Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hats Off To My Grads!

It was a very busy weekend around here. Friday we had a wonderfully unique evening ahead of us. I knew for a couple months that one of my best friends was graduating from nursing school (again!), but it wasn't until the beginning of last week we found out my husband would also be walking in the same graduation ceremony! You see, he was getting his degree after 4 years of grueling night classes in Building Trades, but the college had our address wrong and we didn't get any of this information until someone called him up to personally find out if he was coming! Of course we wouldn't miss it for the world!

Both of my beloved graduates deserve a nice cake, don't you think? I thought so!

My friend wanted a chocolate cake. She had pinned an interesting nursing themed cake on Pinterest with a big hint that she would really like one like it several weeks ago. You can click here to take a look at it. 

A lot of people would be like "Aww, hell no, i can't do that!" I'm one of those weirdos who think, "Well... i don't know about that, but let's see what i can come up with." (By the way, to the people who know me, this is not a challenge to find something more difficult for me to do. Haha. Thanks.)

In order to end up with a cake of a decent size, i knew i needed to start out with a large cake. I had to go out and buy a new pan. I chose an 11x15 Wilton's pan that i found at WalMart in the cake decorating aisle. I also picked up some cake boards and a cake box.

Again i used the pound cake recipes on this website, as i did for my last cake. For my friend's cake, i used the double chocolate recipe, and i added chocolate chips this time instead of grated chocolate. Mainly because it was quick and easy and i knew i was going to be trimming this cake down quite a bit from the original size.

I baked my cakes and filled them between with standard vanilla buttercream icing. My buttercream icing is very simple. It doesn't vary much at all from any other recipe out there. I don't use shortening at all. I did once, but it was too greasy for my taste. You can get a nice buttercream by following this short recipe:

2 sticks butter, softened
3 ½ - 4 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

Put your butter in your mixing bowl and beat til smooth. Add sugar a bit at a time. I usually add about 1/3 cup at a time and beat it smooth in between to get a nice consistency. Since i'm spreading this as smoothly as i possibly can (which i am still practicing at), i generally don't add more than 3 ½ cups total of sugar. You can add your vanilla anywhere in the mixing process. I usually add it after about the first full cup of sugar has been mixed in.

I thought about how to get a uniform shape on the cake. I had no template to go by, and one of my biggest worries was getting it all lopsided. I like symmetry. It drives me nuts if things aren't symmetrical when they should be.

I looked around my kitchen and saw these thick wooden skewers that my husband uses for corn on the cob and inspiration struck. I'd use one like a pencil/stylus! So i sketched the edges of my shape with one and when i made a mistake, i could correct it. All my mistakes would be covered in frosting when i was done.

Once i had the entire outline drawn out, i used a piece of aluminum foil i took off the cake and got a straight line for the bottom of the cake. (I waited to draw the right side of the 'shirt' because i was afraid my perception of that line would throw off my bottom line. If that made sense.)

Then, a nice crumb coat.

I asked her what color she liked best. She said she didn't have a favorite, but she'd like something bright. Well, i like purple. I looked online to see how bright the violet gel coloring i had would get, and i thought it would look nice.

I used my Wilton's #47, flat side up, for my sleeve and collar details. I was very pleased with how smooth i got the frosting on the top of the cake. It's my best job yet.

Now, the cake seems about half done, doesn't it? I wish. This was all easy-peasy lemon squeezy, as my daughter would say.

I had done some experimenting with fondant earlier in the week, preparing myself for war. I knew i would never approach the real look of the materials in the example cake from Pinterest. Some of them i am certain are actual products, and not made of fondant or modelling chocolate at all.

I did manage a reasonable cartoon-y facsimile of some of the items. I think i did a pretty good job, considering i haven't worked with fondant much. This was a huge challenge for me.

Voila! Finished!

She loved her cake, and i was pretty pleased with the end result myself!

Now, for my husband. He got his cake a little late, because the nursing cake took up a huge chunk of my time and i was just exhausted over the weekend. We had so much going on. But i finished it on Monday while he was gone to work. Well, i almost got it finished. He came home extra early and i had to make him leave while i finished up the final touches.

When he asked me for a graduation cake, he told me he wanted a big pipe wrench on it. He's a journeyman pipefitter now (since graduation) and they have this HUGE pipe wrench outside their local union hall.

I don't have progression pictures of the cake, because i was totally done trying to document my progress. I just wanted to get it done and made and have time to get laundry done. But it turned out pretty nice. He was very pleased! It was exactly what he wanted!


  1. The cakes are awesome, and thanks for linking to the pound cake recipe. I've bookmarked it and will try it later in the week.

    1. Thanks! I linked to it in the last post as well, but it was easy to miss! I hope it turns out as well for you as it did for me!

  2. way to go Tracey! I LOVE THEM! :)

  3. I loved my cake! Couldn't have asked for a nicer present from a wonderful friend. Thank you so very much!