Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Shaped Carrot Cake and a few words about Cream Cheese Icing

I was asked to make a pumpkin shaped cake for a neighbor who was having a bridal shower for her daughter. The bride loves all things Fall and pumpkin and it was the perfect theme for an October shower.

I started by making two bundt cakes using this carrot cake recipe. The bride has a nut allergy, so I substituted coconut for the walnuts in the recipe. The stem and leaves are made of ready-made fondant mixed with a little powdered tylose for added structure. The tendrils are made of fondant/tylose strips wrapped around a straw and allowed to dry. All fondant pieces were made days ahead of the cake assembly and allowed to dry.

Then I assembled the cake as follows:

I cut each bundt cake in half horizontally so that I could layer icing between the two halves.

The first cake is placed on the board upside down and iced between the two layers. Then, because the cakes are dense and heavy, I felt that they needed more support to hold the second cake. I placed four wooden dowels, cut to size, into the bottom cake and placed a cake board on top of that. Then I placed the other bundt cake on top, right side up this time to make the top of the pumpkin, spreading some icing between the layers. This way the host of the party could cut the top bundt cake down to the cake board, then remove the board and dowels, and then cut pieces from the bottom layer (like a wedding cake is constructed) and each serving would be a more manageable size.

I filled the hole in the center with some extra cake I had from another carrot cake I was making. Then cream cheese icing, colored orange with a touch of brown, is spread over the entire cake. After icing is spread all over the cake, I used a spatula and spread the frosting from bottom to top to create the vertical lines on the pumpkin. The stem and leaves are set on the cake last.

Now for a note about cream cheese icing:

Cream cheese icing has a tendency to get soft and can be difficult to work with when you are trying to achieve a detailed look on a cake or even ice cupcakes with a decorating tip. My suggestion would be to NOT use cream cheese icing for the outside of this cake, but use maybe a cinnamon-vanilla Swiss Meringue buttercream instead.

If you must use cream cheese icing, here are some tips:

1. Use cold cream cheese and slightly softened, but still cool butter. If the cream cheese and butter have been allowed to come fully to room temperature, they will be too soft and you will end up with runny icing that does not hold its shape.

2. DO NOT overmix the frosting. There is a tendency to do this especially if there are persistent lumps in the icing, but cream cheese which has been over-beaten gets runny and soft and will not recover with chilling in the fridge. I settled for a few little lumps in the icing over having an icing which was too runny.

3. Increase the butter to cream cheese ratio in your icing recipe as butter hardens more when chilled than cream cheese does and will help your icing keep its shape. I used this recipe as is and it worked fine with cold cream cheese and cool butter. It did NOT work fine with too soft, overbeaten cream cheese and butter.

4. Beat the butter first, then add the cream cheese and beat until combined, then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until just combined, no more!

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