Monday, June 17, 2013

Polka-Dot Cake

While putting together the pictures for the blog post about color, I found the snapshots of the Polka-Dot cake I baked in April.  Now that was seriously fun!

I was coming off of several spectacular fails in the test kitchen…in fact, I don’t know why I tackled something with several different techniques.  I mean, this looks complicated.  And yet, I thought it was a good idea (oops!…”good ideas” means it’s time to call my sponsor).
So … while this looks complicated, it breaks down into three primary segments: baking cake polka-dots, baking three layers of cake, and building/frosting the final product.  I first saw this design on a sweet blog, Once Upon a Pedestal.  I followed the visual tutorial right down the line.  Oh…and it worked. Go figure.

I had bought my cake-pop pan before the holidays last year, but hadn’t even taken it out of the packaging.  Of the many types of cake pop pans available, I love the simplicity of the one I have (loved it so much, I ordered a second one just like it).  I can use any cake batter I choose and the results have been brilliant with every attempt.  What’s not to love about success?  This is the pan I use.
Since color is a key factor in the presentation of this surprise cake, the cake and the cake dots are made from my White Cake recipe (egg whites only and clear vanilla - add the almond extract, you won't be sorry).  Using this recipe, the colors tend to be more vivid and really pop against the white background.

Stage 1:  The Polka Dots

I mixed the white cake batter and divided evenly into 6 bowls (preferably six bowls that are identical [white is best] in order that all the colors are gauged in the same manner.  I have a set of lavender Melmac (channeling my inner Mad Men) with plenty of bowls the same size and color.

Generously spray the cake pop pan with non-stick cooking spray, fill the pan to the edge, and place the other half of the inverted pan on top.  Lock both sides into place.  Hot tip: In order to prevent the polka dots from being over done inside the cake, cut short the baking time of the polka dots by about one third.  I baked these cake dots for 12 minutes instead of the recommended 18 minutes.
Secret thought…I really, really loved the way these cake dots turned out and the COLOR was fascinating to me.  There was a moment, I believe I was giddy.  Over cake?  Hmmm.  I think I was just happy this stage wasn’t another fantastic failure.

I trimmed the seam edges with scissors much to the consternation of my people.
Teen daughter: “Are you cutting cake?” 
Me: “Yes, it’s natural to cut cake and this cake needs to be cut.” 
Teen daughter: “But with scissors??”
Me: “Whatever.”

The dots on the left are untrimmed; dots on the right have been rounded out.
Some of the darker spots on the cake dots are the result of the coloring gel not being fully integrated into the batter.  Next time, I need to be more careful about that and put more elbow grease into stirring.

Here are the cupcakes I baked to use up the rainbow cake batter after I knew I had enough polka dots.
Hot tip: When there isn't enough batter to fill up one cupcake liner, feel free to mix two colors for a fun swirl!
Stage 2:  Baking the Cake
Mix enough white cake batter for a triple-layer 8” round cake.  At this time, I only had two 8” round pans and really wished I’d had three.  It would have made dividing the batter all that much easier.  Ladle into each pan enough batter to cover the bottom completely (maybe ¾c. to 1c.).  Place dots in each pan.  I wish I would have added more dots – about double what I had in each pan.  There were plenty of dots left over and even enough batter to bake a few cupcakes.  Hot tip: You can’t have too many polka dots.


Ladle the remaining white cake batter over the dots making sure each dot is covered completely.  Bake as usual.  Let cool in the pan approximately 10 minutes then turn onto cooling racks. 

Stage 3:  Cake Construction
Even layers make for easier stacking.  Choosing white buttercream filling helps the polks dots stand out.
Crumb coating is a base layer of buttercream.  Allowing the cake to set-up in the fridge overnight aids in decorating.

Stacking and decorating the cake left me stumped.  I wanted an all-white exterior to showcase the polka dots on the inside.  At the same time, I wanted to stretch my decorating skills – this is still a test kitchen.

I wouldn’t normally pair these two decorating designs together, but I wanted the practice.  Each time I give myself permission to make mistakes, I get better at what I’m doing.  
How does that work?  This is the conundrum of my life and the loving messages people share with me even during those periods when I didn’t feel lovable.

            “Ya gotta give it away to keep it.”  Say whaaaa?

            “Stick with the winners.”  Hmmm.  Winners at what?

            “It works if you work it.”  You mean a job?

            “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”  Oh yeah?!

            “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.”  But I need a miracle right now.
A yummy piece of cake.



  1. This cake was so much fun to watch you figure out how to do, and then see it as it came together so beautifully. And of course it was fabulous fun to eat!

    1. That WAS a fun day. And I was so relieved it wasn't an epic fail. AND it tasted good. Gold Stars for everybody.

  2. This is beautiful! I have never seen one before. Where did you find the pans for the cake pop?