Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hellooooo Hello Kitty!

Another milestone completed: a shaped cake order. A character cake, to be precise. When Wendy first asked me to make her daughter Zoe's third birthday cake a few months ago, I was nervous. She had always ordered her kids detailed character cakes from renowned Deerfield Bakery for their birthdays. Actually, at the time she asked, she was serving her son Cal's Percy 3-D tank engine cake (from the cartoon Thomas and Friends, duh). Just looking at Percy was somewhat mind-boggling - how did Deerfield bend, curve, and stack cake to look like a tank engine? However, I stopped sweating when Wendy said Zoe loves Hello Kitty, which happens to be the simplest cartoon face currently popular among children. Thank god Japanese anime decided characters should be missing either a mouth, nose, or eyes on their single-plane faces.

Regardless, I had never made a cake like this before, so it was pretty fun to figure out exactly how to do it. It just took a little planning, such as where to find her facial features, how to make the bow, etc. I decided to bake the cake in two 12" rounds; Wendy requested a light flavor, so I decided upon an orange-zested white cake. I then blew up a printed picture of Hello Kitty, laid it on top of the stacked layers, and carved her out. I filled the cake with vanilla buttercream and a thin layer of raspberry preserves, then gave Hello Kitty a crumb coat so that her final coat would be extra clean and white, like the actual character. I made her bow with the scraps from the outer edges. Because none were wide enough to form the entire bow, I had to divide it into 8 separate pieces and put it together like a puzzle, using frosting as the glue. I lightly frosted the surface of the bow and then dipped it into a bowl of sparkly pink sprinkles to meet Wendy's one request - "Can her bow be sparkly pink?" Sure, Wendy. I then gave the cake a final coat of frosting, added her licorice pinwheel whiskers, licorice disc eyes, and gummy candy nose, and then laid the bow carefully in place. Ta-da! Hello Kitty!

I suddenly got a stab of regret that the cake did not say "Happy Birthday, Zoe!" anywhere, as I feel this is usually important to children - mostly to signal ownership to other siblings that this is NOT their cake to pick at or stick their face into (ahem, Cal...). So, I piped a pink frosting "Happy Birthday Zoe!" onto the cake board. Another pang of ambition washed over, urging me to make the letters sparkly pink to match the bow. Big mistake - yet another example of me not knowing when to be done with a project. I sprinkled the pink glitter sprinkles over top, then looked at the mess and wondered how the hell I was going to get the glitter out from in between the loops, circles, and lines of the letters so that we could actually read "Happy Birthday Zoe!" again. I tried blowing but realized it was going to blow pink all over the pristine white cake sides. I tried scraping with a toothpick, then a toothpick covered with a bit of paper towel to create a wider, sweeping surface. Oh wait, don't they make things like that already, called Q-tips? Idiot. So I grabbed a few Q-tips, then figured the most effective way to get the sprinkles out of unwanted areas would be similar to how I wanted them to stay there - by sticking them with frosting. I dipped the Q-tip end in frosting, stuck some errant sprinkles, wiped them on a paper towel - and then repeated 78 more times. I got it to the best point I possibly could, wiped the foil as clean again, and then decided I was done - mostly because I now only had 15 minutes to get dressed to go to the party and was covered in pink glitter sprinkles.

Once the cake safely made the drive to Zoe's grandparents' condo and landed on the dining room table, I felt better. Hello Kitty was beautiful, and actually a lot more well done than I figured I was capable of - a similar feeling to Traci and Stephen's wedding cake. All the party-goers were similarly wowed, and Zoe made me happy when she actually knew what the cake was when it landed in front of her to blow out her candles (seriously, I may have cried if the three year-old was like, "I don't know what that is, Mommy"). Her little cousin Gus was also so impressed he asked to borrow his mommy's phone to take a picture.

The cake ceremony went something like this:

1. Wendy having a dilemma about where to place the candles so as not to mess up Hello Kitty's face. We settled on the left ear. Luckily she was only three so there weren't many candles to clutter it.
2. Zoe blowing out her candles three times. After each she would go, "Again!" Wendy said only three times since it was her third birthday. Her eighteenth should be fun...
3. Zoe grabbing the gummy nose and popping it into her mouth. After three seconds of sucking on it she decided she did not like it, and very thoughtfully placed it back in the center of the cake. Luckily it was all family so no one minded a little birthday girl slobber. That's good luck, right?

With Daddy (Chris, left) and Auntie Laura (right).
The first time she blew out her candles.
Laura probably explaining the nose in an enticing way that made Zoe think she would like eating it.
Zoe requested to eat the bow, so I was happy I made it entirely of cake and that it was edible. However, it had no filling and was covered in gritty sugar, but she still ate it - and didn't spit it out and put it back on the cake.

I also remembered to do what I forgot at the wedding - take a picture of the cake slice. The cake was well received, and Zoe's grandfather, who owns a cake baking company and used to own bakery industry magazines, said it had "good cell structure." I couldn't agree more (I think I know what that means?) - it was dense and moist, yet the flavor was extremely light. The raspberry provided a nice fruity contrast to the citrus in the cake, and the buttercream was silky smooth and complimented the cake nicely, rather than overpowered like sugary frostings on birthday cakes often do (such as Deerfield's character cakes). There were only about two pieces left after all was said and done, as compared to 85% of Percy that was leftover at Cal's birthday. Take that, Deerfield.

Looking forward to my next shaped cake!

No comments: