Spring is finally here! Or so I think. For now maybe. I'm pretty sure the weatherman said "snow" when describing the next few days. I can't give you details because I'm pretending it didn't happen.
Instead, I'm consoling myself with this little beauty. Bright, colorful and cheerful enough to overcome all of the bad feelings brought by the weatherman! (I should really just stop watching him, huh?)
I don't like to play favorites, but I really love love love this one! Though the base color of each tier is fondant, all of the decorations are made from modelling chocolate. Now, I have only made modelling chocolate once before and it was a total disaster. I really didn't understand how anyone could use the stuff, let alone love it. But I kept reading and hearing how wonderful it was, so I watched someone make it on YouTube and tried again. As it turns out, all those lovers of modelling chocolate were right! And I had just mixed it a little too long on my first attempt, turning it into a broken, oily mess. This time, with the proper tips, it turned out beautifully and really was great to work with. For a recipe and tips, just search for Lauren Kitchens on YouTube and watch her own video on making modelling chocolate. She also has a great class on Craftsy.com if you want to learn even more.
Back to my cake! :)
The bottom tier is 8 inches around and nearly 5 inches tall, a little taller than I usually make my tiers. I found a pattern online that I liked (brackets stacked on top of each other) and turned it into a template. I sized the template so that it was the exact height of this tier and would repeat evenly without overlapping. So, I had a template for one panel and would need to repeat that panel 7 times to cover the entire tier. Once that was done, I copied it and cut out just one of the brackets. I took that little paper bracket and covered it on both sides with packing tape, or "poor man's lamination" as I've heard it called. That kept the bracket from sticking when I used it to hand-cut all the brackets used on the cake. I was also able to wipe it down afterwards and keep it to use in the future. Hand-cutting the brackets individually was definitely a time-consuming process, but worth it in the end!
To make the colors and create the ombre effect, I started by making two colors of modelling chocolate: white (or off-white in this case) and yellow. I just used Wilton candy melts because they are easy to use and I had them on hand. Once those two colors were prepared, I took about a quarter of each color and mixed it together. That gave me a lighter yellow. I needed five colors in all for the five brackets in my template, so I continued blending the colors by taking some of the original yellow and mixing it with the new middle color to get the fourth shade and by taking some of the original white and mixing it with the middle color to get the fifth shade. This leaves you with a perfectly subtle graduation of colors from bright yellow to white. I then cut out all the brackets and left them to dry a bit on the counter. One of the nice things about modelling chocolate is that it doesn't dry out like fondant does, so you can take a little more time with the overall design. You could do this design using fondant, but you wouldn't want to let the fondant sit out or it would lose the flexibility it needs to mold onto the curve of the cake. To get all the brackets on the cake, I used my template and Jessica Harris' wax paper transfer method. She teaches it on her blog and in her new Craftsy.com class, which I highly recommend! Her method worked so well for this design!
For the top tier, I did just a simple little band with a bow in the bright yellow color I started with. The flower on the top is also modelling chocolate in that same bright yellow with a white center. I think I will be using these flowers a lot more often. They are so easy and require no drying time at all. The modelling chocolate petals will hold their shape right away and can be joined together by simply warming the ends with your fingers and pressing them all together. (You could also use melted chocolate, which may work better with a larger flower.)
I hope you liked this cake as much as I did! There are so many more detailed instructions I could give, but perhaps I'll save those for another time. Or this post would have no end!
Until then, here is a slice of the top tier for you. Lightly lemon cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. Delish! I would have saved some of the bottom tier for you, too, but we were hungry! That one was chocolate cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. So good! Enjoy!