Baking and decorating unique cakes for special people and events in your life is a creative way of satisfying yourself and also others who enjoy a sweet treat!
In previous posts Fancy Cakes – Part 1 and Fancy Cakes – Part 2, I shared some of the cakes I made for people during 2021. Fancy Cakes – Part 3 closes out the calendar year, which in all was a total of 26 cakes.
Fancy cakes (in moderation, of course) are good for the soul, so let’s get started with these final cakes of the 2021 year!
This cake was for something special during the summer, and it needed to fit that bill. Let me just start out by saying this is more like cake baking on steroids than on training wheels! It has to be the most challenging cake I’ve ever made – not in terms of hand-making fondant figures or other such decorations – but for its sheer amount of ingredients and steps.
Having said this, it was worth every minute … hour … day … it took to make it!
I love reading and collecting cookbooks and recipes for inspiration but I rarely actually follow a recipe. However, after one glance at the recipe for Gateau Basque, I had enough sense to know I’d better follow every word, comma and period!
Gateau Basque is from the Basque region of France, and translated it means “cake of the house.” I don’t know about your house, but in mine this is not a routine kind of cake! I don’t want to scare you away from making it, though, because as long as you stay very focused and organized, you will come out on the other end with a magnificent cake!
These photographs tell the story – one picture full of ingredients just for the cake itself (which is dough rolled out in circles for the top and bottom, and later scored on top in a specific way before baking) – and one picture of ingredients just for the custard (which fills the inside of the cake). But, oh, what a delicious bite this makes. If you look closely at the baked cake, you’ll see the tiny black dots of vanilla bean that was stripped and placed in simmering milk on the stovetop.
Literally, I could write an entire post on the Gateau Basque but since I’ve got other cakes to cover, I’ll end here by just saying that yes, I indeed will make it again one day … but I’m waiting for a REALLY special occasion!
Chocolate Espresso Cake with Chocolate Espresso Cream Cheese Frosting, and Decorations of Blueberries, Blackberries and Mint Leaves
For my mother’s birthday, there’s no need to go anywhere but chocolate when it comes to making her cake! She and my stepdad love their chocolate (see his cake next), and I enjoyed making hers, especially decorating it.
The cake is two-layer, rich chocolate, with the chocolate espresso cream cheese frosting making a nice filling between the layers. Sometimes I like to make a two-layer cake that’s typically larger in circumference, and other times I’ll do a three-layer cake that’s taller but not as big around.
Chocolate cakes can be a bit finicky, in my opinion, with their crumb so tender it can be challenging to work with such a delicate surface. And of course, don’t get white-flour-dusted cake pans anywhere NEAR a chocolate cake unless you plan to cover all the white marks that always would appear when I used to do this.
For the decoration, I wanted to do a full top, border to border, design with blueberries, blackberries, and mint leaves. I had planned to sketch out a design, but I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like so I just jumped in. Starting in the middle, I did alternating circles of blueberries and blackberries, and used mint leaves to frame a centerpiece.
When the cake was finished, it felt like it needed something else, and it struck me that some of the unused mint leaves randomly placed on the cake sides would tie it all together. It was a lot of fun to eat, and enjoyed at the birthday party!
Triple Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Espresso Frosting, and Decorations of Strawberries, Grapes and Mint Leaves
As with my mother, for cakes for my stepdad, chocolate is key! For Father’s Day, I made a triple chocolate cake with chocolate espresso frosting that definitely – oh, so definitely – was CHOCOLATE.
This cake is three layers, and smaller in circumference than the earlier chocolate cake. I’m torn between liking the more traditional look of a two-layer, larger cake yet enjoying the extra layer of frosting you get with a three-layer cake. Both are good in my book!
Even if you don’t like the taste of coffee, which I do not, infusing your chocolate frosting with espresso powder is delicious. The two complement each other so well, and I was surprised how much I liked it the first time I made it.
Decorating this cake involved using red fruits – strawberries and grapes – and I used a similar approach of alternating circles of each fruit. (And who says cake isn’t a health food?!) To balance the look, I added a ring of red grapes to the base of the cake, which gave a fruit bite on both the top and the bottom of each slice.
When you cut into a cake like this, the “profile” view is fun to see! I always try to grab a quick photo with my phone when the cake’s being cut and before it’s all gone. You’ll see in the picture just how much chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate made up this cake!
Vanilla Cake with Buttercream Frosting, and Decorations of Fondant Stars
July 4th is an important day in our nation, and what better way to celebrate it with friends than bringing along a cake made just for the occasion!
This one is two layers of vanilla cake (one of my favorites), but most of the work went into decorating it. I already had white fondant, so that was no trouble, but I wanted two exact shades of blue (baby and navy) for decorations, and also a deep red for the overall frosting. And I won’t lie – this took some time.
I mixed various base colors of fondant to get my blues, and hand cut several sizes of stars. For the frosting, I mixed shades while it still was in the mixer bowl, and finally got the red I wanted. If you mix your fondant colors by hand, be sure to follow my previous post advice about always wearing disposable gloves – unless you want to still see those colors on your hands when the holiday rolls around the next year!
After placing the stars on the cake, I randomly added small pearl sugar drops. And to finish it off, I put a coordinating fabric ribbon around the base of the cake, and added navy stars all around the cake board – because on July 4th, you simply cannot have too many stars!
Vanilla Cakes with Piped Buttercream Frosting Flowers and Leaves
Do you know that feeling when you’re doing something so absolutely enjoyable that you don’t want it to end?? Well, that’s how it was decorating these two cakes for Easter!
The cakes are vanilla with a vanilla buttercream frosting, but the excitement with these cakes are the yummy flowers and leaves created with a LOT of frosting in a LOT of colors pushed through piping bags with decorator tips. I was sad when the decorating came to an end, because it’s so much fun to design your cake, pick a color scheme, mix your frostings to those colors, and then start piping away.
Piped cake decorations were covered in a previous post about how best to set up your bags with the frosting. Making the flowers and leaves on these cakes takes more time than a solid coat of frosting, but in addition to the fun, they’re delicious to eat.
For these Easter cakes, I wanted to use a color scheme of pink, yellow, coral, and lime green for one cake – and purple, blue, white and green for the other cake. It does take a bit of time to set up all these different colors, but once you have it done, the fun really begins.
It’s probably obvious but I suggest when doing two cakes like this, you start and finish with one before tackling the second one. I wouldn’t want to keep the second cake’s frosting on ice, so to speak, all the while I’m decorating the first cake. These were fun to make, and as I’m writing this post, I’m already thinking about what color scheme will come next!
Vanilla Mini-Cake with Lemon Curd Frosting, and Decoration of Blueberries
This is a mini-cake made from some leftover batter and lemon curd used in a large cake for a friend. I previously posted about that cake and why making your own lemon curd on the stovetop will give you such a silky and sumptuous taste!
The big cake is included in these pictures. With the extra batter, I cut little 3″ circles from a baked square. Fortunately there was plenty of lemon curd left, and I used this as a filler between each of the little cake’s layers.
Topping it off with a circle of blueberries mimicked the big cake, and it made for a pretty mini-cake that looks like a mini-tower!
December Cakes for Birthday and Christmas
December always is a busy baking month for the holidays! I did a post dedicated to just these cakes but my Fancy Cakes – Part 3 wouldn’t be complete as a year wrap-up without including them here.
The first was a birthday cake for a friend – a vanilla buttermilk cake with cream cheese frosting and decorated with Christmas M&Ms and Chocolate Kisses. I made a double batch of batter and frosting so I could add cupcakes to the birthday cake, as well as make several mini-cakes and cupcakes for other folks for the holidays.
The second was my Christmas Day gift for the host, and it was a maple buttermilk cake with cream cheese frosting and decorated with sugared cranberries, walnuts, and rosemary sprigs. Making the sugared fresh cranberries was a lot of fun, and that taste against cream cheese and maple syrup was pretty amazing.
So, those were the fancy cakes for 2021! If you’d like to see the earlier ones, here are the links to all the the posts for fancy cakes:
Have you made a fancy cake for someone? What kind of cake was it? Be sure to comment below!