I had the pleasure this spring of making the baby shower cake for one of my colleagues, who is having her first baby this year. She found out a couple weeks ago that she is having a little boy, so I just had to do blue. I saw an adorable cake on Pinterest that had pretzels around the outside that were dipped in chocolate and decorated with stripes and sprinkles. I immediately thought of the old cliche about pregnant women and their cravings for sweet-salty combos. Pretzels dipped in chocolate? Yes, please! Pretzels dipped in chocolate AND cake? Double yes, please!
This cake is a great one for a crowd, because the fun pretzel decorations double as snacks.
The guest of honor enjoys vanilla cake with fruit fillings, so to stick with the blue theme (can a color be considered a theme?) I made a blueberry filling to compliment a simple white vanilla cake. The cake itself was frosted in white buttercream, with a simple design on top, and surrounded with those aforementioned pretzels (more on those in a minute) on the sides. I also made some little white chocolate decorations (in blue, obvi.) as a topper for some visual interest.
Any simple white cake will do. Honestly, any cake at all will do, depending on what flavors you like, but if you are going for the baby shower look, you might want to consider using a white cake to contrast with a colored filling. Alternatively, you could dye the batter and really adhere to the color theme.
Anyway, I was talking about vanilla cake. I tried a new one. It actually turned out dryer than I like (so I will not be sharing it here...sorry. I will share a good one when I have found the perfect recipe that works well up here in the mountains), but it was too late to start over. I could have made a simple syrup or added a layer of fruit to moisten it up, but I ran out of sugar that morning (devastating, and kind of embarrassing for a baker, to be honest) and I did not have any strawberries or other juicy fruits on hand. And didn't have time to go to the store, what with having a day job and all...Holy Cannoli, it seems like I'm disorganized or don't know how to plan ahead or something. I can't believe that I'm admitting to these things on the internet.
OK, so here's how this works.
I refrigerate my cakes before I try to mess with them. This is them, all dressed up in their fridge outfits (cling wrap), next to the cardboard cake base that I was going to build the cake on.
Next, cut the cake layers horizontally to make four layers. If you prefer to use only two layers, skip this step. Here they are cut. Aren't you proud of me? Process photos! Told you I was working on it.
Start stacking the layers with a generous (or not so generous if you don't love frosting in a sort of unhealthy, obsessive way like I do) layer of filling. This one is super simple. I added pureed blueberries and a couple tablespoons of blueberry jam (more for color) to some buttercream. I just made extra of the buttercream I intended to frost the cake with, and used that. Done deal. So good, by the way. I am not even a little ashamed to admit that I was standing in the kitchen making bizarre this-is-so-yummy noises and eating it by the spoonful. Repeat until all layers are stacked.
|Holy crooked layers, Batman!|
Crumb coat the stacked cake. This isn't a very neat layer yet, but you get the idea. Stick this in the fridge. This is a good time to work on your pretzels. That's if you haven't already finished them, which would mean you're more organized than I.
When the cake is chilled, take it out and give it a final coat of frosting. If you are using the pretzels, don't worry about making the sides perfect, since they will be covered up anyway. On the top, I opted for a simple but cute design in the frosting. It's as easy as pie. Or cake. Whatever. Just frost the top of the cake generously. You have to this time. It's an order. Now take a small offset spatula and dip it in some very hot water. Wipe it dry on a clean towel, and then gently drag it from the outer edge of the cake to the center. Repeat the process, slightly overlapping the last track each time.
To apply pretzels to the side, you simply need to gently press each pretzel onto the side of the cake. You might want to kind of wiggle each pretzel a little bit to nestle it in the frosting if they are falling off as you go. If you lay your pretzels on wax paper to dry, like I did, you will have a convenient flat side to press against the cake. Simply keep adding pretzels right up against each other all the way around the cake, and you end up with this adorable little sweet, salty, fence-thing. I tied a bit of ribbon around the pretzels to assist them in staying put (some of them were quite insistent on falling off. It was actually quite comical. I would put one back up, and one on the exact opposite side of the cake would fall as if on cue).
The chocolate topper was a cinch. I just melted some blue candy melts (white chocolate would work too, dyed blue), poured them into a candy mold (this one, with darling baby-themed shapes), and waited. And did other stuff while I waited. Like eat frosting. Pop them out, and you have little blue candies. If I had more time (there I go again with the time thing. Goodness gracious, I'm quite the complainer today. My apologies), you can easily make these very colorful by painting the insides of the mold with different colors of melted chocolate. I think I prefer the way that these plain blue ones looked on the cake though. It really carried the 'blue' theme. I'm sticking to it.
Arrange them on the cake as the mood strikes you, and there you have it. A very blue baby boy shower cake.
To make the pretzels:
Depending on how tall your cake will be (or how much you want the pretzels to stick up above the top of the cake), you might need to break the pretzels. This is a whole barrel full of laughs in itself. I needed to break my pretzel rods roughly in half. Easy, right? Wowza. Not so much. Pretzels will pretty much break wherever they darn well feel like it, which 99.9% of the time is nowhere near where you actually want. I tried gently cutting them with a serrated knife. Nope. Worse, actually. Regular knife? Nuh-uh. Karate chop? Also ineffective, but fun. Teeth? Most effective of all the methods, but least hygienic. So I went with the breaking. Which is why you might notice that my pretzels have a rustic we-don't-need-to-be-all-the-same-size look, which is charming.
Once you have a stack of roughly/not-even-close-to same sized pretzels, you need to melt your chocolate. I used white and blue, but you could use anything you want. You also want to get any sprinkles or other decorations ready, as these will need to be applied before the chocolate dries. A word to the wise - if you will be sprinkling anything directly onto the pretzels, you probably want to do this on a tray or some other surface with a lip (a jelly roll pan works great). Why, you ask? Well, round sprinkles (such as those that I used), roll (and apparently jump, climb, and fly) like no-one's business, and will end up eve-ry-where. You can sweep, you can mop, and these little thingies will pop up when you least expect it for at least a week or two.
I poured my melted chocolate into a drinking glass, because I figured that a tall, narrow vessel would be effective for dipping the rod-shaped pretzels. It was. You could dip from a bowl, or even pour the chocolate over the pretzels with a spoon. Knock yourself out. The glass thing does work though. Just fill it up with chocolate and dip away. Leave a little section un-chocolatized at the bottom to hold the pretzel with for ease of consumption. Oh, and melt chocolate slowly and carefully. Nobody wants a clumpy chocolate-covered pretzel. Lay the dipped pretzel onto some waxed paper and let dry. If you are adding sprinkles or some other such accoutrements, add them while the chocolate is still wet. If you are adding a drizzle of another color, wait until it's dry.
These pretzels can be done in any color, with any number of different decorations. They are quick and easy to make, travel well, and are so yummy. Oh, the ideas.
Well there you have it. Congrats to a beautiful new family, and we look forward to welcoming a new little boy to the world very soon!