“All well-regulated families set apart an hour every morning for tea and bread and butter.” -Joseph Addison
But spectacular families set apart time for wine and samosas and cake.
At the recent family reunion, we not only set time apart, but devoted three whole days to consuming delicious food, and, of course, spending time with each other.
This particular family reunion I was presented with the opportunity to create a post-wedding celebration cake for my uncle and his new bride who had gotten married a couple of weeks previous to the reunion. I thought of surprising the couple with a three tiered hunk of vanilla flavored cake matter, but decided that if it were me, I would want input. So, I asked my uncle some basic questions, and I’m glad I did because it turned out that they wanted nearly the exact opposite of what I was planning to do. They were perfectly undemanding, were adamant in stating that I had complete creative control, but I finally wrung some details out of my uncle – namely that they preferred non-traditional (i.e. not tiered), loved chocolate, and that his new wife loved to garden. And so, I decided, Flowerpot Cake.
In addition to the newly wedded couple’s cake, I decided to make a little cupcake display for my grandma, as her birthday was one of the (many) reasons for the family reunion. I wanted to tie the cake and the cupcakes together in a fun way because my grandma is a fun lady. So, since the Flowerpot Cake had little miniature flower cupcakes, I interspersed some of those with a couple of chocolate cupcakes with worms bursting out of crumbled cookie earth. Grandma (and the 3 & 5 year old boys present) loved it.
I had been meaning to attempt something like this for awhile — the idea of a layered cake pot with mini flower cupcakes was too appealing to resist for long. And so armed with a spatula (the better to scrape your bowl with), and heaps of butter, I joyfully entered the fray.
The Nitty-Gritty Construction Details of the Flowerpot Cake
I used a very basic chocolate cake (really any sturdy-crumbed chocolate cake will do) for the flowerpot and for the wormy cupcakes. I made 2 6-inch and 2 7-inch rounds and filled cupcake pans with the remaining batter. I then made a small batch of lemon chiffon cake for the flowerbuds (but again, any light vanilla, lemon, etc. cake will do) and filled a mini-cupcake pan.
To construct the flowerpot, I split each of the cake layers in half. I then started with 1 of the 7-inch cakes on the bottom and layered cake with dark chocolate ganache and cake all the way up (reserving one of the 1/2 7-inch rounds). I layered it on a cardboard cake round. So it went like this (from bottom to top):Half 7-inch cake Ganache Half 7-inch cake Ganache Half 6-inch cake Ganache Half 6-inch cake Ganache Half 6-inch cake Ganache Half 6-inch cake
I trimmed the edges until they graded regularly, smoothed the sides with more ganache and stuck three plastic straws straight down the center in a triangle formation to function as dowels, trimming the excess with a pair of scissors. I then placed another cardboard round on the top of the cake and then, holding both ends securely, I flipped the entire cake over so that it tapered downwards, like a proper pot. I then took the reserved 1/2 7-inch cake round, and cut a circle into it, using a cake ring, in order to create the lip of the pot. I secured it with more ganache, and presto! Pot shape achieved.
For Phase two, I took some of the Italian buttercream that I had made en masse beforehand, and tinted it terra cotta-colored, with mostly red and yellow, some green and a touch of blue. I then smoothed it over the chocolate cake in two layers — the first to keep the crumbs in place (fridged it for about 10 minutes before moving on to the second layer) and the second to be the pot surface. I used a straight palette knife and let it be rustic with visible irregularities and swipes by dragging the palette tip across the top and sides — it is supposed to be a clay pot after all.
To make the stems, I used some floral wire that I corkscrewed at the top to provide support for the cupcake flowers. This is the tricky part: If you should ever wish to make a cake like this, corkscrew the wire before shoving it into the cake. Also, twist at least two wires together at the bottom to not only make it seem more plant like, but also to give it some additional support. Finally, make sure NOT to stick the floral wire straight into the cake. Nobody wants wire (albeit cloth-covered wire) touching the cake that they are about to ingest. I made sure that the wires were stuck into the straw dowels (aha…it all comes together) so that the wire would not be touching any part of the cake that was to be consumed.
I used more of the Italian buttercream, tinted with yellow and blue, respectively, to make the flower buds. There are a lot of awesome videos out on the web on how to make buttercream flowers, so I will not take the time to do it here, now. (Plus, this post is already astronomically long.) Finally, the soil (pretty much my favorite part of this whole cake) is made up of crushed up Oreos. Some people use rolling pins, some people use food processors; I used my fingers, and suggest that you do too, because it is remarkably satisfying.
Go now! Crush some Oreos…only make sure they’re relatively fresh, otherwise your hands will hurt a lot.
Up next, some tarts.