Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and Snakes

After baking the Hershey's Chocolate Cake yesterday (actually I baked two), today I need to make frosting. The recipe that I am using is Chocolate Buttercream from Alice at Savory Sweet Life. This is at Landon's request. We are celebrating his birthday and he asked for a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. He also asked that his birthday cake have snakes on it. He's an avid fan of snakes. He loves to read about them, or watch the snake wranglers on television, or watch Billy the Exterminator relocate a pesky one. So my mission today is to make the frosting and decorate a cake with snakes. I'll start with the frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Assemble the ingredients that you will need.

Unsalted butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, and heavy cream.

Cream the butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.

Turn off the mixer.

Sift the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder into the mixing bowl.

It might be tempting to skip this step, but trust me, it's important to do the sifting. The frosting will be much smoother and creamier, no lumps.

Now turn the mixer on the lowest speed, (so that the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and cream.

Beat frosting for 3 minutes. At this point, check the consistency of the frosting. If it needs to be stiffer, add a little more powdered sugar. If it needs to be a little thinner, add additional cream 1 tablespoon at a time.

Now I'm ready to frost a cake.

Drop several blobs of frosting on the top of the cake.

Then dip an offset metal cake spatula in a tall glass of hot water and connect the dots.

Continue across the top and down the sides.

Next I'll add some simple borders with a #22 tip.

I'll do a simple shell pattern around the bottom of the cake.

Then I'll do a reverse shell around the top edges.

These borders really dress up a plain cake.

This cake is now ready for the snakes. I'll put it aside for a few minutes and finish the other cake first.

Both cakes are the basically the same, but this one is going to get a simple birthday message, and will probably be eaten by the adults.

One cake finished.

Now, decorating with snakes. I decided to try fondant for the snakes. This was my first time to work with fondant, and I learned some new things. I read about fondant before I tackled it. I learned that I could make it homemade or buy it ready to use. This time I opted to use the store bought version.

I bought these packages of fondant with a variety of colors.

I also bought an embossing tool that I thought looked like a lot of fun.

It has a lot of interchangeable parts to make different textures and will cut different widths.

So I jumped right in and started making snakes. Fondant works a lot like play doh. 

I used a knife to make a mouth.

These sprinkles will be snake eyes.

And of course snakes need tongues.

I cut the fruit roll-ups into tiny tongues.

 I think this realistic looking little guy might be my favorite.
So I finally finished the snake cake. I hope Landon will like it.

Oops, I almost forgot to add the birthday candle.

The fondant was easy to work with. It dries out pretty quickly though, so it needs to be kept in the package until you're ready to use it. I'll have to try another project with it soon.


Hershey's Chocolate Cake

Landon's birthday is coming up soon, and his request is that I bake a chocolate cake for him. We celebrated his birthday early when we were in Gulf Shores last week, and we're planning to celebrate it early again this weekend while his cousins Ginger and Charlie are in town to visit. So today I'm baking a chocolate cake to get ready for the birthday party this weekend.

Hershey's Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan (or two 9 inch round pans).

First, assemble the dry ingredients.

We'll be using 2 cups of sugar, 1 3/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Then assemble the wet ingredients.

We'll need 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer.

Set the timer for this. A lot of cakes are ruined by over mixing.

Then we need 1 cup of boiling water.

I made my boiling water in the microwave oven.

Pour the boiling water into the batter.

Stir in the water with a spatula.

The batter will be thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

For the 9 x 13 inch pan, bake about 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake tests done with a toothpick. If you are using two 9 inch round pans, they need to bake 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Oh well, not a perfect release from the pan this time. But that's okay, frosting covers a multitude of boo boos. I should have cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan for a perfect release. I'm going to put the cake in the freezer overnight. A frozen cake is much easier to frost. Tomorrow I'll make Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, and not only will it make the cake look better, it will taste good too!


Margarita Pie

The recipe that I am using today uses fresh fruit - limes and oranges - to make a cool summer dessert, Margarita Pie. This refrigerated pie can be made ahead if you are expecting company, as many of us are over the holiday weekend.

Margarita Pie 

1 1/4 cups finely crushed pretzels
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed

Begin with the crust. There are only three ingredients, pretzels, butter, and sugar.

Place the pretzels in the bowl of a food processor.

Process until pretzels are finely crushed.

To make the crust, melt 1/2 cup butter. Measure 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/4 cups crushed pretzels.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well.

Pour into a 9 inch pie plate.

Press mixture onto bottom and sides of the pie plate. This small roller is a big help for tasks like this. When crust is complete, place in refrigerator to chill.

Other than the fruit juices and zest, the only ingredients that are needed for the filling are sweetened condensed milk and frozen whipped topping.

We need 2 teaspoons of lime zest . . .

. . . and 1/4 cup of lime juice . . .

. . . and 1/4 cup of orange juice.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl.

Combine the milk with the lime zest, lime juice, and orange juice.

Fold in the whipped topping.

Pour filling into prepared crust.

Garnish with lime slices, if desired. Refrigerate until chilled. Fresh, light, and cool

I'm not sure which part of this pie is better - the filling or the crust. The crust is a combination of salty and sweet. The filling is creamy and has the blend of fresh lime and orange flavors.