April 25, 2012

Glories of the Past: Ghost Wedding Birthday Cake

Violet's birthday is in October, Millie's is in November. They share many of the same friends. So the last couple years we have been having one combined birthday party for them on or near Halloween. They each get a gift and maybe a treat on their actual birthday, but most of the birthday energy goes into the party. Last fall, the party was on the Sunday before Halloween.

We had picked out some insect cupcakes to make from Hello Cupcake! This book is amazing; you should check it and its sequel out if you haven't seen it. Of course I would substitute scratch made cake and frosting recipes for the box cake and canned stuff they recommend, but it is a great design reference and can really get you thinking in new ways about cake design.

Violet's costume was a bride dress we had sewn up a few months previously, so she was really pulling for a Wedding Cake. But Becky and I felt we needed to have some kind of Halloween tie in for the cake, so I came up with the idea of a ghost wedding. Violet was highly suspicious of this idea until our friend Kelly said she thought it sounded cool, at which point Violet got on board.

The cake was a chocolate butter cake recipe out of Rose Berenbaum's classic Cake Bible, I can't recall which one it was since there are several. It was delightful if a bit on the dense side. The white frosting is Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which I've always had better luck with over the more technically demanding Italian Meringue Buttercream. The buttercream was tinted with clear vanilla to try to keep it as white as possible, but it was already pretty off white due to the butter itself.

I made and frosted up about 50 mini cupcakes and the six total layers in the main cake. Each of the three tiers consists of two cake layers laminated with buttercream, trimmed to size and mounted on a trimmed cardboard round. To stack them I inserted three bamboo skewers into each layer and cut them at the surface of the frosting, which would provide support to the cardboard of the next layer. After assembly, I piped some pearls on the bottom edges to hide the messy transitions there.

Each mini cupcake got a roll in white nonpareils to make it look a little snowy.

The ghosts are piped and baked swiss meringue. I thought these would get harder after sitting around for a day, but actually they got softer and quite gooey, which was a real problem! Our friend Justin stopped in that evening, so he helped Becky, Violet, and I put faces and clothes on the ghosts. I had previously made up a batch of marshmallow fondant and made up a few color variants by kneading in paste coloring. We rolled these out and cut out little clothes and hats for many of the ghosts.

On top of the cake is the bride and groom. On the sides of the cake platter are the groomsmen and bridesmaids. Then the two maple blocks on either side have the wedding guests on top of cupcakes.

I'm not crazy about plain meringue or fondant, but the cake and frosting were good. Some of the kids ate the ghosts, but at the end there were more leftover ghosts than cake.

Despite a very unseasonal winter storm on Saturday, we had a nice
party on Sunday. We were going to have it outside, but mostly moved things
inside on account of the weather. There were about 15 kids, plus lots
of parents. Becky made over 20 liters of chilli, and we had fresh
bread and guacamole. We had pin the tail on the cat, pumpkin hunt,
bobbing for apples, and scarecrow making. Millie was little red riding hood, sporting a stretch velvet cape we had made up over the summer. Everyone had a nice time.

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