Modern Cake Decorating
Or, as I like to call it, Semi-Nude Be-Sprinkled White Space Number Cake.
Normally, I don’t go too far beyond a whip of frosting when it comes to decorating cakes, but this year is my tenth anniversary with Jason. This cake had to be special.
Pretty sure the 10 year gift is cake, right? Like one year it’s bronze, one year it’s paper…and in year ten it’s cake.
Wait, what, tin?? Lamest anniversary gift ever. Cake it is.
In all honesty, this cake topper came about as a subtle act of desperation. I had originally planned to run to the store (for the tenth time this week) to grab some of those classic wax birthday number candles, but found time running short. I’d planned to present dinner and the cake as Jason walked in the door, and the hour was drawing perilously near.
Not to mention those candles really scream “Tenth Birthday” rather than ten years of successful adult-living and marital bliss. I’m pretty sure they were polka-dotted.
No, this cake needed some sophistication. A sexy frost-job with a peek of the interior, a sprinkling of nuts and coconut to keep things interesting after ten years of…frosting? <lost metaphor>. Something modern.
Naked cakes. These sassy, bold cakes flaunting their nether-layers for all to see are all over the place right now, utilized and made acceptable by pastry icons like Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. Even Martha Stewart has jumped on the bandwagon.
I love the spare, postmodern answer to the flourished cakes of the 80s and slicked-back ponytail fondant jobs of the 90s. Free your layers. Feels fresh and unfussy, yet subtly sophisticated. Yes, this will do nicely.
But my cake is no hussy, she will only be half-naked. Leave a little to the imagination. A quick, thin crumb coat of frosting around the edges and a slightly thicker layer at the crown, and she was looking foxy.
I still liked the idea of announcing the decade in numerals on top of the cake, but wax candles were a no-go.
I’ve got just the thing. Because doesn’t everyone have helvetica alphabet/numeral stickers lying around in their junk drawer? Leftover from pinterest projects past, I grabbed the necessary numerals and went to work.
After lightly flouring the numbers, I placed them on the cake, and then sprinkled toasted coconut (the browned edges contrasted well with the light frosting) and walnuts. I tried to make a radial gradient, concentrating the majority of the sprinkles around the numbers and lightening the flow closer to the edges of the cake. After gently dusting off the numbers and pressing the coconut into the icing, I lifted the numbers off the cake to reveal a modern twist on the classic birthday number candles.
You, too, can make a semi-nude, be-sprinkled helvetica white-space number cake to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, high game scores and more. Here’s how:
- Cake layers
- Frosting knife, pastry cutter or butter knife
- Chill or freeze your cake layers for 30 mins so the cake firms up and is less likely to break off crumbs (this is ideal; if you are impatient, like me, you can skip this and be extra cautious)
- Using freshly whipped, room-temperature frosting, dollop a bit on the cake stand or plate you will be using. Place the first layer on top to adhere.
- Generously frost the top of the first layer, pushing excess over the edge of the layer.
- Place next layer on top, and frost the top, pushing excess over the edge of the layer.
- Frost your knife, and move only in one direction - this will help keep crumbs from tearing off and mixing with the frosting. Skim the frosting knife gently around the cake, keeping the coat as thin as possible. Add more frosting to the knife when necessary.
- Try not to touch up any spots, as this is how crumbs are pulled off. Plus the advantage of making a naked (or semi-naked) cake is for it to look a little rough and natural!
- Frosted cake
- 1 cup/handful of flour
- Paper plate
- Numeral stickers or cut-out numbers printed from your computer, sized three inches tall or slightly larger (if they are too small, it will be difficult to maintain your white space)
- Nonpareils, sprinkles, nuts, or toasted coconut
- Place a handful/cup of flour on a paper plate. Flatten it out so there is even coverage.
- Take your numerals and press them firmly into the flour, several times, dusting flour on top of the numerals, as well.
- Gently pick the numbers out of the flour by their edges, trying not to touch the floured bottom side. Place the numbers in the desired location on the cake.
- Take your sprinkling items (nuts, nonpareils, etc.) and sprinkle them evenly across the top of your cake. Concentrate the sprinkles more closely around and on top of the numbers so the white space will stand out more.
- Using your flattened finger, gently press the sprinkled items closest to the numbers into the icing so they adhere better. Softly, using your fingernail and hardly any pressure, dust any sprinkles off the numbers, then press them lightly into the icing around the edge of the numbers.
- Once the numbers are cleared of their sprinkles, carefully lift them off the cake.
- If the numbers tug up the frosting when removed, lightly wet your finger and press down any peaked areas, careful not to disturb the surrounding sprinkles.
- Chill the cake.