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A funny switch has happened in me this year where I am moderately excited and inspired by Valentine’s Day. My birthday falls the day before Valentine’s Day so that has always overshadowed the day for me. To boot, the last few years I have done flower pop-ups on Valentine’s Day which have kept me run off my feet for the week leading up to it. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not doing any flower events this year OR that my birthday is a big one that I would be totally fine just skipping over, but regardless of the reasons, here I am, excited about Valentine’s Day! For the first time since running this blog I even have a list of Valentine’s Day things that I wanted to make and share. This beautiful cake is the first of them!
So here’s the truth, while I like to think of myself as someone who can make some pretty delicious things, baking is something that I have definitely had to work at. At Christmas time I attempted two gingerbread cakes that I really wanted to share here. While both were delicious and well enjoyed, my timing was off and I didn’t leave myself enough time to bake, decorate, and photograph before it was time to enjoy (try telling your whole family that the cake they have been smelling for hours can’t be eaten until the next day!) so they never made it here…or even got properly decorated for that matter!
This time I called in some professional help. My friend Allison who helps out with flowers in the wedding season also happens to be a cake designer so she helped me make something beautiful. While Allison is a professional who has done this 100 times I took a few really helpful tips away from how she put this naked cake together that will definitely help me when making my next cake and will hopefully help you too!
We started with a naked cake and then added a chocolate ganache drip. After that came the fun part…decorating!
We used a box cake mix to make this cake – they’re simple and reliable…what’s not to love?! This cake has an 8″ diameter but you can definitely make a beautiful cake in any size depending on the size of your group!
Here are some helpful tips for making a cake that I learned from Allison:
This was the biggest lesson for me. In the past when trying to make a beautiful layered cake I have not left myself enough time. In reality, it is a 2 day job. Bake on the first day, decorate on the second.
The really important thing when decorating cakes is to keep them COLD! This is the main reason why giving yourself enough time is key. That day of chilling is important to make sure the icing holds firm between the layers. Before we added the ganache drip we had the cake in the freezer again because we wanted the chilled cake to cool the ganache as it dripped down the cake.
In life, yes, but I’m talking with icing here! The icing was butter cream made with LOTS of icing sugar. Having a thick buttercream will ensure that your icing stays firm between the cake layers which is really important. A runny icing will not allow you to have nice layers in your cake (I’ve made this error before too!).
Allison used a lazy Susan (ok, side note, I can’t believe that is actually what those things are called! Ha!) to spin the cake while she smoothed the icing and this is definitely something I will be adding to my kitchen. For the ganache drip she used a squeeze bottle which was perfect for dripping the ganache around the perimeter and flooding the interior of the cake.
It’s no surprise that this was my favourite part (well honestly, Allison did everything else up until here!). I decorate tons of cakes with flowers for weddings but adding in more than just flowers here was a ton of fun. Since this cake was for Valentine’s Day we went for a big heap of pink and red things. No matter what the occasion though, I love these cakes that have eclectic toppers of many elements – in my opinion they’re so fun and beautiful!
First, decide the general locations where you would like to decorate the cake. I love things to be asymmetrical so we went for some decoration on one side of the top of the cake balanced by some decoration on the opposite side at the base. Similar to when making flower arrangements, we placed the largest elements on the cake first – those were the flowers. From there we worked our way down to the finer elements adding the cookies next, then the fruit, then the candies, and topped off with the sprinkles. The larger elements define the decorated areas and the smaller ones fill it out and taper the design so it feels really natural and balanced on the cake. You can decorate your naked cake in so many different and fun ways and I definitely encourage you to try different elements and placing them in different ways!
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 2 days! A cake like this would be such a fun family treat for Valentine’s Day or for a party with friends. If making a naked cake with a drip isn’t for you then you can truly make any cake fun and unique just by decorating it with elements that you love – try adding decoration to a basic store bought cake or even a batch of cupcakes with each one decorated differently.
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