She wanted a penguin cake. On Tuesday, that is. The week before it was an octopus (I’m so glad we moved on from that). Before that it was to be a butterfly. But by Wednesday, for certain, she said: it must be a turtle. A sea turtle, not a tortoise. Which is an interesting distinction to make, I found out, while googling images of turtle cakes–many people seem to think tortoises are turtles. (We try for species-correct cakes around here, if not colour-correct.)
I have learned from a few past cakes to enlist the help of my brilliant, artistic husband and to set aside much more time than I think it will take. And one could suppose that turtle birthday cakes should be rushed even less than, say, a tiger or ostrich cake (yes, there is such a thing). One needs the proper amount of time to carve flippers and negotiate the architecting of the carapace. (Shouldn’t we be able to verb ‘architect’? And verb the word ‘verb’?)
I began with Deb Perelman’s yellow cake recipe from her fantastic cookbook, doubled. I always worry I won’t have enough cake to work with (which never turns out to be the case) or that something terrifying might happen during pan-removal (which was the case, see first installment). This recipe is also delicious and moist and works well with all icings.
Then I made a regular butter cream, splitting it into two portions, one for the green body and the other for the chocolate carapace. I’d thought long and hard about how to get the roundness of the carapace on the turtle cake and what I came up with was chocolate whipped cream. I mean, isn’t that the answer to everything? I didn’t add much sugar to the whipped cream because I wanted it a little bitter from the (large quantity) of dark cocoa powder in it, to balance out the sweetness of the icing on the cake.
Once we’d carved out the body of the turtle, I took all the scrap cake pieces
minus the ones we snacked on ourselves, cut them into one inch pieces and folded them into the chocolate whipped cream. Then this heavenly mixture got piled on the cake and rounded into the shape of the carapace. I wasn’t sure how well the icing would go directly onto the whipped cream, so I put the whole thing into the freezer for 30 minutes (I always freeze my cakes and work on them once frozen. SO much easier.). DH and I had tea and and a completely uninterrupted conversation about something other than kids or cakes. I have no idea what it was about.
Then out came the cake and we iced that turtle like nobody’s business. Press on the eyes and: Done. Goodnight, Irene. It was midnight, after all.
And I’m pleased to report that my next-morning fears that the whipped cream would have soaked through the cake beneath it or puddled the icing above it were unfounded. It behaved heroically. This trick might be my very favourite thing to do to a cake–even one that isn’t a turtle. It lightened up the whole thing and took the sugariness down a notch in the best way.
So one more epic birthday cake down…next up: The Tiger’s second birthday in June. Sob! How they do grow!