I’ve recently been on a dessert kick — chocolate covered oreos, macarons, cupcakes, and now yesterday’s adventure of chocolate cake covered in patriotic colors for Memorial Day. The cake recipe really isn’t the highlight of this post, but instead the icing technique I used. Using red, white and blue buttercream icing I tried out the petal technique. I think it turned out well enough and wasn’t a total fail. It wasn’t elegant or glamorous, but it was also for a BBQ so I think the cake fit perfectly and had a fun patriotic look!
As you look through my pictures I would have made the following changes:
- I spiraled the top of the cake and I think circled rings might have been better.
- I would not have alternated the icing as much. I wish I had done a full ring of red, white and blue versus alternating the icing so much. Alternating the icing as much as I did created a crazy checkerboard appearance and I wasn’t exactly looking for crazy.
I made the cake to close out our Memorial Day BBQ. I also threw together some white chocolate covered strawberries covered with blue sanding sugar at the last minute you will notice them in some of the pictures. Both desserts were perfect for our Memorial Day celebration, but would be great for the 4th of July, or change the colors and it works well for any holiday celebration or even an upcoming graduation done in school colors.
I mentioned this post wasn’t about the cake but the icing, however, I do think this is one of the best chocolate cake recipes so I’ve listed it below along with the coffee flavored buttecream icing that filled between the cake layers. For whatever reason I decided to make a four layer cake, but the recipe below is for a standard two or three layer cake.
Memorial Day Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk but don’t always have it on hand. You can make buttermilk by mixing 1 cup milk with 3 or 4 tsp. apple cider vinegar and let it stand for 15 minutes.)
1 cup coffee
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Coffee Icing Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 3/4-4 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. instant coffee/espresso
Patriotic Icing Ingredients:
2 1/2 sticks of butter
10 cups of powdered sugar
7 to 8 Tbsp. milk
red and blue food coloring
Materials – 3 piping bags; large tips or couplers
For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 8×2 cake pans (you can also use 3 cakes pans for smaller layers).
In a large mixing bowl, mix on low the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, coffee, vegetable oil and eggs. With the mixer on low slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the batter is smooth, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl at least once.
Pour evenly into prepared pans and bake until a cake tester comes out clean. If you’re using 2 pans the cook time will be around 35 to 40 minutes; if you’re using 3 pans the cook time will be around 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.
Assembling the Cake Layers:
In a small bowl combine the milk and instant coffee. Stir until the coffee granules have dissolved.
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, and begin mixing on low speed. Slowly add in the coffee mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Stop the machine, scrap the bowl, and again mix the icing for additional 1 minute on medium speed.
I typically assemble the cake by spreading icing between every layer. But I just learned a great trick to ensure your icing reaches the edges of your cake when stacking the layers. Put some of the icing in a piping bag fitted with a wide tip and circle the edge of the cake and then fill in the icing with a spatula.
After icing the layers together a crumb coat is essential in getting the petal technique to stick and adhere smoothly. A crumb coat is a very thin layer of icing that glues down any crumbs. The crumb coat icing can be thinned with water a little so that it goes on easier and doesn’t rip up the cake. In the case of my cake I mixed some of the extra coffee icing with some of the white buttercream I made for the decorating and this thinned it enough to apply it smoothly.
Petal Technique Directions:
Make the Icing — Put the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low until fluffy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar (with the machine off unless you want to look like you’ve been covered in snow). Mix on low and slowly add in the milk. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Stop the machine, scrap the bowl, and mix again for an additional minute. You may need to add in more milk or powdered sugar depending on your preferred consistency. Once the icing is mixed, separate the icing into three separate bowls. Tint one of the bowls with red food coloring until you reach a desired color. I used about 30 drops and then an additional 1/2 tsp of red gel food coloring. (Remember red icing tastes bitter, but since you’re not icing the whole cake it pretty much goes unnoticed.) Tint another bowl with the blue food coloring, I used around 15 or 20 drops of food coloring. Fill three piping bags each with the red, white and blue icing. I did not have three wide circular tips and instead used icing couplers and was able to achieve the same effect.
Setup — Now that you have your icing bags you can begin to setup your work station. I used my kitchen table so that I would have a lot of space and be able to sit down while decorating the cake. At your work station you will need the following supplies:
- practice board (I used the back of a dinner plate)
- paper towels
- small bowl of water
- three small spoons (the number of spoons is dependent upon the number of colors you use to ice the cake)
Decorating the Cake — I have outlined the very easy steps below. I encourage you to practice on something first, I used the back of a dinner plate.
- If using multiple icing colors think through your pattern first. Make a row of vertical dots of icing going down the length of your cake. Note: My crumb coat had dried and the first row of icing dots would not stick to the cake. If this happens, wet the cake slightly.
- Spread the dot with a small spatula or small spoon. Make sure not to spread the whole dot. Position your spoon over the half way mark of the dot and spread. Then you continue the pattern until you have covered the cake. You will have a “back” to this cake because the last set of dots will meet with the first set and have a slight seam.
- Ice the top of your cake. This can be done a couple of ways. I did my cake using the spiral technique. I started in the center and worked my way out. I’m not sure this was the best way and wish I had tried to do the top of the cake using circles.
There you have it, my patriotic masterpiece. I had a lot of fun decorating the cake. It’s actually the perfect cake decorating technique if you have a lot of interruptions because it’s really easy to pick up where you left off. I managed to ice the cake while feeding the twins, grilling hamburgers, and making a salad. Now that’s multitasking!