Since I took up a part-time baking and pastry program and another few single sessions of cake decorating class, I have been experimenting with decorating cakes and cupcakes with fondant and buttercream. I have made a red velvet cake decorated with fondant snowman and Christmas tree. I have also baked cupcakes and topped them with buttercream. My first ever buttercream cake challenge was thrown to me by my sister – that was to make a buttercream birthday cake for my niece (in February) to bring to her kindy and share with friends. And, the cake should feature her favourite character, which is Doraemon. 😀
This is the one and only full buttercream cake I have done till today! What I can say about decorating cakes with buttercream like this one is not complicated at all. The tools are simple, the technique is easy. However, it does require a lot of patience; from preparing and colouring the buttercream, to piping each drop of cream, and to cleaning up the greasy mess after the masterpiece is completed. Haha!
There is of course some preliminary work to do before I actually got down to decorate the cake. The very first step to making a buttercream cake with the face of a cartoon character (or whatever designs that you’re going to put on top) is to do a quick research on the Internet to find a suitable design or pattern that fits the shape of the cake.
Many people have made Doraeon buttercream cakes, so it made my work easy. I found some Doraemon faces that I like, and showed them to my sister for her to choose. At the end, I actually combined the design from different cakes, i.e. Doraemon’s eyes from design #1, his mouth from design #2, and his bell collar from design #3. 😛
I then drew the outline of the face onto a parchment paper (can also use tracing paper). I would later use the ‘piping gel transfer’ method to transfer the design onto the cake. Since my cake is round and it doesn’t matter which side Doraemon’s tongue is sticking out from, my job was made easy. If you are designing a cake with a specific orientation (e.g. certain designs/patterns have to be on certain side or direction), then you have to take that into consideration when drafting your design on the paper.
(You may like to check out this simple explanation on transferring patterns to cake, or learn icing pattern transfer from the video at the end of this post.)
The next step was to bake the cake. I used a sponge cake for this one. Considering that kids (all below 7 yo ) would be eating this cake, a light sponge cake would be more appropriate. But other types of cake (e.g. chocolate cake, butter cake) can be used, too. I followed a sponge cake recipe from Aunty Yochana. After the cake was baked and cooled down, I kept it in the fridge overnight. I sliced the cake into two layers the next day for frosting and decorating.
For the buttercream, I used this following recipe, which I got from one of the cake decorating classes.
Unsalted butter, softened 1 block (~227 g)
Krimwell shortening ~227 g (always in equal ratio with butter)
Icing sugar, sifted ~600 g
Vanilla essence 2 teaspoons
Salt A pinch
Cocoa powder 2-3 tablespoons (for filling between two layers)
Beat butter and Krimwell in the mixer till smooth. Add icing sugar slowly and continue to mix on low speed. After all sugar has been added, increase mixer speed to medium and beat mixture until creamy. Add in salt and vanilla essence. This is the plain vanilla buttercream for frosting and decorating. For the filling inside, I took out a small portion of the plain buttercream, added to it 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and mixed the cream well with a spatula. I figured that kids would like something chocolate flavour in the cake. 😉
The next step is to prepare the coloured buttercream. The buttercream had a light tint of yellow due to the butter (which is yellow) used. It would have been much yellowish if I had used purely butter without the shortening. I prepared large portions of the white and blue buttercream, and small portions of black, red and yellow. I used soft gel paste food colour from AmeriColor.
To fill the cake, I spread the chocolate buttercream on top of a layer of sponge cake, and then place the second layer on top, pressing down lightly to make sure that the cream was properly ‘sandwiched’ between the two layers of sponge cake. I scraped off excess cream that oozed out at the side. I put the cake back into the fridge to let the filling set.
After 15 minutes, I took out the cake and started crumb-coating it. I applied a thin layer of the white buttercream on the top and around the side of the cake, then put it into the fridge for about 15 min again to let it set.
I applied buttercream to the side of the cake again, as I need it to be slightly thick so that I could make lines around the cake using a fine tooth scraper. I did not add on buttercream on the top of the cake, because the cake would be later cover with buttercream design anyway. Now, I transferred the outline of Doraemon face onto the cake.
The outline (from the piping gel) transferred onto the buttercream-coated cake was not clear; it meant to be just a guide. So I drew on top of the outline with black buttercream (piped using tip #2 or 3, I couldn’t remember) to enhance the lines that defined the different areas of the face.
After this, everything was easy. I just filled up Doraemon’s face with the corresponding colour of buttercream, using an open star tip #21 and a drop flower tip #24 (see below). As I have only one of each tip, but have different colours of buttercream to pipe, so I used couplers to allow the switching of tips from one piping bag to another. You can always experiment with other types of piping tips.
At any point of time, when I felt that the buttercream in the piping bag was getting too soft and runny, I would put it into the fridge for a while to harden it up a bit. When the buttercream is too soft, it won’t hold its shape very nicely when piped out from the bag.
After the decoration was completed, I kept the cake in the fridge till the time to be collected. My sister was pleased with the buttercream decorations, as she admitted herself that she would not in a hundred years have the patience to do it. More importantly, the kiddo said the cake was nice, and there was no complain from other kids. 😛