Herbert the Baby Hippo Cake

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I’ve continued my animal cake series with my favorite animal…a hippo! In my opinion, hippos are the true king of the jungle. They are amazing for many reasons, but my favorite is that they secret a fluid from their skin that acts as a sunscreen, helps them regulate their temperature, and gives them a somewhat purplish hue.

To make Herbet, I used a purple vanilla cake base, purple and blue buttercream, and fondant! I wanted him to look like he was just peaking his head up out of the water. The recipe and instructions can be found below:

Vanilla Cake Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (about 3 large egg whites)
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 drops purple gel food coloring
  • 1/2 drop of black gel food coloring (I used a toothpick to control the amount added)

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 drops purple gel food coloring
  • 1/2 drop of black gel food coloring (I used a toothpick to control the amount added)
  • 3 drops light blue food coloring (for water)

Fondant Accents:

  • white fondant (tusks)
  • black fondant (eyes)
  • purple fondant (ears and nostrils)
  • toothpicks
  • parchment paper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 4″ round pans, and a 7 inch dome baking pan.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.Mix chunks of butter slowly into the dry mix on a low speed. Continue to mix until no chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients (vanilla extract, egg whites, buttermilk, and vegetable oil), and whisk to combine. On low speed, add 1/3 of the liquid ingredients to the dry/butter mixture. Mix until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.Mix in the remaining wet ingredients in two installments, on a medium-high speed until fully incorporated. Add in gel food coloring, and mix until batter is evenly colored.

Fill the dome baking pan about 3 inches deep with batter, and divide the remaining batter evenly between the round pans. Bake the round baking pans for about 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Bake the dome for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

While the layers bake,  make the fondant cake decorations. Roll out purple fondant and black fondant to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out two thick purple circles, and shape into the nostrils. Use black fondant to also make small circles for the eyes. For the ears, cut out 2 fondant circles, that are 1 inch in diameter. Pinch the bottom half of the circle together, and seal the together with a bit of water. Insert a toothpick into each ear.  Roll out the white fondant, and cut out two rectangles for the tusks. Place prepared fondant onto parchment paper to allow it to firm.

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Next, prepare the frosting. Beat the butter on high for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with cream, adding 1 tablespoon at a time. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. Put 1/4 of the frosting into a separate bowl. Mix a few drops of blue food coloring into this bowl. Mix in the purple and black gel food coloring into the other bowl, until the frosting is uniformly colored a dark purple. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

To assemble the cake, frost and stack each round cake layer with the purple buttercream, adding sprinkles between each layer. Freeze cake for 5 minutes to allow the crumb coat to set, then use remaining frosting to add a second layer of frosting. Smooth with a bench scrapper.

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Using the 4 inch cake pan as a guide, cut out a half circle from the cake dome, so that it can fit around the 4 inch cake layers that you’ve frosted. Apply buttercream around the cake dome, and smooth using an acetate sheet. Secure fondant accents to the cake using buttercream and/or toothpicks. Then add the blue buttercream around the cake base to be the water.

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