Murder Mystery Escape Room Party Cake

That was a mouthful of a title but the cake was for a murder mystery party with an escape room.  It was for my daughter’s 13th birthday party and, as you can imagine, we were quite busy with the planning. This was the invitation and, by the way, if you’re interested I highly recommend the kit we got from  I’m not going to lie — it was a lot of planning.  The night before the party my husband and I were up studying the script like we were preparing to defend our PhD thesis but it was a lot of fun.

The most important tool I used for this cake is this silicone impression mat for the wood grain effect that I got from Amazon:

Elisa Strauss has a great tutorial on Online Cake Decorating Classes“>Craftsy on how to do a wood grain effect on fondant in her class, “Designer Handbag Cakes.”  It looks like I made a lid for the box but that is actually just one panel on the top and one panel on each side.  I have been experimenting with different fondant brands lately as I have stopped making my own (too time consuming, messy and difficult to get dark colors).  Satin Ice was, of course, the fondant I started making cakes with five years ago.  Its hard to avoid the elephant skin with that fondant so I wanted to explore other options.  I recently tried Renshaw but found it way too soft.  This time I tried Dream which so far has been quite successful but I only used it for paneling this cake.  I will let you know when I use it for draping a cake.  It is firmer than Renshaw or Satin Ice making it very easy to move onto a cake but harder to cut out decorations.  I had to use Satin Ice to cut out the ornate gold deco on the sides of the box.  I used an acrylic swag cutter from Fat Daddio’s like this one:

I was actually super excited about the stencil . I got it from
They had a 4″x4″ binary code stencil but they custom-made a 6″x6″ stencil for me and got it to me super quick!  The first time I airbrushed it onto the black fondant I tried to do it in blue like the invite but it was barely visible.  But then I had a stroke of genius and went over it one more time with white and, lo and behold, it showed up blue!

For the “CODE” wheel I happened to have a macaron tray that I used to mold some modeling chocolate and then airbrushed it gold. I shaped the lock by hand with modeling chocolate and attached it with toothpicks and wrapped floral wire.

The cake was four 1-inch layers of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache.  No matter how much experimenting I do with cake and filling flavors everyone tends to favor the chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache. The girls loved the cake and thought it was an actual box when they first saw it.

Since DH always feel slighted when he is not given some credit for MY cakes I will note that the poor guy was stuck in the escape room with 11 teenage girls for close to an hour while I finished prepping dinner.

Action shots AKA pics of me in funny positions whilst caking:

Upside-down Vegan Chocolate Birthday Cake with Vegan Coconut Cream Ganache

After much stress and tears I think I have finally settled upon a vegan cake and vegan ganache that is both structurally sound and tasty. I tried coconut milk beverage, canned coconut milk, soy milk, and finally, coconut cream in two different varieties. I have also tried different ratios of nondairy milk to chocolate. I was sure that coconut cream would be the answer since it comes closest to the fat content of heavy cream. However the first can of coconut cream I bought was a Goya product which was labeled cream of coconut but honestly I’m not sure what relationship it has to coconut cream. It did not perform well at all with the chocolate. It acted more like an oil than anything else. So after some research I settled upon Thai Kitchen coconut cream which performed the way I expected a cream would.

I used a ratio of 2.5:1 chocolate to coconut cream. I used the coconut cream straight out of the can and I did not get rid of the coconut water. The ganache set up beautifully although it took a little bit longer than usual to get it to the right consistency for frosting.

The cake recipe for this vegan cake was out of the book, “Modern Vegan Baking” which I have used before. I like the flavors in this cookbook however the measurements seem to be off. Specifically for this recipe I had to double the batch in order to get enough for two 8″ x 2″ cake pans. I also modified the recipe a little bit by using coffee instead of just plain hot water.

For the filling I mixed in some raspberry preserves with the ganache. I did not torte these cakes because I wasn’t sure how stable they would be. I left them as 2-inch layers. I think that was ultimately a good decision.

Now let’s get to the fun part which is the construction of this wacky cake. I got the idea for this cake design from this great Online Cake Decorating Classes“>Craftsy class, “Industry Secrets for the Savvy Decorator.” However DH  constructed the stand for me and the idea to use a threaded rod instead of a wooden dowel was all him. Now I will say that it was a lot more wobbly than I expected (not the cake or the stand but the rod) because the threaded rod he used would bend a little bit but it was definitely not going to break. So the wobbliness just made a little bit more fun. I would advise however to do things a little bit differently than I did. I used an MDF board on the top part of the stand with half-inch foamcore hot glued to the MDF board and then my acrylic cake board hot glued to the foam core. The only thing that started to come apart a little bit was the acrylic cake board from the foam core because the hot glue started to crack apart but only after a 20 minute car ride. I should’ve thought better and used an MDF cake board or even a cardboard cake board on which to stack my cakes. Other than that the cake stand turned out beautifully.

So we started with a wooden base with a hole drilled in it and a nut buried in the bottom then a washer and another nut on the top.

The threaded rod went through the bottom 1/4-inch MDF board with another nut and washer on the bottom and on the top.

Cardboard or MDF cake board hot glued to a 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch foam core (to bury the washer) which is hot glued to the bottom 1/4-inch MDF board would be the best way to construct the top part of this stand.

Three 2-inch vegan chocolate mud cake layers with raspberry vegan ganache for filling.

The cake was covered with Satin Ice fondant tinted with Wilton golden yellow.


Mozart Torte

Another beautiful offering from The European Cake Cookbook and probably one of my favorites, the Mozart Torte.  Take a look at the book if you haven’t seen it yet:

We have a new rotating schedule at church which means I cannot sign up for dessert every week but have to wait for my turn to come up in the schedule. Which means…I am going bananas.  I can’t make dessert for my family that often because a) they can’t keep up and b) I’m a pediatrician and it would reflect poorly on me if I were to spread chocolate buttercream on their pancakes (although I’m sure they wouldn’t mind). If you can’t relate to my obsession, think of yourself as an exercise enthusiast who has been barred from the gym across the street.  It is an itch that I have to scratch.  So I’m asking people if I can bake something for them like a new mom looking for a caffeine fix.

I have stopped trying to defend the time I devote to my hobby.  I learned long ago from watching my father in medicine and others that you need something that you can lose yourself in outside of work.  When my mind is flashing the “No Vacancy” sign it goes to baking land.  Unfortunately, my husband cannot detect the flashing “No Vacancy” sign on my forehead to let him know that my mind is in baking land so this is usually what happens… just replace “driving” with “baking”:

I am telling you, “grape pie” diatribes are my life. Now, enjoy this short baking video.  Thank you for watching.


Chocolate Raspberry Zefir Cake: Updated with Recipe

Exciting times… Christ is Risen, Christos Anesti! Beautiful liturgy last night followed by feasting today!

Also, I had some Barnes and Noble credit and treated myself to a new cookbook which I love, The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk from TatyanasEverydayFood.

It is full of classic European tortes and cakes which are my favorite because they entail so many essential patisserie techniques: meringues, sponges, European buttercreams, curds, etc. and there’s a recipe for Esterhazy Cake which is a Hungarian favorite. DH is Hungarian and we are going there this summer! 

For our Easter picnic today I wanted to make the beautiful Chocolate Raspberry Zefir Cake. Per Tatyana’s recommendations I was able to make the zefir (marshmallow) a couple of days ahead of time and store at room temperature.  I made and assembled the cake and stored it in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap a day ahead of time.  I also made the chocolate garnish a day ahead.  So this morning, I just had to make the glaze and decorate the cake. I then let it come to room temp before the picnic.  

I also made the Esterhazy Cake because I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough dessert at the picnic.  I was able to squeeze that in today before the kids woke up and during the little one’s nap so it was super easy!

I also recently bought some new acrylic cake boards and scraper from Cake Safe that I loooove! I am so tired of having to trim my cakes in order to give me some frosting space on the traditional cake boards.  I ordered cake boards from cake safe that are 1/4″ wider and I now have a little extra space for frosting my cakes.  But I am in love with the scraper.  I have been through so many scrapers looking for the ideal one.  I even designed one myself and had an acrylic store make it for me but it wasn’t exactly perfect.  I will have to review all my cake scrapers in a post one time.  Anyway, this one is perfect. 

My lovely daughter told me all about time lapse videos so this is my first go at it.  And of course, my DH set up the tripod and the camera for me.  Unfortunately, some of the clips were sideways.  I don’t know why.  I think it was his fault.  He tried to apologize but no need…all sins are forgiven today.  





Vegan Vanilla Cake with Aquafaba

I just made a cake with bean water.  That’s right — bean water.  Chickpea water to be exact.  Otherwise known as aquafaba.  This recently discovered proteinacious liquid that is derived from chickpeas is being used to replace eggs in the culinary world.  It can be whipped up into a meringue and it can be used as a direct substitute for eggs in cakes.  First, Google aquafaba then come back here and read about the cake I made with it.

Incredible, right? I found it fascinating and unbelievable too.  There are not a lot of recipes out there yet using aquafaba and I really don’t like it when my baking projects fail so I gave this a lot of thought.  A lot.  My routine to and from work is AudioDigest Pediatrics on the way there and Coffee Break Spanish on the way back.   (There is actually a method behind my madness — my mind just cannot take anymore medicine after 5:30PM so I listen to this delightful Scottish professor and his student teach Spanish instead).  I was a lifelong NPR devotee until my husband and I watched “Blacklist” on Netflix and now I find the news questionable at best.  I’m really off topic now.  Back to aquafaba. I turned off the audio in the car on my way home yesterday and thought about aquafaba instead.  It does not have the same protein content that egg whites do so how could it possibly perform the same in an all-white cake?  I was afraid to try.

Thanks to this brave lady who made 18 cakes in one day to find the right egg substitute for her egg-allergic child I conquered my fears.  Husband got me three cans of chickpeas.  I was also armed with Earth’s Balance vegan buttery sticks and soymilk.  We are still in Lent so this was going to be another vegan cake.  Actually, these cakes will be turned into petit fours so stay tuned for the next post.  We shall see if they withstand stacking and icing for petit fours! Or should I say, ya veremos!

All you have to do is drain the liquid from a can of chickpeas — you will get about 200ml of aquafaba.  It is suggested that you agitate the can first.  Two tablespoons of aquafaba will substitute for one egg white.  Three tablespoons aquafaba will substitute for the whole egg.

So, how did it turn out?  First, the rise:  I made one-inch sheet cakes so I could really assess the aquafaba’s contribution to the cake’s rise and structure.  It did not rise the full inch I would have expected from this cake.  It rose to just a titch over 3/4″.  I can live with that.

Second, the texture and flavor: it had a slightly more delicate crumb but the flavor was very good.  I chose unsweetened soymilk for its fat and protein content but you could also use full-fat coconut milk if you don’t mind a little coconut undertones.

I was happier with the stability and taste of this cake than more traditional oil-based vegan cakes.  Overall, I was very impressed.  This is exciting stuff.  I was afraid this aquafaba thing was going to be vegan voodoo but not at all.  Other advantages to using aquafaba over other egg alternatives include the price (you would probably throw that liquid down the drain anyway and now you can use the liquid and the chickpeas!) and the ease of use (as opposed to grinding flax seeds for a flax egg).  It will definitely be my go-to egg substitute from now on.  Let me know what you think …



The Traitor Cake

This is one of the cakes of which I am most proud.  I hardly ever come up with my own design ideas — I think medical school deadens any imagination you might have had — but this one was all mine.  When I initially googled “traitor cake” to find an idea for a coworker who was moving on to a different position I found quite a few that were, lets say, unprofessional.  Let us also say that I don’t have a cutter in the shape of a hand with one finger sticking up.  I was also a little concerned that our practice manager would not approve.  I had very little time and one 6-inch round and one 6-inch hemisphere with which to work.  Whenever I have a little extra cake batter I bake off a small cake and freeze it.  They come in very handy for last -minute cakes.  So, the cogs are grinding away on the right side of my brain when suddenly it hit.  A gravestone on an untended mound!  My husband walked in to the room just as I was having this “aha!” moment and saw the huge Cheshire cat grin on my face.

I stacked the hemisphere on the round with some ganache in between.  Then I slapped some ganache haphazardly on the outside. I used my grass tip with some SMBC for the grass. I made the gravestone with modeling chocolate so It was ready to go in minutes (as opposed to fondant). Quite possibly the easiest cake I ever made but one that induced the most laughs.