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The Making of the Pencil Cake: Part One

January 7, 2011

Remember the tragic farming accident that had struck my kitchen the night I taught you to make White Lasagna?

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Well, it was NOTHING compared to the nuclear apocalypse that has devastated my kitchen for the past two weeks.  My husband and I just don’t handle our holiday break time well.  We squander the days in laziness, we destroy our home by letting dishes and clothes pile up to waist-depth.  In short, we don’t lift a finger.

And then I begin to get frantic and go crazy because of the mess and I tell my husband, “We just need to move because I don’t have room to walk, let alone find space for every dish in this kitchen.”  It’s not pretty.

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But that’s neither here nor there.

My point is that I am choosing to reject any shyness or embarrassment I might have about you catching a glimpse of our pigsty in the following photos.  I just can’t be bothered by such silliness, not when there’s a pencil cake in the making!!

Yep, you heard me right.  I am making a cake… shaped like a mechanical pencil.  All in the name of love.  (Specifically I refer to the love of a certain cousin of mine and his fiance.  They’re tying the knot in a week and I’m making his groom’s cake.  And it’s supposed to end up looking like a mechanical pencil.)

Can’t envision this idea?  I’m having trouble myself.  So its an adventure for us all!

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For starters… let me tell you that my cousin is an adoreable, lovable, super-genius.  His mind never rests… He’s the type of guy who (as a teenager) tied golf balls to his ceiling fan with shoelaces and then spent hours teaching himself how to stand under the moving fan and weave his head in and out (narrowly missing getting nailed in the nose by a golf ball every time).  Hours doing that.  That takes genius-level drive and dedication.

So this pencil cake was his brain-child.  He even sent me this link  from Taste of Home as an idea for how to make it!  What a perfect idea… a cake roll!

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Last night’s cake was just the test cake.   But soon and very soon I’ll be whipping out a quintuple batch of these babies!  This means I need lots of sugar, cake flour, cocoa, chocolate (mini-chips, and Baker’s bars) and heavy cream, among other things.

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First things first… bake up a large (15×10) sheet of chocolate cake.  You’ll want to make sure you’ve buttered and lined the bottom with parchment paper so it comes out easily. 

The recipe can be found at the Taste of Home Link above.  It contains very little fat, which results in a very light, airy cake.  (Dare I say “dry”?  Come on Taste of Home… ever heard of butter?!)  I believe I’ll bake the next one for only nine minutes to retain more moisture.

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But you won’t let it cool here in the pan!  No, no… you’ll be doing something a little more special than that.

Spread a clean towel out on the countertop and dust it with powdered sugar.

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And invert the cake out onto it gently.

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Peel away the parchment paper…

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Lightly dust the top side with powdered sugar as well… then roll the cake up in the towel to cool.  How fun is that!?   I guess it just helps the cake get used to being rolled up.  Like hot rollers in hair!

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Very good!

Now, testing recipes is all about deciding what you want to change to suit your preferences next time!

So after making the filling in this recipe, I’ve decided to change it completely!  The filling in the recipe is basically minty whipped-cream… and I think this cake needs a little frosting!  Not only for taste… but as insurance!  I very much doubt that a whipped cream filling would stand up well to a six-day waiting period (in which I’ll be crafting this cake into a pencil.)  A sturdy mint buttercream is going to be a much better choice for me!

But if you elect to make the minty whipped cream instead… here’s how ya do it!

Pour a cup and a half of cream into a bowl!

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And whip it together with 6 T. powdered sugar, and some mint flavoring.

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Here in the test kitchen, I was trying out four different varieties of mint flavoring…

Spearmint, Creme de Menthe, Wintergreen, and Peppermint.  We’ll see which kind the groom picks!

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You’ll also need a few drops of green food coloring if you want your filling to look minty.

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Whip it until you see stiff peaks… then fold in some mini-chocolate chips.  (By the way, I just didn’t think this stuff was sweet enough.  Add more powdered sugar if you agree.)

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The next step, of course, was to divide my filling and cake up so that I could have four different samples for the groom to try!  Yikes, a test kitchen is a messy place.

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(My edges got a little dry.  Again I blame the lack of fat in this cake!  So I cut them off.)

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I then spread each type of mint filling along each cake strip (using a separate spoon each time of course, to avoid mint confusion.)  And then rolled them right up!

Here’s Cute-Little-Mini-Pencil-Nub #1

(I simply smoothed out that extra filling that squished out the sides with a swipe of a clean finger.)

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From here it got easier…

I won’t say the ganache was a breeze (because chopping chocolate never is) but I will say that it is far from complicated!  I used a ratio of 7 oz. chocolate / 7 oz. heavy cream.  This makes a more pourable ganache, and is just the right amount for this cake (especially if you don’t make more work for yourself by chopping it into four mini-cakes!)

Quick ganache lesson:  Heat cream in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water.  When its hot but not boiling, remove it from the heat and add in the chopped chocolate.  Whisk til mixture is smooth and glossy.  Add a tablespoon of pure vanilla.  Whisk again til cool but still pourable.

Just pour and smooth the ganache over the top and sides of the cake with a smooth knife or spreader…

…and Voila!

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A successful ganache-covered cake roll!  Albeit a bit rough looking… but this is, afterall, a rough draft.

Stay tuned next week for Part Two!  We’ll be making red ganache for the eraser and clip, as well as fashioning a gigantic pencil from this recipe, and making four or five back-up cakes to feed the rest of the crowd.  Whew!  I’m tired just thinking about it.  (That also might be due, in part, to the fact that I was lying awake much of the night fanatically calculating and re-calulating my plans for the assembly, transportation, and ingredients for this cake.  Don’t worry, I drifted off eventually!)

Happy New Year everyone!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Krista Huddleston permalink
    January 7, 2011 9:01 pm

    I am so excited! It looks yummy! I really want you to open a bakery.

  2. January 8, 2011 3:06 pm

    YUM. I love mint and chocolate together (I have a bottle of that organic peppermint extract) and this cake looks delicious already. I can’t wait to see the finished “pencil”, your decorating skills are pretty awesome from what I’ve seen so far!

  3. Beverly permalink
    January 9, 2011 1:00 am

    Carissa Casey… as usual, you continue to amaze us. Can’t wait to see the finished product next weekend. We know it will be PERFECT!

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