He likes all things science, he wears funny witty science tshirts, he adores Tesla, he can quote Futurama like none other. And this friend is having a birthday today. And since I've been on a baking kick this past week, I thought I'd be adventurous and bake him a cake with one of his fave Futurama characters on it, Bender the robot.
Now, I didn't want to take the shortcut and buy a box cake mix and then decorate with Bender on it.
No, no. I wanted to bake my first ever cake from scratch. And so I did...
So I was Stumbling the other day and came acros Pinch My Salt's blog, and browsed it a bit more, and found her Red Velvet Cake recipe and KNEW that was the cake I had to make. Just the idea of cutting into a white(ish) frosted cake and then seeing the beautiful crisp red cake that lies beneath won me over.
So here's the recipe from Pinch My Salt, and I tell you how I made Bender...
Red Velvet Cake (a.k.a. Waldorf Astoria Cake)
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 oz. red food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or three 8-inch round cake pans.
2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
4. Make sure you have cake pans buttered, floured, and nearby. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz! Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Working quickly, divide batter evenly between the cake pans and place them in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check early, cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. To remove the cakes from the pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, then gently lift the pan. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting. Frost with buttercream or cream cheese icing (recipe below).
Recipe Notes: *Sift cake flour once before measuring, then sift again with the other dry ingredients per recipe instructions. Wear an apron and be careful with the red food coloring–no matter how hard I try, I always end up staining something! As you’re mixing the cake batter, use a spatula to scrape down the bowl frequently throughout the entire process.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
** You'll also need 2 tubes of black decorator's gel if you will be making Bender, and a transparency of Bender's head. Trust me.
With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth.)
**Set aside about 1/2-1 cup of the frosting, you'll need some to make Bender grey!
So I had 2 9" pans so I went that route. I highly recommend buttering/flouring/etc'ing the cake very well, as I had a bit trouble getting them out of the pans afterwards. I also let them cool, then put them in the fridge overnight (I didn't have time for frosting that day...)
Also, since I can't seem to bake 2 exactly flat cakes, I had to 'saw' one of the cake tops so it'd be flat to put the other one ontop. It's still not perfect...but shhh. But I ate the sawed off cake parts and they were quite tasty.
I then put a nice glob of the frosting onto the 'sawed' cake top, then put the second cake ontop of the that. Now you do like Pinch my Salt did, and do a quick first layer of frosting all around the cake to catch those red crumbs and lock them in. I put the cake in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes. And while that was happening...
I browsed Google Images for a neat little image of Bender's head I could use for ontop of the cake. I found one to my liking, and then tweaked it a tad, made it a jpeg and put it on my USB drive, then headed on over to Staples (which I didn't know was open on July 4th, awesome.)
I had them print my Bender jpeg onto a transparency in black & white. It sounds weird, I know, but just keep reading.
Then went home, outlined the 'wrong' side of the transparency with the black decorator's gel and stuck it in the freezer to harden a bit. (It was 90 degrees here, and didn't want it melting)
Then you take the transparency and cake out of the fridge/freezer, and you simply put the 'wrong' side of the transparency onto the cake top. Don't smoosh it onto the cake, otherwise the black gel will bleed out, you are just wanting to get the basic outline of Bender onto the cake so you can later go back and re-draw it with the other black gel. Once you have Bender on the cake, you can get rid of the transparency, and I would suggest putting it back in the fridge for a few minutes.
While it's in the fridge, you can start to make the grey frosting. I didn't really measure how much black gel I put into the frosting, but just start with a few small squirts, mix, then compare against the un-tinted frosting and see if it's grey enough for you. If it's too dark, you can just add in a tad of the untinted frosting to lighten it back up.
Ok, so now take the cake out of the fridge and you want to re-draw the outlines of Bender with the black gel. Once you are done with that, you want to take the grey frosting and start filling in (very carefully) Bender's face. The only white parts on Bender are his eyeballs (minus the black squares for pupils) and his teeth (minus the lines), everything else is grey or black lines.
I don't have any cake decorating equipment, so it was pretty hard getting into small spaces (like the grey part under his eyes), so I used a regular butter knife's tip. It worked OK for me.
Once you're done you can marvel at your awesomeness then put it in the fridge to harden up a bit :)