Tutorials are great. Good tutorials, that is. If you are a hands on learner, tutorials with lots of pictures are the best kind. I love tutorials that are picture heavy. I get a much better sense of how something is supposed to be done if I can see a picture to go along with the text.
While I like a good tutorial, I don't think I am very good at making tutorials (how many times can I possibly say "tutorial" in this post?) My problem is, I start out good, taking a picture with every step. Then I get into it. I get completely wrapped up in whatever it is that I'm doing, that before I know it I've gone 2-3 steps without taking a single picture. Hopefully I will get better at this, as I hope to do plenty more tutorials in the future, but for now, please bear with me, and if you have any questions at all about something that I have completely confused or have done a terrible job at explaining, by all means, contact me!
So here we go. A baby block cake. Isn't it cute? I was particularly proud of this cake. It's not extravagant, yet it is pretty, pink, and adorable.
First step? Bake your cakes! I used a 6"x6"x2" square pan. My cakes raised quite a bit in the middle, so by the time I cut them flat they were still a good 2" high. So my cake was roughly a 6" cube.
Once they have cooled, I like to pop my cakes in the freezer for a couple hours, sometimes all day or overnight. This makes it very easy when I pull them out and take a knife to'em. Sometimes I don't even bother taking them out of the pan. Just wrap it up, pan and all, and stick it in the freezer. I had to take them out this time because I only have two pans and needed one to bake the third layer.
Next step is to cut the rounded tops off the cakes. Make sure it is completely flat so that when you stack it, it doesn't look like the leaning tower of poorly constructed cakes. Then
eat the extra with selfless abandon discard the extra cake.
If you think ahead, unlike me, you will cover your cake board with foil before you pull your cakes out of the freezer (or after you've cut them). I realized as I started covering my circle that my cakes were thawing and would be harder to cut so I popped them back in the freezer while I finished covering my board.
Once your board is covered and your cakes are cut flat, it's time to stack! Oh, and if you plan on, or are already even remotely into decorating cakes, a turntable is a MUST! I absolutely love mine! Makes piping so much easier and seamless.
And now this is where my picture of all the layers stacked together is supposed to be. When I was editing these pictures, it just disappeared from Picassa. Completely disappeared. There is a blank spot where it used to be, and I can't find it anywhere. Any Picassa experts out there feel free to enlighten me on that one....
So that brings me to the next picture. The crumb coat. The crumb coat is a thin layer of icing that you put on your cake to harden all the crumbs into place. This way when you go back to ice your cake you don't have those pesky crumbs showing up where they don't belong, messing up your beautiful, decorative masterpiece.
Once you've done this, now you wait for the icing to crust. That just means harden up. You can do this by just letting it sit on the counter, or if you prefer to quicken the process you can put it in the fridge for a bit. The icing you use will determine how long you have to wait. Some icings will crust easier/quicker than others.
Once your crumb coat is nice and set, it's time to really ice the cake! I always start with the top. Get a very generous amount on there. Don't worry about getting too much icing on the cake. A lot will come off as you are smoothing. And is there such a thing as too much icing, really?
Once you've got the top slathered on move on to the sides. Get a good, big glop on there and then just carefully move it around.
Continue until all the sides and top are generously covered.
Now it's time to smooth! This is one of my favorite steps! Start by just using your spatula and start with the sides. Just get it as smooth as you can. Then once you've smoothed all the sides, move to the top. This is where more pictures would have come in very useful, however, I really got into it at this point and forgot about my camera. My apologies.
After you've smoothed out the whole cake as best you can, the next step is to get it even smoother! There are a couple different methods out there for this. I really like the hot spatula method. Place a clean, dry towel next to the sink, with your cake next to that. Turn on the hot water in the sink, and get it as scalding hot as it will go. Run your spatula under the water for several seconds, then pull it out, swipe it on the towel to dry it, then just like you did when you were first smoothing it out, run your spatula along the side of the cake. The heat from the spatula will smooth out the icing, just like butter! It's awesome. I love it. Here is my finished product after smoothing it with the hot spatula. It's not perfect, I still need to practice more, but I'm getting there.
Time to decorate! Out of the whole process, this is my favorite. If I could have someone just bake and ice cakes for me and then hand them over when they are ready for the decorating and piping part, I would be a happy camper. I like the baking part too, but I just REALLY like the decorating part!
Okay, so once you've colored your icing the desired color, you are ready to go!
Fill your piping bag with icing.
Using star tip #21, I put a star border all around the top.
Then I moved on to the sides and did a border around each side.
On the sides, I wrote "1", "B", "2", and "A". This was a little tricky because I wanted it to be flat against the cake and not raised like it would be if just used a writing tip. So I used the Wilton tip #104, and drew it on. It wasn't very smooth though so I had to figure out a way to smooth it out. All of my spatulas were too big (I need to get a smaller one!) I happened to have a second #104 tip, so I put that on the tip of my finger, got it really hot under the water, dried it off, and used it to smooth out the icing on the letters and numbers. It worked pretty good!
The finishing touch was the writing on the top. I used Wilton tip #3. First, I piped it onto some wax paper. That way I was able to see how big to make the letters and where to put them in proportion to each other so that they were center on the cake. The dots were kind of an after thought. I knew it needed something more but didn't want it to be anything that would overshadow the writing.
And that's it! Have you ever made a baby block cake? Please share, I would love to see it!