Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Two-tiered Hydrangea Cake
Bottom tier: triple-layer chocolate with cream cheese & strawberry lime preserves filling
Top tier: quadruple-layer vanilla with cinnamon buttercream filling
Frosted in tinted Buttercream

We were in Venice, Italy this past week and took a day trip to Cremona for the Giro Rosa 2013 professional women's cycling.  While there, the Hydrangeas were in full bloom - seemingly in every blue, pink, or purple imaginable.  This inspired today's cake.

I wasn't sure  how to transform the inspiration from bloom to buttercream.. "What kind of cake? How many layers? Maybe two tiers? What flavors?"  I knew right away that I wanted light green buttercream and lots of blooms on top.

I tried to get more of a round/fullness on top of the cake by modifying the polka-dot technique.  I under-baked a few cupcakes, then placed three in a 6" round pan for the top layer.  Despite having barely any batter, it still rose significantly and all but wiped out the upturned cupcakes.  I could have taken a knife and shaped the top layer like a dome, but didn't want the tier to have a 'bullet' effect.  

Several weeks ago, I found a jam of preserves: Strawberry Lime.  Oh yeah, I need to try that!  Mixing it with a cream cheese filling, it tasted like the meeting of strawberry cheese cake and key lime pie wrapped in chocolate.  Not a thing wrong with that!  (Unless, there wasn't enough filling between layers!)

I was at a complete loss for the top tier and vanilla.  Knowing these tiers aren't designed to be eaten together, there isn't a need for the flavors to be complimentary.  I sat in my kitchen, saying out loud, "What goes with vanilla?  What doesn't go with vanilla?"  I decided on a simple cinnamon buttercream.  How delightful is that?  I added 1/2 t. to about 2/3 of a batch of buttercream. 

Then I set about filling and stacking the layers.  Since the vanilla was baked first and cooled first, I started there.  I'd had some trouble with the layers splitting when taking them from the pan.  So, I rolled with that and sliced all the layers and left off what had already fallen away.  Four layers remained and I think it was just right.  The top layer was the cupcake layer and was slightly domed...only just a little.  I crumb-coated the entire tier with vanilla buttercream.

I whipped up the cream cheese filling and stacked the bottom tier - the work went so quickly.  Hot tip:   Be sure to pipe a ring of plain cream cheese filling around the edge of each layer to keep the loose preserve filling in-place.  It works like a champ.

While the chocolate layer was setting up in the fridge.  I tackled the light green buttercream for the top layer.  It went super fast, then swapped the tiers again.  I seem to recall taking a break and watching some rubbish on television...or maybe I was checking FB.

After making another batch of buttercream (3 rounds of buttercream, 1 cream cheese filling) - I separated the icing into several bowls in order to get the tinting right.  This is the part that can be nervous for me...I want to dive right in with piping on the flowers and I don't want to mess up.  Part of being creative and in the test-kitchen is accepting that mistakes will happen and it's ok.  Not always my strong suit.

And I love this part of the process.  "What color goes where?  Oops...I don't like that one, I'll just pipe right over the top of it.  We need contrast - add centers.  What about leaves?"  This is the dialogue in my head.  And that's just fine.

I liked the way it turned out.  Now on to more anxiety.  The first time I attempted a two-tiered cake - it looked ...like a first attempt.  I did it, but wasn't real happy with the results.  I was aiming for better with this cake.

I frosted the bottom layer completely and the top tier as well.  Each tier is sitting on a cake board and the bottom layer has 6 bubble-tea straws in a ring around the center for added support of the top layer.  The vanilla layer is also doweled with two bubble-tea straws to keep it together.

Now, putting the layers together went much better this time.  It's not perfect - it's off center a wee bit.  However, after it's in place there is no chance to move it (and keep the buttercream smooth).  At least, not at my current skill level.

After piping on the green dots, I debated on whether to add a few flowers near the bottom.  I decided not to based on one thing:  I like the way it looked now and if I messed it up by adding stuff to the bottom, I'd be disappointed.  Pretty much it sounds like I'm a chicken.


After clearing away all the bootie from our Venice trip...I took a few snaps of the cut before taking a slice out of it.  I love capturing the cake slice photo.  So many times cake designers will build beautiful and elaborate cakes...but using cake forms and not real cake.  Sounds like I'm judging (maybe I am) .  I bake cake.  And cupcakes.  Because I like to.

The bootie from Italy was substantial...every time I turned around I found something else that would look great on a cupcake or on top of a layer cake.  I can't wait to use them.  Almonds of many colors, Violette sugar candies, Marzipan fruit, different flavors/colors of caramels (how about watermelon?), fig preserves, etc.  Of course, hauling it all back to Germany was quite a task - which makes me all the more grateful for my life partner and his excursion-sized backpack.

I loved being back in the kitchen today and really loved tackling this larger cake.  I'm happy with the results and still see the flaws.  I wish I was going to a special event in which a cake like this would be welcome...or even a birthday.  None of it is possible without recovery, my partner, and our life together. 


  1. AMAZING. I could never be steady-handed like that. I feel like you need to have your own baking show.

    1. Thank you so much Amber...I hope to return to rehab and behavioral health work. In the meantime, I LOVE LOVE LOVE baking and decorating. I think almost everybody could use a little more buttercream in their lives :)