Monday, April 4, 2011

Aquarium or Ocean Cake Tutorial

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One of those crazy things in life hit me square between the eyes a few days ago, my oldest is turning FIVE this summer! There is just no way he could already be that old.

I really would like to put it off and not face the fact that my babies are growing up but the thing is, his birthday is in the summer and we will be in the last frontier, away from family and friends, so I decided to have an early birthday party.

The poor boy is really confused as to when his birthday really is but I don't think any kid would complain about having two parties.

A few weeks ago my oldest Mr. P watched an episode of cake boss with me on Netflix. I am not a professional cake decorator in any way but I really enjoy making my kids birthday cakes. One because I get to try out new things and two I hate store bought cake frosting. I am using the word HATE here.

Out of 7 birthdays so far I have made all but one because we decided to tile our kitchen the morning of the birthday party so he got an ice cream cake instead. It's okay I made it up to him with an awesome smoking volcano cake the next year.

Any who... the episode we watched was the one where Buddy makes an aquarium cake.
 Umm... wow.

A few weeks later I ask Mr. P what cake he wanted for his birthday and you better believe he said "An aquarium or ocean cake with fish and crabs and shells and coral."

He also requested a tank with live fish but I had to draw a line.

Well I decided I could create something fun for him even if it wasn't exactly up to par with Buddy's cake.

First I baked one of my favorite yellow cake recipes that my sister-in-law Lauren shared with me. It was originally from Smitten Kitchen

Chiffon Cake
2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Make cake layers: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have two 9-inch round cake pans ready, bottom lined with wax or parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray, but otherwise ungreased.
2. Sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together twice into a large bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
4. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Do so gently, only until the egg whites are no longer visible. Overdoing it will deflate the egg whites, and yield a denser, shorter cake.
5. Scrape the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake them until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean about 30 minutes.
6. Let cakes cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release, then flip out onto a plate (or your hand, if you’re daring) and then another plate. 
I baked my cake in one 8 inch round and two 6 inch rounds for 30 minutes. 

I also whipped up some of my favorite frosting. It is seriously called That's The Best Frosting I've Ever Had and I got it from the Pioneer Woman.

That's The Best Frosting I've Ever Had
5 Tablespoons Flour 
1 cup Milk 
1 teaspoon Vanilla 
1 cup Butter 
1 cup Granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar!)

1. In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix is.
2. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (If I’m in a hurry, I place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.) It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.
3. While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left.
4. Add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

I let my cakes cool completely. I cut the 8 inch one in half so I could fill it. I used chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries to fill it. To make chocolate ganache, mix 1 cup heavy cream and 9 ounces of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate in a sauce pan over medium heat until the chocolate melts completely. You can then pour it over as a topping on a cake or you can let it cool and use your mixer to whip it for a delish melt-in-your-mouth filling. 

I filled and frosted the 8 inch and then filled the 2 6inch rounds and frosted them. I then stacked them on the 8 inch. I used a few dowel supports because the cake is so light and soft.

Next I made my sea creatures. I purchased a few different chocolate molds.
I found mine at a local candy and cake making store. They were about 2 bucks a pop and they had several different sea creatures to choose from.

I also bought some candy melts. I purchased Guittard white vanilla melting chocolate but you could also buy the candy melts you see at the grocery store. If you do buy chocolate you need to make sure it is melting or molding chocolate. Normal chocolate needs to be tempered after it is melted and takes more work.
I melted my melting chocolate in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. Whatever you purchase will have instructions on the best way to melt it. After it was melted, I poured it into each of my molds. You can color melting chocolate but you have to buy special food coloring because normal food coloring will not work with melting chocolate. The special food coloring was expensive for someone like me who would only use it once so I opted not to use it.

Instead, after my molds had cooled and hardened. I used a product called luster dust. This is an edible, orderless, tasteless and sparkly colored dust that you can use on cakes and candies. I just used a normal cheap watercolor brush and brushed on different colors onto my sea creatures. I also used food markers to color their eyes.

To make the coral I crushed up some ice and placed 1/3 in a bowl. I then melted my melting chocolate and poured it over the ice. I then layered a few more pieces of ice and poured more melting chocolate and then I covered it with the remaining ice. I waited for the melting chocolate to set and then placed in on a backing sheet lined with paper towels and let the ice melt out of all the holes and crevices.

Then you just have to put your cake together.

I colored the frosting blue and used brown sugar to create the sand.  Here is the front.

Here is the side. I used fruit by the foot to create the seaweed. I just arranged on a cookie sheet in a wavey pattern and let it dry.

Here is the back. Mr. U (my two year old) helped me arrange the creatures on the back.

That is how easy it is.

My favorite part of the cake was the coral. I loved how it turned out.

All of the kids got a piece of cake and of course and edible sea creature.

Now I know my cake is not as stunning as the cake boss but I was proud and my Mr. P was so excited when he saw it. He just loved it.

So how about you guys? Do you make your kids cakes or do you order them? Have you ever taken on a crazy cake like this?


  1. WOW!! That is amazing! It's so beautiful, you almost don't want to eat it, haha! I found you through the NJAH linky party and wanted to invite you to come link up at my linky party at The Little Birdie! Here's the link to this week's party:

    Hope you'll join us! I'm looking forward to checking out more of your tutorials! :)

  2. WOWO!I'd love it If you linked up over at the glitter party!!!

  3. Thanks for linking to Take A Look Tuesday over at Sugar Bee Crafts - I featured you today! - Mandy,

  4. Amazing! I am so impressed. I can't even believe your creativity to come up with how to make that coral. Fantastic.

  5. Thanks so much for linking up at The Little Birdie! I'm featuring your cake this weekend on my Saturday Linky Party Favorites! :)


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