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Holiday Feast Cakes

People with holiday birthdays frequently find that the festive season can take priority over their special day!! In a national survey conducted by Chase Freedom, a third (32%) of those surveyed with holiday birthdays felt that they were celebrated less. In fact, the survey found that one-fifth of Americans admitted to forgetting, ignoring or deliberately downplaying someone’s birthday because it falls on or near a holiday.

I’ve recently partnered with Chase to shine a spotlight on holiday birthdays. If you didn’t know, I actually got my start by baking birthday cakes for friends, so this is a particular passion of mine. There is nothing quite like the look on someone’s face when they see the cake you’ve made just for them!

Last week, I helped host a birthday celebration at a local New York City Chase branch by creating a traditional holiday feast with a twist – they were made entirely of birthday cake, complete with sprinkles, funfetti and rainbow swirls inside! As you can imagine, guests were surprised to see cakes in the shape of a ham, a skillet of Brussels sprouts and even a cherry pie.

The recipes and tools needed are included below. If you want to try cooking up these festive cakes, please share using #ChaseFreedom:

Holiday Ham Cake

  • 5 batches of my vanilla layer cake recipe, colored light pink
  • 5 batches of my buttercream, +2 Tbsp Honey
  • 1 container sprinkles
  • pink fondant
  • brown fondant
  • brown and pink gel food coloring
  • kitchen torch

 

To make the Holiday Ham Cake, bake two 8 inch layers, two 7 inch layers, two 6 inch layers, and one 4 inch layer. Once baked and cooled, use a 4 inch circle cutter to remove the centers from one of the 8 inch layers, and two of the 7 inch layers. Prepare the buttercream, then stack and frost the layers from largest to smallest, along the side of cake. Once the layers without centers are stacked, apply a thing crumb coat the cut out areas, and fill with sprinkles.

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Top with remaining cake layers. Stacking them off center will make it easier to lay the cake on its side once it’s carved. Insert a wooden dowel through the cake to secure the layers, then use a serrated knife to carve the layers, to resemble the shape of a ham.

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Trim the side of the cake closest to the dowel, to make a flat surface to lay the cake on. Carefully flip the cake onto its side, then apply a thin crumb coat of frosting. Place an 8 inch, pink fondant circle on the front of the cake. Lay brown fondant over the side of the cake, and trim excess. Score lines around the sides of the ham using a fondant tool. Add a white fondant tail bone over the exposed dowel on the back of the cake. Cut out 1 inch of pink fondant using a circle cutter. Place a white fondant ring into the cutout, to be the other end of the bone.

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Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the brown fondant, to give the ham a “fresh out of the oven” look. Next, paint the brown fondant with a mixture of vodka and brown gel food coloring.

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In a small container, mix together a drop of red gel food coloring with a 1 Tbsp of vodka, and lightly dab onto the pink fondant to make the ham look juicy. The last step is to pipe some dark green buttercream around the ham cake as the leafy garnish.

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Brussels Sprout Cake

  • 1 batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe, + 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
  • 1 batch of my black buttercream
  • green fondant
  • black fondant
  • green food coloring mixed with 1 Tbsp vodka
  • 1 paint brush
  • 1 bag white chocolate, melted over a double boiler
  • kitchen torch

To make the Brussels sprouts cake, make two 10 inch funfetti cake layers. Prepare the black buttercream, and stack and frost the two funfetti cake layers. Trim the sides of the cake to taper in slightly towards the base. Scoop out about 1/2 inch from the center of the top layer, leaving a 1 cm rim.

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Coat in a thin crumb coat, and chill the cake in the fridge or freezer until the frosting is firm to the touch. Add a second, thicker layer of black buttercream, and smooth using a piece of acetate sheet.

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Next, prepare the Brussels sprouts! Make cake balls using trimmed cake bits and extra white frosting from the ham cake. Form twelve 1 inch balls, and freeze. Use a silicon mold to make 12 half spheres. Coat in a layer of white chocolate (you want them to have the texture of real Brussels sprouts, so they don’t need to be perfectly smooth!), and set aside to dry. Once firm to the touch, cover in a thin layer of white fondant. Create lines along the top of the cake balls to look like Brussels sprout leaves.

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Paint a couple layers of bright green food coloring mixed with vodka. Then paint an additional layer of forest green food coloring to give the Brussels sprouts more dimension. Set aside to dry.

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Once the food coloring has dried, arrange on top of the skillet cake. Start with the largest Brussels sprouts in the center of the cake, and work towards the edge of the cake. Fit as many as possible in the base layer, then add half of the Brussels sprouts into any remaining space, and on top of the first layer.

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Carefully use a blow torch to caramelize the Brussels sprouts and avoid touching the frosting with the flame!

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Cherry Pie Cake

  • 1 batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe, divided into 6 parts and colored red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple
  • 1 batch of my buttercream+ 2 squirts ivory gel food coloring
  • cherry pie filling
  • tan fondant
  • ivory food coloring + 1 Tbsp vodka
  • sterile paint brush

To make the cherry pie cake, bake two 10 inch cake layers, by swirling together rainbow colored batter. You can watch a full tutorial on how I make my swirled cake layers here. Prepare the tan colored buttercream, and stack and frost the two colorful cake layers. Trim the sides of the cake layers to taper.

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Flip the cake over so that the widest part is facing up. Scoop out about 1/2 inch from the center of the top layer, leaving a 1 cm rim. Coat in a thin crumb coat, and chill the cake in the fridge or freezer until the frosting is firm to the touch. Add a second layer of buttercream, and smooth using a piece of acetate sheet. Cover the sides in tan fondant, and lightly score using a fondant tool. Add the cherry pie filling onto the top of the cake, leaving a 1 inch boarder around the perimeter.

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Interlace 1 inch strips of fondant to create the pie crust top, and trim to fit a 10 inch circle using a cake board.

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Place a ruffled fondant pie crust boarded around the perimeter of the cake, then carefully place the latticed strips on top of the cherry pie filling. Secure the strips over the crust by gently pressing them together. Paint the top of the pie with 1 drop of ivory food coloring mixed with 1 Tbsp vodka, to give the cake a golden brown hue.

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Then it’s time to present the feast of cakes and cut in to reveal the birthday surprise centers!!!

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Striped Christmas Cake

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we can finally begin baking for Christmas!!!! While I do love baking for Halloween, Christmas is definitely my favorite time of the year to bake! I decided to kick off this season of holiday baking with a very festive striped Christmas cake. The inside of this cake is just as fun (if not more fun) than the outside of the cake!

I am by no means a piping expert, but everyone has to start somewhere, and the only way to get better at something is to practice 🙂 The recipe and tutorial are included below:

1 batch my favorite vanilla layer cake (4, 7″ cake rounds) – divided into three parts, one colored red, one colored green, and one part left uncolored

1.5 batches my classic American buttercream

Additional Supplies:

  • Christmas sprinkles
  • red and green gel food coloring
  • Wilton 1M tip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and prepare cake batter. Line and grease 4 7 inch pans. Spoon batter into the center of each cake pan, layering each color on top of the previous batter. If your layers get off center, simply tilt the pans to recenter the pattern.

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Bake 4, 7 inch layers for about 38 minutes. Once removed from the oven, carefully run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan, to separate the layers. Let these cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pans and place in the freezer for about 45 minutes (accelerates the cooling process). Once cool to the touch, trim the browned edges from the sides of the cake using a serrated knife. If desired, you can also trim the tops of the cake! The layers bake relatively flat, but some people find it easier to stack and frost layers when they’re perfectly level.

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While the layers bake and cool, prepare the buttercream frosting. Beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the heavy cream half way through. 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. 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 watch a full tutorial on how I make my frosting, you can click here.

Stack and frost layers. Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes.

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Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add a second, thicker layer of frosting. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here. Color the remaining frosting green and red, and place into piping bags with various tips. These tips are (from left to right) a Wilton 12, a Wilton 5, an Ateco 4, an Ateco 48.

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Use a bench scraper to make slight vertical indents along the sides of the cake. Use these lines as a guide and pipe stripes up the side of the cake. Begin by adding stripes around the entire cake with one frosting tip, then fill in with the other tips and frosting color.

MVI_1560_Moment (2) Carefully level the tops of the stripes using a sharp knife. Place remaining frosting into a piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip, and pipe swirls around the top of the cake. Add sprinkles (these are from Neon Yolk Shop) around the base of the cake and inside the buttercream swirls.

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Like I promised earlier, the inside of the cake is just as fun as the outside!

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The Best Cream Cheese Frosting

I get asked a lot about my cream cheese frosting recipe, and I’m finally sharing it! A lot of cream cheese frosting recipes taste great, but don’t hold their shape.  This can be super frustrating when you’re trying to get super smooth sides on a cake, or pipe some fun designs onto a cupcake!! That’s what makes this frosting recipe so fantastic; it has the tang of a cream cheese frosting, but is sturdy like my classic american buttercream! It’s great for piping on cupcakes, and smoothing on cakes. The recipe and tutorial are included below:

When using this recipe to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which is amazing and bakes flat!!), which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers, I usually make 1.5 – 2 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 3 sticks or 1.5 cups (325 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese frosting (115g), room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp (4 grams) vanilla

Instructions:

Beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 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).

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NOTE: If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

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Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Around the holidays I’m always inspired by all the beautiful pies I see on social media! While I am by no means a pie expert, these cupcakes help satisfy my pumpkin pie aspirations, through a different medium. They’re made with a pumpkin cupcake batter, filled with a no-bake pumpkin pie filling, and frosted with a buttercream “crust.” The recipe and a quick tutorial are included below:

Pumpkin Cupcake Batter

  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ⅓ tsp. pumpkin spice
  • ¾ cup canned pumpkin
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs

Pumpkin Pie Filling: 

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 4 sticks or 2 cups (434 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 grams) heavy cream
  • 3 tsp (12 grams) vanilla
  • yellow and brown food coloring

Bake time: 17 minutes

Yield: 12-14 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Place the flour, sugar, dark brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin spice into a large bowl. Gently stir to combine. Add in the oil and pumpkin, and stir until incorporated. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add a squirt of orange gel food coloring, and stir until the batter is evenly colored.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, and bake for 17 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire racks to cool. To speed up the cooling process, you can also place the cupcakes in the freezer for 15 minutes.

While the cupcakes bake, prepare the pumpkin pie filling. Pour one cup of cold heavy cream into a medium sized bowl, and whisk in 1 package of vanilla pudding mix. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, then add in 1 cup of pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. Mix until fully incorporated. Add a small squirt of orange gel food coloring if desired, to achieve a more vibrant shade of orange. Chill in the fridge.

Next, make the “pie crust” frosting! Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.  Add in a tiny bit of brown and yellow food coloring, to achieve a tan shade that resembles a pie crust. 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).

Once the cupcakes are baked and fully cooled, use a small knife to remove the centers of the cupcakes. I cut out a large portion of the cupcake, so that I could fit in a lot of the pumpkin pie filling, but this is a matter of preference.

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Fill the centers with the chilled pumpkin pie mixture, the smooth the tops using an offset spatula. Place half of the frosting in a piping bag with a wilton 103 tip, and the rest into a bag with a small round opening.

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Pipe a variety of lattice designs and crusts onto the cupcakes. Below are the designs I made!

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You can pipe your favorite pie decorations, and also can modify this recipe to make different pie flavored cupcakes 🙂

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Thanksgiving Turkey Cake

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week!!!! Since I am a pie novice, of course I wanted to make a cake to celebrate T-Day. I was inspired by the turkey cake Baked by Dan made on one of his Food Network livestreams. This cute little turkey cake is made with colorful swirled pumpkin cake layers, and is covered in milk chocolate ganache. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “pumpkin, and chocolate??” Trust me on this one, it’s a surprisingly delicious combination. The recipe and tutorial can be found below:

Pumpkin Cake Batter:

  • 3 1/4 cup (416 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (183 grams) – about 5 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (I used canned pumpkin for this)
  • yellow, orange, and red food coloring

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

  • 23 oz. (652 grams) milk chocolate chips (I use Hershey’s)
  • 1 cup + 1 tsp (230 grams) heavy cream

Additional Decorations:

  • red, orange and yellow fondant (I use the Satin Ice brand – I think it tastes best of all the premade fondant!)
  • 1 set of jumbo eye sprinkles, or eyes made with black and white fondant
  • piping bag
  • kitchen scale (for ganache)

Instructions:

The milk chocolate ganache needs a few hours to firm up before you can you cover the cake, so I like to make it in advance (usually the night before)! Note that if you want to use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, you will need to use more cream (weight ratio of dark chocolate to heavy cream is 2:1, milk chocolate is 3:1)

To make the ganache,  place chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into a bowl. In a separate bowl, heat heavy cream at a medium heat until it just begins to bubble (watch very carefully, heavy cream can bubble over in the blink of an eye!!). Pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes without touching it, then stir until fully incorporated. If there are still lumps of chocolate, heat the bowl for 15 seconds and then stir again; continue until no lumps remain. Once the mixture is nice and smooth, place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit overnight.

The fondant accents also need to be made in advance, so they can dry. Roll out colored fondant to be 1/4 of an inch thick, and cut out feather shaped pieces (mine looked like giant tear drops) that are about 4 inches long. Use circle cutters to make cartoon fondant eyes, and shape a beak, two turkey feet, and a gobble. Set aside to dry.

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Next, prepare the pumpkin cake layers. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 7″ round pans.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and pumpkin puree, and mix at a low speed until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Divide batter between three bowls, coloring them yellow, orange, and red with gel food coloring. Add spoonfuls of batter into the pans, then tap them on the counter to flatten the batter. Swirl together using a butter knife (full tutorial on how to make swirled layers here).

Bake for 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (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.

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To assemble the cake, cover cake layers with a generous layer of ganache, and stack vertically. Add a thick, even layer of ganache around the cake using an offset spatula. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here.

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Place remaining ganache into a piping back, and pipe wings half way up the sides of the cake. Next, add on the facial features to the front of the cake. Secure the feathers to the back of the cake, using additional tabs of ganache. Once the entire back fan of feathers is in place, trim remaining feathers and gently insert into the top of the cake neat the other feathers. I found the cutting a slit into the top of the cake with a small knife made this process much easier.

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As fun as this cake is to build, it’s even more fun to cut into!! The swirled layers contrast beautifully against the chocolate ganache, and the pumpkin / chocolate flavor combo is a real crowd pleaser. It’s perfect for kids, and the adults don’t seem to mind it either 🙂

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Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

I know, red wine AND dark chocolate?? WHAT?? This is one combo you’re just going to have to trust me on. The deep flavors of the dark chocolate and red wine pair surprisingly well together, and it’s just an added bonus that you can pour yourself a glass of the leftover red wine while making these. This recipe is perfect for these chilly fall evenings, and for the Holiday season! The full recipe can be found below:

Chocolate Red Wine Cupcake Batter (inspired by Sally’s amazing chocolate cupcake recipe):

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup your favorite red wine (I used a bottle of cabernet sauvignon)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Red Wine Buttercream:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp red wine
  • red and black gel food coloring

Dark Chocolate Red Wine Ganache:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp red wine

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Bake Time: 19-20 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line cupcake tins with 12 liners.

Begin by making the red wine chocolate cupcake batter. Add dry ingredients into a bowl, and whisk together. Combine buttermilk, eggs, wine, and oil in a separate bowl, and mix into the dry ingredients in two installments. Stir until the ingredients are fully combined, then scoop equal amounts into liners using a cookie scoop (fill about 1/2 way, they will rise!). Bake for 19-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes bake and cool, prepare the red wine frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the cream and red wine during this process.  Once fully mixed, add in the

salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. Add a few squirts of red gel food coloring, and the smallest drop of black gel food coloring. Mix until the color is evenly distributed, and is a deep red shade. Place into a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip.

Next, prepare the red wine chocolate ganache. Place chopped dark chocolate and heavy cream into a heat proof bowl, and heat in microwave for 30 seconds at full heat. Stir, then heat for an additional 30 seconds. Stir again, then heat for 15 seconds. Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Add in the red wine, then set aside.

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Remove the centers from the fully cooled cupcakes using a 1 inch circle cutter or cupcake corer. Fill the center fully with a spoonful of red wine chocolate ganache.

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Frost with a large swirl of red wine frosting. Warm up any leftover ganache for 30 seconds to make it more fluid, then drizzle the leftover ganache over the top of the cupcakes.

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I also added a wine shaped pipette into the cupcakes, filled with wine. Because you can never have too much wine 😛

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Spooky Vampire Bat Cake

As we get closer to Halloween, my mind is completely filled with Halloween-themed cake ideas!! This vampire bat cake is made with my favorite chocolate layer cake recipe, frosted with my black buttercream frosting, and has a strawberry “blood” filling!! This cake is just as spooky as it is silly 🙂 The full recipe can be found below, along with a quick tutorial:

Recipes:

Bake four, seven inch chocolate cake rounds. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the bat’s wings and facial features. Use circle cutters to create the eyes, and wings. Insert wooden skewers or tooth picks into the wings, to make it easier to secure them onto the cake. Place the fondant details onto parchment paper to dry.

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Once fully cooled, use a 3 inch circle cutter to remove the centers of two of the layers. Begin assembling the cake using an uncut cake layer. Frost with an even layer of vanilla buttercream, then top with one of the cake layers. Gently frost the cake ring, the stack with the other cut layer. Spread an even layer of buttercream on top of the second cake ring, then smooth frosting into the cut-out center of the cake.

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Mix one squirt of red gel food coloring into the strawberry jam, and then carefully pour into the center of the cake. Fill to the top, then place the last cake layer on top. Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes. Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add a second, thicker layer of frosting using the black chocolate buttercream. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here.

Add facial features onto the side of the cake, and insert the wings 2/3 of the way up the cake, on each side of the face.

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Then gather everyone around for the dramatic cut!!! The strawberry jam will begin oozing out as soon as you remove the first slice, so be prepared!

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