Cheese Cake, Pt. 2: Embellishments

I had looked online for decorating ideas while brainstorming the cheese cake. Most of them used grape bunches, which makes sense. I didn’t know how well a bunch of grapes would sit on the marzipan covered in icing sugar, it seemed a bit risky. I saw several, though, with frosted grapes. I thought that might be a better option. I also thought the candied appearance of the grapes would make it more obvious that it was a cake as opposed to real cheese. I looked up the instructions and made a test batch. Each grape had to be brushed with egg white, but for food safety purposes I opted to mix up some meringue powder instead, then sprinkled with superfine sugar and left to dry. They came out very nice, a juicy grape with a crisp sweet coating on it. They couldn’t be refrigerated, because when you take them out of the fridge the condensation would dissolve the meringue and sugar and leave the grapes soggy. For the final cake I made them the night before the wedding, and had each grape on a toothpick. This made it easier for them to dry without touching each other, and then I could just stick the toothpicks into the cake to keep them in place.

I had some marzipan leftover from various test cakes, so I used the odds and ends to make some ‘crackers.’ I rolled out the marzipan and used a rectangle cookie cutter to cut some of them. In order to get the rounded sides of the crackers I placed a piece of plastic bag over the marzipan and cut them through the plastic. This rounds down the edges. Then I used a toothpick to poke little holes, again through the plastic, and finally used a fork to go around the outside edges. For the round crackers I just used a fluted round cookie cutter, and again used plastic to cut it and poke the holes. As they dried I sprinkled some sugar on to look like they had salted tops. I made the crackers about a week in advance so they would have time to harden and hopefully not bend over each other in the final presentation.

I wanted a cake topper and thought that a couple wine glasses with wine would be appropriate. Full sized wine glasses would be too big, so I looked for a couple mini wine glasses, which were easily found at Value Village. I didn’t want to put actual wine in, just in case anything spilled, but I wanted something in the glasses. My friend, Ms. Adventures in Baking, suggested colouring some clear piping gel, so that’s what I did. It was tricky to keep small bubbles from getting in as I mixed, but it came out fairly well.

And lastly, instead of using a regular cake board I asked my Father-in-law if he could make a large round cutting board at his pattern making business on which the cake could sit. It was absolutely beautiful, the perfect base for the cheese. The final embellishment was a cheese knife that could be used to cut the cake; decorative and functional, just the right touch.


Cheese Cake, Pt. 1: Prototypes

First gouda cheese test.
First gouda cheese test.

When I first thought of the cheese cake idea I had three in mind, and they are the ones I stuck with all along: a big wheel of gouda, a wheel of brie, and a wedge of blue.

The design for the gouda was pretty easy. I knew I wanted to use marzipan, not only because I think marzipan tastes better than rolled fondant, but I also thought it would offer a more natural look than rolled fondant, especially when adding colour for the rind, thereby making the ‘cheese’ look more realistic. I actually didn’t do many tests of the gouda early on because I thought it would be easy enough. I did, however, test the brie and blue several times.

The brie I was able to figure out fairly quick. Again I chose marzipan, but left it uncoloured. I rolled it out, covered the cake with it, then sprinkled icing sugar all over. I was worried that the icing sugar might get absorbed, but it actually sat quite well, especially on the top. It was harder to get the icing sugar on the sides, I wasn’t able to get as thick of a layer of it to stay, but it was enough to make it look pretty realistic.

The blue took several tries. I started out using a plain frosting, mixing a greenish-blue colour frosting on the side and dotting it all over. I thought this would give it a pock-mark look, but it didn’t work out as well as it did in my head. For another attempt, I rolled out marzipan, made some greenish-blue colour, then used mini-star cookie cutters to dab the colour onto the marzipan all over. I then folded the splotchy marzipan and rolled it out again and put it on the cake. It was definitely better than the first, but still not where I wanted it to be.

After looking more closely at photos of blue cheese, I thought a coloured paste might work better. So I mixed up the greenish-blue colour, I added some flour to make it a bit thicker and less translucent, and then mixed that with some clear piping gel. It looked pretty good. I did the same process of rolling out the marzipan, but this time just used a toothpick to dab splotches of colour. I folded it and rolled it out, then repeated this several times instead of just the once. This gave it a more marbled look with colours spread throughout the thickness of the marzipan. Once the marbled marzipan was on the cake I used a star piping tip to gouge out little craters on the surface, then used a paintbrush to splotch more coloured gel into the craters and over the surface. And that was the winning method.

When I have an idea and think it will be easy to do, I don’t often test designs beforehand. However, with this cake design I was very glad I did; there would have been a lot of panic and scrambling if I hadn’t!

Baking - Desserts, Decorating

Cheese Wedding Cake

Okay, so it’s been another long stretch since my last post, but today’s post is so exciting that I’m hoping I’ll be forgiven for slacking off on the blog front.

A while back some good friends asked me if I would make their wedding cake. I was very excited, and somewhat intimidated, by the idea. I never really wanted to get into wedding cakes, too much pressure. But for friends I’m always willing to make exceptions, especially when they give me free reign on the design!

I brainstormed several possibilities, and in consultation with them finally settled on a cheese cake. Not a cheesecake with cream cheese; and not a stack of actual cheese, tiered up like a cake; but a stack of cakes that would look like wheels of cheese. They love cheese (who doesn’t?!), so I thought it would be very fitting for their celebration.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to do several posts about this cake. Since this was my first wedding cake, which is a big project, I tried to document each step and test along the way, and I thought it would be fun to post about it so you can see what all goes into designing and making the perfect cake.

I feel incredibly lucky to have such supportive friends, and I am grateful that they gave me the chance to test and expand my baking experience!