cereal bowl, and pour about a third of the melting chocolate into the bowl. This does not have to be an exact measurement because we can melt more if needed, no biggie.
Microwave the chocolate for 30 sec. at half power, then stir the chocolate (very little or none will appear melted). Microwave for an additional 15 sec. this time at full power, again stir. Continue microwaving the chocolate in 15 sec. interval until it is completely melted, making sure to stir it after it is microwaved each time.
Step 5: "Autumn Is a Second Spring Where Every LEAF Is a Flower." -Alber Camus
Before you begin making the leaves, you will first want to place a clean baking sheet within arms reach of where you will be making the leaves, (Choose a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer)
Now the preparations are made and we can make leaves!
Examine the artificial leaf, you will notice one side looks like a leaf, while the other side has a wire glued to it. You will want to coat the side of the leaf that does NOT have the wire on it.
So here we go,
Pick up a artificial leaf, stick the index finger of your free hand into the melt chocolate. Coat the leaf with the chocolate, you want to make sure the chocolate is thick so that it will be easier to remove from the artificial leaf. Try your best to only get the chocolate on one side of the leaf and not on the wire. If chocolate laps over to the other side it will be okay, just harder to remove the artificial leaf without breaking the chocolate. As you can imagine chocolate leafs are quite delicate, much like real leaves.
Once you have coated a leaf with chocolate place it, chocolate side up, on your baking sheet. Repeat this process until all your leaves are coated in chocolate, and place the baking sheet into the freezer.
Now lick your finger, you know you want to!
Step 6: "The Creation of a Thousand Forests Is in One Acorn." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
While the leaves are literally chillin' in the freezer, I like to feel productive and use this time to make the acorns for my wreath cake.
Take the caramel candies and open a handful. Usually the candy I purchase are larger than I would like. If this is the case for you as well roll the candy slightly, this will warm the caramel and elongate it slightly. At this point I break the caramel into two separate pieces. I also like doing this because it doubles the amount of acorns I can possibly make. (I never use a whole bag, but my dad loves these caramels so he is quite happy with almost a full bag to himself.)
Once you have the caramel the size you prefer, roll it between the palms of your hands until it is oval in shape (acorn shape). Repeat this process until you have the number of acorns you desire for your cake.
You can then take the acorns and apply a small amount of icing to which ever side you deem the top of the acorn. Take the iced top of the acorn and dip it in the brown sprinkles, you can secure the sprinkles to the caramel by gently pressing them into the icing. This will give it a smoother appearance. Set the acorns aside for the time being.
Step 7: “All You Need Is Love. But a Little CHOCOLATE Now and Then Doesn't Hurt.” ― Charles M. Schulz
Back you our leaves.
By now the chocolate leaves has hardened nicely.
Take the baking sheet out the freezer, and grab something to place the chocolate leaves on as you remove them from the artificial leaves. (I use aluminum foil)
Be careful not to hold a leaf any longer than necessary since chocolate does melt at body temperature.
Pick up a hardened, chocolate covered leaf and turn it over (wire side up). Very carefully pick the corner of the leaf and GENTLY pull it away from the chocolate. The artificial leaf should come away from the chocolate, carefully continue to pull the leaf little by little until it have come completely off the leaf. I will warn you, the chocolate is delicate and you are going to break several leaves, but that is okay after all leaves crack and crumble in real life so these little pieces are useable.
Once all of the chocolate has been peeled from the artificial leaves, it is time to make another batch.
This is when you can change colors. I will reuse the same bowl without cleaning the previous color out so that some of my leaves will have a tint of another color in them. This gives the leaves a more realistic look.
I made around 90 leaves, I had about 15 leaves left over after covering my cake, and lost about 15 more due to them breaking.
Step 8: "If You Presume to Love Something, You Must Love the Process of It Much More Than You Love the FINISHED PRODUCT." - John Irving
Finally its time to put all the pieces together!
You can now get your bunt cake. Generously apply icing to your cake, I recommend dyeing the icing orange or brown for a Thanksgiving cake and green for a Christmas cake. The icing is the "glue" that hold the leaves on the cake. Once the cake is iced completely you can start sticking leave to it. I randomly placed leaves where ever I wanted, though I did try to spread it out so that the orange leaves were evenly spread amongst the brown.
After you feel you have completely covered the cake, take you acorns and apply a small amount of icing on the side you decide is the bottom. Again the icing is serving as your edible "glue", now decide where you want the acorns and place them there, icing side down.
I would suggest only placing acorns on the top of your cake, while the icing is a "glue". Acorns stuck to the side will most likely fall off, possibly bringing leaves with it. After all this work the last thing you want it for your cake to deconstruct itself due to gravity.
Now take a step back and appreciate the beautiful cake/work of art you just created!