This year, Lily chose the Popcorn Box Cake from the How to Cake It website as her birthday cake. Popcorn is Lily’s favourite food. She likes popcorn better than cake!
How to Cake It is a website and cookbook focused on novelty cakes by Toronto-based Yolanda Gampp. Her videos are a lot of fun and her instructions are very clear, which is not the same as saying that this was easy to do. Click on the link above to see the recipe and the video.
I won’t reproduce the recipe in this blog because I just followed her instructions. This will be my first experiment with fondant, so I thought I’d document what I learned along the way.
Planning is Key
This cake is a project that requires logistical planning. It took me three separate days, although not all day each time. I’m going to split this project into three separate posts, day by day.
The first thing to do is go through all the recipes and sub-recipes and make sure you have not just all the ingredients, but also the specialized baking equipment. This cake is a vertical construction with a rolled fondant icing. It’s almost architectural. On top of the normal equipment you would need to bake a cake, you will need cardboard inserts to serve as the support beams, dowels that essentially act as joists, special square pans, and a range of tools to work with the fondant.
Also consider how you are going to store the cake. It’s 8 layers high and requires refrigeration at several stages. Unless you have an empty fridge like they do in the demonstration kitchen for the How to Cake It instructional videos, you’re going to have to empty some food out and move some shelves down a notch to get clearance. That causes some other challenges if you also need to stock up with food for the party itself.
Day 1 – Baking Day
- Make the simple syrup (a 1:1 sugar water mixture that helps keep the cake moist over the several days it will take to do the project) and cool it down in the fridge.
- Bake the cakes.
For our cake, Lily decided to change the flavours. The original recipe called for two cakes: a vanilla chocolate chip and a chocolate cake, which were arranged in alternate layers to display a striped pattern when the cake was cut. Lily asked if we could drop the chocolate cake and just do two vanilla chocolate chips. That gave me the bright idea that since I was just doing one flavour by doubling one of the recipes, I could bake both cakes at the same time.
I immediately ran into my first problem – a double recipe was too big for the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer. I’ve had that mixer since 1996 and this is the first time I have gone over capacity. I cranked it out, with the batter riding up, but it needed some help and I had to fold the chocolate chips in by hand.
The cake recipe was very easy to work with. The cake itself has a nice flavour and is designed to be sturdy enough to stand up to the construction task ahead. I didn’t weigh it, but based on the volume of ingredients, the finished cake weighs roughly 10 pounds and is an inverted pyramid with a wider top supported by a narrower base. I wouldn’t swap out another cake for something like this. Most of my normal cake recipes would fall apart with the kind of handling this cake is going to get during Day 2.
In the next post, we will cover creating the shape and structure of the popcorn box cake.