09 August 2011

Blueberry Tree Cake

Hey. This cake looks familiar. A month and a half later, my life is out of moving boxes and it's time to show the world. Here is is: the blueberry tree cake. Complete with pine cones.

Blueberry seems like a funny cake flavor, doesn't it? That's what I thought too when my wonderful boyfriend said that's what he wanted for his birthday. The conversation went something like this:
Me: "What kind of cake would you like for your birthday? I'll make anything you want!"
Michael: "Hmm.... blueberry. With trees on it."

That, ladies and gentlemen, was what I had to work with. So I started brainstorming. How could I make a blueberry cake? It was during this brainstorm session that I remembered the strawberry cupcakes I had made last Valentine's day. Those were delicious! In theory I could easily swap the strawberries for blueberries and it would work. I was very confident about this.

Tell you what, it worked. Peek underneath the cut to see how I did it.

Blueberry Cake*
2 cups white sugar
1 (3oz) package of berry blue gelatin (JELL-O)
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup blueberry puree made from sweetened blueberries (frozen or fresh and add a tablespoon of white sugar)

The original recipe calls for two 9" round pans, but I went for three 8" and it worked just as well. Grease and flour pans, set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and dry gelatin until light and fluffy. Don't be alarmed, this stuff is BLUE!

This photo has not been altered. For real.
The eggs are then beaten in one at a time. Mix well after each egg. Now, be prepared for the eggs to change the color again. They're yellow and when mixed with blue sugar mixture you get green.

This was a fun cake, let me tell you. Good colors.
In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and milk. Set aside. Just a quick word about the vanilla I used. Rather than extract, I chose to use vanilla bean paste.

This stuff is amazing! The flavor is so rich and decadent. You really can taste a difference. I only use it for fancy occasion stuff (like birthdays and holidays) and, while pricey, it's so worth it.
Moving right along... in a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk mixture until combined. Blend in the blueberry puree.
Did I mention the beautiful colors this cake produced? Again, did not alter this photo. Mmm, puree.

Once you have your batter, a now purply-grey color, pour it into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through. Allow the cakes to cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently remove from pans. Finish cooling on wire racks.

Here are two of my three layers. I actually only have two 8" pans, so I had to cook the last layer separately. I do love that boy of mine.

Once those cakes were cooled, I torted them to level them. I set aside the scraps for later. Time to stack the cakes. I used vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream for this cake. Here's the cake progression: stacking, crumb layer, full frost.

That parchment paper trick is something I learned from a bakery I worked at. Once frosted just pull them out and there's no mess! I should also note that between the crumb layer and the full frosted layer I firm it up in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so. Less likely to grab crumbs in the final layer that way.

I then started on those pine cones. My goodness, the pine cones. I got that idea from, guess who? Martha Stewart! Of course! I gathered together my materials. Cake scraps and buttercream. I also added some brown to the buttercream for the layer I'd be adding later. 

Have you guys heard of cake pops? I used the same kind of concept. Rather than cut out shapes from sheet cake, like Martha did, I crumbled up the cake and added some frosting to it. I then shaped two balls into teardrop shapes and put them in the refrigerator to firm up.

They don't look like much but they will be whimsical. Oh yes.
Supplies needed: more of that frosting, a spatula, and slivered almonds. Don't be alarmed by my cutting board. It's not dirty, just stained. (However, my new place has a dishwasher and it worked wonders my little scrubbing hands never could. It looks so much better now.)

Once they were all firmed up I smeared them with that brown frosting. I made it brown so as to look a little more natural underneath the almonds. Once frosted, start layering on the almonds bottom to top.

Are these not the coolest things? I love them. I placed them on the cake after I piped the words; easier to write first and work around that than not have enough room for what you want to say. Either way, always plan ahead. I like to sketch my ideas out on paper first.

Lastly, the trees. I whipped up a batch of royal icing, split it up, and colored one half green and the other half brown. Quick note: to get a deep brown, start with a chocolate base.
I'll admit that I kind of wanted to use fondant, and next time I will, but I hadn't worked very much with it yet and wasn't comfortable doing it yet. Looking back, I should have just gone with it.
Not that this isn't cute:

I mean, they are pretty cute little trees and everyone liked them. I know I could have done more had I used fondant. These taste better than fondant anyway. People actually ate these.

Speaking of eating this cake, and it was delicious, I am sad to say I did not get any pictures of the inside. Can you imagine telling twelve hungry party guests that they could not have their cake until I took pictures of it for my blog? That wasn't going to happen. You can see from the picture of the cakes cooking that it was pretty blue. Magnificently blue.


*original strawberry cake recipe from Sweetapolita

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