As promised, here is the tutorial for the Toodles cake I made for The Munchkin’s “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” party last weekend. Check out the rest of the party here.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a professional cake decorator — as I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t even taken a Wilton class — so I’m not pretending to be an expert, but I can give you a few of the tips & tricks I use. If you ARE a professional cake decorator, just skip straight to the part about flattening the Starbursts for the dots.
First, I baked a cake. (Duh.) I really like the Easy Yellow Cake recipe in the KitchenAid manual/cookbook. It’s easy, not too sweet, & holds up well while still staying moist. I’ve included the recipe at the end. A few days in advance of the party, I baked two 9-inch round pans & then carved them to my desired shape by finding some things in my kitchen that were the right size & shape & then using a sharp serrated knife to cut around them. In this case, I used a cereal bowl & the bottom of my meringue powder container. Then I double-wrapped each piece in two layers of Saran Wrap & put them in the freezer until I needed them. Freezing the cakes is important for 3 reasons: 1) It keeps the cake from going stale, 2) It allows you to break up the process so you don’t have to do it all at once, & 3) It reduces crumbs on the cut edges while frosting.
Then I made frosting. Lots of frosting. In this case, I used the extra left over from these Cars cakelets. In case you’re as dissatisfied as I am with my “add some powdered sugar &/or cream until it looks right but will probably end up being too thick anyway” method for frosting, try this: 2 sticks of butter, 6 cups powdered sugar, 2 tsp. CLEAR vanilla (best for dyeing), & milk or cream to desired thickness. Remember thinner is better for spreading. If you’re paranoid like me about running out, you may want to add half again as much of everything. I filled the cake with the delicious chocolate frosting I used for Mater, because I believe yellow cake just goes with chocolate frosting, but you can do what you want. If you’re not crazy like me & making a zillion cakes in 1 week, it’s probably not worth it to make up a whole other batch of frosting just to fill your cake.
Don’t forget to add a couple tablespoons of meringue powder to your frosting to help it set up & stay upt while & after your frost. Then use gel food coloring to dye it to your desired colors. (Tip: “Golden Yellow” is a lot more orange than it looks on the bottle. I think just plain old “Yellow” would’ve looked better.)
Now for the fun part!
First, take a cake board or some cardboard & wrap it in some pretty paper. This sounds silly, but it really does make a HUGE difference in the presentation. Pull your cake pieces out of the freezer & unwrap them, then slap a dab or two of frosting under the cake (all 3 pieces parts if they’re disconnected like they are here) to keep it from sliding off your pretty board. Fill your cake, if needed.
Put several pieces of wax paper around the edges of your cake to protect your cake board. When we’re done frosting, we’ll slide these out & cover any gaps with a pretty frosting border.
Now we crumb coat. Take some frosting (plain un-dyed white is fine, but we used the already-dyed stuff) & thin it with a tiny bit of milk. Use an offset spatula like this one to make a thin layer to trap the crumbs. Have a paper towel handy to wipe any crummy frosting off of your spatula so you don’t contaminate your frosting. It doesn’t have to look pretty. Then stick your cake back in the freezer for a few minutes. (P.S. Shout-out to My Husband The Closet Ace of Cakes, who almost always does all of my frosting spreading so I just have to do the pretty stuff.)
Then pull the cake back out of the freezer. Grab your frosting, offset spatula, a dish towel, & a bowl or pie plate full of hot water. Sound weird? Just trust me. Spread your frosting, then smooth it by submerging your spatula in the hot water & then drying it completely with the dish towel. The warm spatula kind of re-melts the frosting to smooth out any bumps for you.
Now for the Starbursts. When I was trying to think of what to make the dots out of, my first thought was fondant. But you already know about My Husband The Opinionated’s feelings on the subject; plus, I didn’t want to either buy 3 colors of fondant or go to all the effort of learning how to dye it myself. Then I remembered a cake that my friend Laura had made for my baby shower 2 years ago: she made flowers out of flattened Starbursts! Perfect! So I called her up & she shared with me how to do it.
Unwrap a few Starbursts & stick them between the layers of a folded sheet of wax paper. Microwave it all for about 7 seconds, just enough to soften them. Use a rolling pin to flatten them to your desired width & thickness, stopping often to pull them off of the wax paper so they don’t stick. For a larger shape, you can even melt two candies together, side by side. That’s what I did for the largest red circle.
Now here’s the funny part. To cut them to the desired shape, use… scissors! You can use a stencil if you want to get them perfectly round, but I found it easiest to just eyeball it. I wound up making way more than I needed, so we just ate the extras.
Position them where you want them on your cake, & trim edges to fit if they’re on the edge. You should be able to just press them into your frosting, but if they’re overlapping one another, just pipe a tiny bit of frosting on the bottom of your top one to secure it.
Now put your frosting into piping bags (I use disposable ones because I don’t decorate often enough for the nice ones to be a savings, & I just prefer the ease of tossing them) with a coupler in the bottom of each to make it easier to switch tips. The tips I used were a 5 writing, 18 star, & 16 star.
I Nnever trust my freehand artistry skills, so I always try to find things to trace. Sometimes it’s a little odd, but it works. For the “poles” on Toodles’ face, I used part of a Zicam bottle cap. For the circles inside his ears, I used my half-tablespoon. I make small depressions in the hardening frosting to trace.
Then I actually did freehand the gear detail on his ears, consulting a picture I printed off the Internet every single step of the way. I filled in all the red details with my writing tip, & chose to smooth the “poles” the same way we did the frosting base, just with a smaller spatula. But I think they ended up looking too much like the Starbursts, so if I did it over, I’d leave it textured like I did the gear details.
Finally, I used the smaller star tip to do a shell border around the top in red (I think yellow would have been more accurate to the show, but I was worried about running out) & then carefully slid the wax paper out (I used my small spatula to keep the frosting in place) & used the larger star tip to do a shell border around the bottom in blue. This cleaned up all the edges & just gave it a more polished look. I also wrote The Munchkin’s name on the front side of the cake using my writing tip, but I’m not going to show that to you because I’m not ready to reveal her identity.
So there you go! I hope that this tutorial is helpful; if you wind up using it for your Munchkins, I would seriously love to see pictures! Comment with links, or email me (on the “About” page)!
Last, but not least, here’s the cake recipe. Happy thoughts go to my good friend Mandy, who saved me by emailing it to me when I couldn’t (still can’t — hopefully it’ll show up after we move?) find my manual.
KitchenAid Easy Yellow Cake
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 cup lowfat milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease & flour (I prefer Baker’s Joy or PAM for Baking — 1 step!) two 8- or 9-inch cake pans
- Add dry ingredients to mixer bowl. Add shortening, milk, & vanilla; use flat beater to mix about 1 minute at speed 2. Scrape bowl.
- Add eggs; mix about 30 seconds on speed 2. Scrape bowl.
- Beat at speed 6 for 1 minute.
- Pour batter into prepared pans & bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then drop pans gently on the counter to free the cake from the sides of the pans & invert onto a wire rack to remove. Cool completely.
- Carve, freeze, & frost as above.