Long before coronavirus and the associated shelter-in-place order, we have been obsessed with Netflix baking shows. We have seen every episode of The Great British Baking Show, Nailed It, Sugar Rush, Zumbo’s Just Desserts, etc. Slowly, with this obsession came the desire to try baking crazy, pretty looking things on our own. After all, it can’t be that hard. I mean, if the people on Nailed It would just follow the recipe/instructions, I’m sure their desserts would look and taste better.
Up until this desire to make all the things from scratch occurred, we were your typical box baking mix family. Muffins, cakes, frosting… all from a box/can. Except cookies. Never cookies. I don’t know why, but those we always made from scratch. Anyway, the homemade cake itch finally got my husband around my birthday a couple years ago. He decided to try his hand at from-scratch cupcakes for my birthday. They turned out okay. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we ate them all with no complaints, but something just wasn’t exactly right.
Then, a couple months later, for our son’s birthday my husband tried again with an actual cake. It was delicious and with that the cake bug had officially gotten to my husband. He has made a birthday cake for every member of our family (except himself, of course) and slowly upped the decorating game each time.
With the newest season of Nailed It premiering in the middle of the shelter-in-place order, my husband announced quite unexpectedly in the middle of an episode that he thought it was time for another cake and this time, he wanted to try using marshmallow fondant. This left my son and me very excited. It’s not everyday we get a homemade cake!
One thing you need to know about my husband is that he is a planner. I can’t think of anything he does without thinking it through and considering every consequence. This is true of his cake baking and planning. My son and I thought we’d get a cake the same day or maybe the day after his announcement. No such luck. My husband spent the next two weeks showing us pictures of different cakes he was thinking about attempting to replicate and the possible pitfalls of each. It was torture.
Finally, after approximately one million years, final plans for the cake were announced: a Captain America shield. The plan was a 3 layer cake (one blue, one red and one white), covered with vanilla buttercream and red marshmallow fondant. The shield would be made of blue and white fondant cut with cookie cutters. It all sounded delicious to us!
A few days after the final design was decided upon, my husband got to work. First, he made the from-scratch cake using the Butter Cake Recipe from The Kitchn. This is the only homemade cake recipe we have tried and we have had tremendous success with it. I’ve heard it is exceptionally hard to make from-scratch cakes (hence the popularity of the box mixes), so we were very excited to have such great success with the first recipe we tried. To get the 3 layers, he had to do one and a half times the recipe. He then divided the batter into thirds and added gel coloring to two of the bowls (one red and one blue), then poured the batter into buttered and floured 9-inch cake pans and baked accordingly. Side note: we have these pans and nothing ever sticks to them!
With the cakes cooling, he started on the buttercream. Since this was primarily used to hold things together, he didn’t add any coloring to it. To get a smooth-ish (we’re just regular people, not pros, after all) finish on the buttercream, he used an icing smoothing tool.
Next, came the real experiment of the cake: the marshmallow fondant. This turned out to be far more difficult than we had anticipated. Up until this point, I spent most of the time watching (and napping) while the cake and buttercream were prepared and assembled. I definitely took a more hands-on approach with the fondant. My husband didn’t properly coat his hands in powdered sugar before touching the gooey mess and it became like watching a dinosaur fall into a tar pit. I had to take a butter knife to his hands to free them. Eventually, with the addition of a ton of powdered sugar and a bunch of kneading, we got the fondant to a consistency in which it could be used.
Since the shield has a white star, we rolled out a bit of fondant and used a cookie cutter to get the star shape. Then we had to color the rest of it red. By we, of course, I mean my husband. We used more of the red food gel which is supposed to work better than red food coloring and give a redder color. I guess it did, but I’d say it’s definitely more pink than red and we used a lot (but I guess not a lot enough). Oh well.
Then, we had a heck of a time with the fondant sticking to the counter top. It also didn’t help that we ran out of powdered sugar so we had to switch to cornstarch. To help in actually getting the fondant on the cake, we decided to roll it out (for the second time) on a big sheet of freezer paper. Ultimately, this was the way to go. We draped the fondant over the cake with relative ease. I say relative because we barely centered it on the cake and then the freezer paper stuck to the fondant and ripped it in a couple places. But after smoothing it out with our hands (we don’t have the fancy fondant tools) and applying the “shield” pieces of fondant to the top, you couldn’t tell anything had gone too awry. My husband then put on some finishing touches with the leftover buttercream and ta-da! A Captain America cake!
Now for the bad news: marshmallow fondant with buttercream and cake is SO sweet. Like give you an immediate why-did-i-eat-that-stomach-ache sweet. And I do not say this lightly. My husband and I are not wusses when it comes to sugar-filled items, but the fondant was too much. We’ve since removed the fondant on any slice we eat and re-established the previous no fondant house rule. I guess we’re just going to have to get really good with buttercream!