Monday, March 22, 2010

Mango Tres Leches and Star Wars

This past week I was presented with a couple of challenging cake opportunities each of which I was anxious to document and share in my blog.  I was asked by my sorority sister, Bing, if I have ever made a sugar-free cake before. It was for her diabetic grandma's 85th birthday to serve about 50 people.  She requested for a Tres Leches Cake, which I've been wanting to make someday (I even made some BOOOMB Dulce de Leche a while back ready to drizzle over it). I came across a diabetic recipe online for a Mango Tres Leches cake, which sounded good to Bing and me, so that's what I made.  

The mango tres leches popped my cherry in more ways than one....not only was it was the first time I've made tres leches, it was the first time working with sugar-free ingredients, and first time to make a cake that large.  I couldn't use regular icing like buttercream or fondant to decorate with because they are filled with lots of sugar, so I used sugar-free Cool Whip which goes well with tres leches anyways. I didn't realize how pricey or lightweight Splenda was until I used it in this cake.  
This cake was more about the cake than it was about the designs, so no sketches for this one. Instead, I took pictures of the preparation, which started with blending the dry ingredients.
For some reason I find separating eggs enjoyable, but I think I had to separate about 30 or so.  

I then had to whip the egg whites to a soft peak, which made me pretty nervous.  If you understand the task of whipping egg whites, then you'd know that none of the utensils or equipment can have one touch of grease/oil on it, otherwise the egg whites will never peak no matter how long you beat them. Luckily I didn't have that problem.
After measuring out all the ingredients I blended them all together before pouring the batter in the large pan.  The recipe was good for 10 servings, so I basically had to multiply it by 5.  I'm sure if I owned a Kitchen Aid mixer, the batter preparation could have gone faster....I've wanted one since I was in the 7th grade; maybe one day I will be a proud owner, but for now, my Betty Crocker hand mixer has not let me down.  
My least favorite part of making cakes is the cleanup!! But it is that necessary evil that I might as well get used to, and should be included when pricing the cost of the cake.  As the cake was baking, I used that time to clean.
 If only my sink looked like this all the time...But this look never lasts long :(
I also used the baking time to make the tres leches cream and cut the mangoes.
Once the cake came out of the oven, I placed the cream over it and allowed the cake to soak all of that yummy goodness. 
After half a day in the refrigerator, I turned the cake over and covered it with the tasty mangoes. I allowed the cake to soak a few more hours before adding the Cool Whip on top and decorating it.
I was limited as far as decoration for this cake, so I went with fruits! Not only did it add a natural sweetness, but nothing compares to their vibrant colors.  I used some cookie cutters to create some shapes.  I added food coloring to some Cool Whip and customized the "Happy Birthday" greeting. For not knowing how the design would look, I think this cake is lovely and age appropriate for Nanay Ferning. 
One of the things I had to think about for this order was the safe transportation.  I knew that tres leches cakes usually have excess liquid, so I needed to find a container with edges to hold the milk in, large enough to hold the cake, and a cover to protect it.  After some searching I was able to find the perfect one.  Unfortunately, some of the milk leaked out in the car during transport, so we lined it with lots of paper towels.

Also this week, I got a request from my cousin Cecilia.  Today (March 21) is her boyfriend Jayson's 25th birthday, and she wanted to surprise him with a small cake that would feed about 5-7 people.  The only thing Cecilia told me was that he was a nerd and a huge Star Wars fan, which was just enough information for me to work with :) haha. There's so much imagery in Star Wars, so I really felt like I had a lot of artistic freedom as far the design goes. Since this was a small cake, I decided to make something fairly simple, so I chose to do the Death Star...if you don't know what that looks like, here's a picture... 

I researched a few more images and sketched it out to help me envision my plan of action.  The ball form is rather simple but details are more abstract and allows for visual interpretation. 

While this cake was baking, I prepared the base that the cake would be set on.  Part of cake decorating is creating the look of not only the cake, but the presentation as a whole.  Think of it as plating for bakers.  I was not happy with just placing the cake on a white cake board, so I turned it black.
One of the major reasons I decided to make the Death Star was its spherical form.  I had recently bought a cake pan that is meant for ball shapes and I was finding any excuse to use it, plus it was the perfect size to feed 5-7 people. Cecilia decided on chocolate cake.
They baked to perfection! so all I needed to do was cut off the tops to create two perfect hemispheres.  By the way, I still have the left over cake if you wanna help me get rid of it ;)
While I waited for the cake to cool, I prepped the fondant.  I added black icing color to white fondant to create gray. 
Once the cake cooled, I was able to frost it and cover them in the gray fondant.  Of course this had to be done two times for each half.
Now for the assembly of the ball. Bottom half first.  I put frosting on the cake board in order to keep it in place. 
I attached the top half then worked on the details using more fondant and gray piped icing....without them, this cake would just be another gray sphere.  The details are what makes this small cake special. I was very proud of the results and I hope I did the Death Star justice.
  All that was left to do was box it up ready for pick up.

I'd like to thank Therese "Bing" Golingay and Cecilia Lodevico for allowing me to make these cakes for them.  I learned a lot from the process.  My weekend schedule is filling up fast thanks to people like them who trust me as their "cake person".  

~Abs of Cakes~
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