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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fat Pony Cake

Some occasions just require a fat pony cake.

Like when a pony-loving friend gallivants off to Europe for three months and you have a going-away party for her. Clearly, a normal cake won't do in this instance.

So instead, Cori and I baked two 9-inch chocolate cakes, cut out the shape of a fat pony,

(snacked on the scraps),

made some delicious chocolate frosting,

kneaded together some marshmallow fondant (Ever had gross real fondant? This tastes like a giant spreadable marshmallow. So much better!),

placed it over the pony cake,

and then added details like grey fat pony hooves,

a fat pony tail tied for polo,

and a fat pony face, complete with fat pony ears, eyes, roached mane, forelock, and smile.

(The smile is key. It makes everyone else smile too. Or maybe that's just the chocolate cake.)

Fat Pony Cake

For the cake
(Devil's Food Cake from the Williams-Sonoma Dessert cookbook)

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature (I made buttermilk by adding about a teaspoon of lemon juice to a measuring cup, then filling it up with milk to the 1 1/2-cup-line and letting it sit for 5 minutes or so to sour)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two 9-inch cake pans (I used springform pans, but normal pans would work too) with parchment paper. Grease the paper and the sides of the pan and dust with flour.

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

In another large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until smooth. (Lazy? I've made this cake with melted butter and it comes out just as delicious, as far as I can tell.) Gradually add the brown sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with the buttermilk in 2 batches, mixing on low after each addition.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread it out evenly. Tap the pans gently on the counter to pop any air bubbles.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then run a small knife around the inside of the pans to loosen the layers. Invert onto a rack and lift off the pans, then carefully peel off the parchment paper. Let the layers cool completely before frosting.

Awesome, Barely Sweet Chocolate Frosting
First four ingredients (and accompanying directions) from the Fudge Frosting that accompanies the above cake recipe; sugar and cocoa powder technique all mine (hubris much?)

Note: this is a half-recipe, since we weren't filling a layer cake. Want a round layer cake instead of a fat pony cake? (Why would you?) Double the recipe.

6 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used 60% cacao)
7/8 cup heavy cream
1/4 sour cream
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar, to taste (have at least 2 cups on hand)
Unsweetened cocoa powder, to taste (have at least 1 cup on hand)

In a double boiler or a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate with the cream. Whisk until blended and let cool slightly.

Add the sour cream and salt and stir.

Using beaters, stir in a cup of powdered sugar until totally incorporated.

At this point, you get to start being chef-y. If the frosting is too thin to spread, add a little more powdered sugar. Taste it. If it's too sweet, add some cocoa powder and beat well. Taste again (your cake scraps can come in handy here). Keep adding powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder a little at a time until you get to the desired consistency (something just runnier than you'll want to spread on the cake, since it will firm up as it cools) and taste (the unsweetened cocoa powder acts as an anti-sugar, deepening the chocolate flavor and cutting the sweetness. It is awesome).

Cover bowl of frosting with saran wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes, or until at a spreadable consistency.

Did you let it chill too long and now it is too firm to spread? Just let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to warm up, then re-beat to soften up a bit.

Marshmallow Fondant
2 lbs mini marshmallows
1 lb powdered sugar, plus more if needed

(This recipe makes a ton of fondant - you may be able to halve it, or just have leftover fondant for your next fat pony baking endeavor.)

Melt the mini marshmallows in a microwave-safe bowl for a few minutes. Let cool a bit and then add powdered sugar. Knead together until a smooth dough forms (this took Cori about 30 minutes - a good workout!). You should be able to leave fingerprints in the dough by the time it is done - keep adding sugar if you can't get it sufficiently solid.

To Assemble the Fat Pony Cake
Note: wet fondant is sticky. If you specifically want to attach two pieces of fondant together (like sticking a fat pony forelock on a fat pony head), moisten the fondant. If you need to clean some frosting off the fondant, use a damp paper towel, then immediately dry the fondant with a dry paper towel. Otherwise, keep your fingers and utensils dry!

Cut one 9-inch cake into a cute pony head (thanks for the template, Cori's mom!), a cute pony tail, and two stubby little fat pony legs. Aww.

Frost entire cake, including sides. Clean up cake board or other surface to make the fondant part easier (we didn't do this and were sorry).

Roll out fondant on a cornstarched cutting board or counter, preferably to a size that will cover the entire cake. We had to overlap other pieces of fondant in a few places, which looks far less professional.

Carefully lay the fondant over the frosted cake. With fingertips, push fondant down and slightly under the edges of the cake. Use a sharp knife to cut away any excess fondant, then use the knife tip to push the fondant under the edge of the cake. (Be careful here, as dark frosting just loves getting on your white fondant).

Using gel colors (we love the Wilton ones) and a toothpick, draw eyes, nose, mane, and tail onto the fondant. You can cut out other small pieces of fondant (like the forelock) and even color them with more Wilton gel colors (like the hooves - just run your toothpick through the gel color and then through the fondant, and knead into the fondant. Your hands may be a different color for a day or two, though it may be a small price to pay for adorableness), then adhere them (see note above) to the base fondant.

(Carefully!) deliver to friend. Enjoy!

Miss Gamo, our lovely, adorably chubby model.

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