I would consider myself a pretty competent baker, but I've never attempted any proper cake decorating really before now. I want to make my boyfriend (who loves chess) a chess themed birthday cake (his birthday is two weeks from tomorrow), and I just have a few questions beforehand.
My plan is to bake a cake about ten inches round, in three layers made like this
I've never attempted this, however I'm pretty sure I can handle that bit myself, though if anyone has any tips on that it would be greatly, greatly appreciated. I want to cover the cake in ganache, as he doesn't like 'icing' (butter icing and thick layers of fondant, I think). I would however like to include some sort of fondant chessboard design on top of the cake, either just a pattern of nine squares, or maybe a circle cut out of a chess board pattern, however I just have no clue how to do this bit. So basically, my questions are:
1) Do I need to crumb-coat the cake before I put on the ganache? And if so, how do I do this? what is best to use?
2) How can I logistically create the chess board top section? Is it best just to cut out squares and lay them directly onto the cake and abandon the round idea? Or is there a way to join the fondant squares before I place them on the cake so I can cut a circle out of it?
3) is there anything I can use instead of fondant for the topping section that is less sweet but equally as usable, just to ensure my boyfriend actually likes it?
Thank you so so very much for reading, I'm planning on doing a practice run next weekend so I'll be sure to update with how it goes.
(disclaimer: so sorry if there's anything wrong with this, I only found this website a couple of weeks ago and I'm not entirely sure of the etiquette yet haha)
The first thing is that it is not made from squares!
(i am just brainstorming with you -- tossing out ideas)
oh good YAY pastrybaglady -- now that we got the hard part out of the way -- i think the chess board on top is over kill -- because you want to reveal the 'chess board' inside right?
so i would propose that you give yourself a crash course in chocolate molding -- just remember when dancing with chocolate chocolate leads and you follow -- it's all about temperature -- when/if you mold these clean off around the the sides of each piece before you chill them and drop them on the table top a couple times to settle the melted chocolate and to pop air bubbles -- you got this! then just make enough and stick them together with a little more chocolate -- there's countless chocolate mold videos on you tube --
i hope you have a local cake supply store where you can get a chess piece mold similar to this:
because you already have the chess board inside the cake -- you're doing a deconstructed chess game see what i mean? i'd just dot the pieces around on the sides or marching around the top edge or something -- then you have the big reveal when you serve it -- love it! but it's your cake so i was just offering a thought for you --
would love to see a picture of your creation but no pressure -- best to you
oh y'know what else would be cool? instead of doing each chess piece in one color do one half white one half dark to continue on the deconstructed pathway -- the big deal to getting this straight is filling each mold with the same amount of chocolate -- just fill each one full -- and if you've never worked with chocolate before -- you just melt it -- you don't 'heat' it --
just some stray thoughts for you -- i mean if you're doing a round cake -- make the most of it --
best to you
Pastrybaglady - thank you very much, that picture will really help me with the actual baking so thank you!:)
-k8memphis - thank you so much for the thought you put into this! I actually think you're right about the board on top being overkill, so I'm scrapping that aspect, was considering piping 'Happy 17th Birthday Eoin!' or something like that onto the top of the cake instead, what is your view on that idea? Do you think would it maybe be overkill?
I think I have enough time to order chocolate moulds from amazon, though they may all be from American sellers and I'm in the UK so that might not work with my timescale, I'll have a look in the shops too!
Thanks so much for the crash course haha, I'll definitely look into that on youtube!
Also can I just ask, what do you mean by melting rather than heating, what is the difference?
Also I LOVE the idea of colouring them half white and half dark, that would look amazing, thanks so much for the ideas, greatly appreciated and I'll be sure to show you both my practice and the final cake! Thanks a million!
chocolate will melt simply left in the sun right? you don't need to apply much heat or rush chocolate -- like i said when you dance with chocolate you follow chocolate's lead -- and chocolate is never in a hurry -- it's gonna be the right temp when it's the right temp -- kinda like a broken clock that's got the correct time twice a day -- chocolate has a mind of it's own but it's the biggest thrill too -- once you get the rules down you're in the money er agh chocolate --
you would want to buy chocolate that is already 'in temper' (with only two weeks to Bday) to reduce your learning curve -- i don't know what the names are for things in the uk -- but if you have a cake store they will know what you mean by asking for chocolate that is already tempered -- in the u.s. here we sell 'fake' chocolate in the grocery stores that is made with vegetable fat rather than cocoa butter so it cannot be called chocolate but it handles great and tastes fine and doesn't need to be tempered (which means taking the chocolate to a certain temperature before using so it performs properly later)
so i mean since your goal is to make a sweet chess cake i'd say go with the easier product -- later when you want to make the finest chocolate then go for the best and temper it and yada yada yada --
but you can find real chocolate that is already in temper too -- i can detail you to death so...don't mind me --
but the other really big deal is don't get any water in there -- one way to melt chocolate is to set it in a pan over Simmering Water -- not boiling -- no steam can slide back into the choco or it will seize and you have to eat it (oh no! :) so the pan the chocolate sits in should be bigger than the pot of water underneath so there's no chance of any steam falling back in --
and if you can locate the molds -- the joy here is you can melt down your practice results over and over till you get your best work coming out y'know? after i do something three or four times those later results are usually much better than my first ones -- so all you gotta do is remelt --
anyway -- i am usually on here often so if you have any other questions i'd love to help
If your cake mix is quite thick, you can easily pipe it (piping bag, cut wide, no nozzle) into the cake tins. Start with one colour - say vanilla - make a circle touching the edges of the pan. Swap bags and pipe a rope of chocolate (or whatever other flavour you want) touching the white circle. Then go back to vanilla, then chocolate, till you have filled the pan. When it bakes, it should retain its separate colours. For the second pan, do the opposite colours, i.e. start with chocolate, place vanilla, then chocolate again, etc. No banging on counter, though to remove bubbles (in any case with a thick batter you should have no bubbles).
To frost the outside, you do need to crumb coat to maintain a clean look OR use a very wide but thin nozzle (like a squashed rectangle - sorry I don't know what number it is) with your piping bag and put the ganache on top and to the sides. If you are crumb coating, remember to chill the cake a bit before continuing.
What I would do about the chequerboard is to print a B&W chequerboard page on my printer at the size that would fit on top of the cake. It might take 1-2 tries to get the right size. Then use that piece of paper under a sheet of clean acetate and tape down on your table. Use some melted candy in a waxed paper cone to recreate the lines. Start piping outside the shape so you end up with nice straight lines. Don't pipe too close or it will end up wiggly. Use your palette knife to clean the edges of the design. Leave to cool undisturbed. Then you can fill in the squares with white candy melts and chocolate candy melts. To make it even stronger, once it's cooled, you can pour some more candy all over your square. You will end up with a robust square piece that when turned upside down will be your chequerboard. Alternatively, you can roll out modelling paste and place your printed paper on top (print side up so you don't get any toxic ink on the fondant!) then use a scribe tool, or a bamboo skewer to mark the lines. Remove the paper and leave to dry for 1-2 days. Then you can paint the dark cells using brown food dust mixed with a bit of rejuvenator spirit. But if your man is not keen on the flavour of fondant, that may not be the best solution.
I hope these ideas can help you generate some ideas of your own. Good luck! :)
I know that this is not what you originally were thinking, but I have always thought that this design was clever. Since I am many years older than the presenters in the attached video, I needed to just roll with their presentation (which is NOT bad - but different from my communication style as they are many generations removed from me).
So I only offer as an alternative idea.