- 6-inch ball cake
- 1 recipe royal icing
- large lily nail
- aluminum foil
- small yellow stamens (from a craft store)
- waxed paper
- 1 recipe basic buttercream icing
- 20 chocolate wafer cookies, crushed (place the cookies in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin)
- 3 inch high by 7 1/2 inch wide clean clay flowerpot
- green, lemon yellow, and pink paste colors
- tips #2, #32, #68
Make the cactus flower: Tint 1/2 cup of stiff royal icing a bright pink. Using the large lily nail lined with aluminum foil and the #68 leaf tip, pipe petals all around the nail. Make a second row of petals inside the first row of petals. While the icing is still wet, insert about 50 yellow stamens into the center of the flower. Set the flower aside to dry for two days.
Next, make about 300 needles. Tint 1/4 cup of royal icing pale yellow and with the #2 tip pipe 1/2 inch lines on a sheet of waxed paper. Let these dry for a few hours.
To Decorate the Cake
Bake the cake in two halves of the 6-inch ball pan and cool.
Line the clay pot with aluminum foil. Take half of the crushed cookies and place them in the clay pot. Place one of the half ball cakes, flat side up, on top of the cookie crumbs. Place filling on the cake and then add the top half of the cake. Make green buttercream icing for the cactus by mixing green food coloring with a little pink to get the dusty green of a cactus. Cover the cake with a thin layer of the green buttercream icing. Add the remaining cookie crumbs around the base of the cake to keep it in place.
Fit a pastry bag with a #32 star tip and fill with the green icing. Pipe stars in a line, working from the bottom to the top of the ball. Use less pressure on the bag as you approach the top, so that the stars are a little smaller as you work up. Insert five needles into the center of each star while the icing is still wet. Continue around the entire ball until it is completely covered with stars and needles. Leave part of the top without needles so there is room for the cactus flower. Place the dried flower into the wet buttercream.
This is a pure white decorative icing that dries very hard. It is perfect for making flowers and bows and can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for two weeks. Stir icing with a spatula to restore its consistency. Do not rebeat. Royal icing does not stand up to high humidity.
- 5 T meringue powder (found in cake-decorating stores) or 2 room-temperature egg whites can be substituted for the meringue powder and the water
- 1/2 cup minus 2 T water
- 1/2 t cream of tarter
- a few drops of colorless flavoring (vanilla is good for an off-white color)
- 1 lb confectioner’s sugar
Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat slowly until all of the ingredients are blended. Then, beat at high speed until icing forms stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Add more sugar if the icing is not stiff enough, or a few drops of water if it is too stiff. Use immediately, or cover the bowl with a damp cloth to prevent drying when not in use. Allow at least twenty-four hours for royal icing decorations to dry at room temperature. Yields 3 cups.
Colette’s Chocolate Cake
This is a deliciously rich cake that’s moist and very easy to make. It’s the most popular cake that I [Colette] make.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup milk, room temperature
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 cup vegetable shortening or butter, softened
- 1 t salt
- 2 t baking powder
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t almond extract
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup hot, strong coffee
Pre-heat the oven to 325°F. Grease the sides and bottom of the cake pans with shortening and then dust with flour.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the coffee. Mix at low speed until all the ingredients are blended, scraping the sides occasionally with a rubber spatula. Slowly add the coffee while mixing on slow. Mix until smooth. Bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for about 20 minutes, then invert onto racks and remove the pans. Cool completely before icing. Yields 5 cups of batter, enough to serve 20.
Basic Buttercream Icing
This is a very easy icing to make and is good for icing a cake or for piping decorations and borders. It will stay fresh for two days without refrigeration.
- 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
- 1/2 cup milk, room temperature
- 1/4 t salt
- 2 t vanilla or other desired flavoring
- 2 lbs confectioner’s sugar
Combine all the ingredients in large mixing bowl and mix at slow speed until smooth. If stiffer icing is needed, or the weather is very warm, add a little extra sugar. This recipe is enough to cover and fill a 9×13-inch sheet cake or two 9-inch layers. Yield 6 cups.
Katie: First off – This was an AWESOME chocolate cake. It is definitely the best chocolate cake I have ever made, and is very close to the best chocolate cake I have ever had anywhere. I made a huge mess with the cake, though. It was cooking perfectly and smelling divine. When I went to remove it from the pans, I expected it to not come out so easily, even though I had used PAM with flour for baking. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it came right out and fell off the rack onto the stove-top and proceeded to crumble into many pieces. I didn’t have a ball pan, and came across one of those multi-piece pans used to make ice cream cakes. I had planned to use the big part for the bottom, and the rounded part to make the top and just put them together. Since I managed to throw the cake all over the place, I ended up with a pile of cake instead of a rounded top. Oh well, it still tasted wonderful!!
The royal icing was not hard to make, but it was very hard for me to work with. I could not get it to do what I wanted with the flower, and about every other needle I piped was in multiple pieces because I could not keep the pressure steady enough. When I went to remove the needles from the wax paper, I could not get them to come off correctly. Every one I touched broke into pieces. I finally ended up peeling the wax paper and pushing with my finger from the bottom and making them come off the wax paper into a sheet pan. When trying to pick them up and put them into the tips of the stars, more breakage occurred. The flower ended up looking okay, but when I peeled the aluminum foil off, the ends of the petals broke off too! It was very frustrating and I have no idea what I did wrong. This was my first attempt at royal icing, so hopefully it will only get better!
The buttercream tasted great, but ended up a little thin. I should have added more powdered sugar to it to make it a little thicker so it would keep its shape a little better when piping. I have gel colors, and want to use them up before buying more food coloring. That probably contributed to the consistency because I had to add a lot to make it such a dark greenish color. It worked out okay, and I used it to glue my cake pieces together!
So, to sum up, if you aren’t into cake decorating, don’t worry about the cactus part! Just make a delicious chocolate cake with buttercream icing! Go with white if you don’t want to fool with food coloring. It will taste decadent no matter the color!
Gray: This is a delicious cake, in fact it is the best chocolate cake I have ever had. It isn’t too sweet, but it has a rich, moist, and dense chocolate flavor. Even if you love to pile on icing, you aren’t going to loose the flavor of this cake. Katie did an awesome job decorating it, even with the issues she ran into. I thought it looked awesome and several people we sent the photos to said they didn’t realize it was a cake at first. So all-in-all I think this one was a roaring success.