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The Making of the Pencil Cake: Part Two

January 8, 2011

And the groom (and his mother) chose…

da da da daaaaaaahhhhhh…

Creme de Menthe!


So last night I continued my quest.  This cake is turning out to be much more of a quest than I had anticipated.  (I’m sure that is almost ALWAYS the case when an amateur baker with an amateur kitchen decides she can pull off a wedding cake.  Anyone else been in that boat?)  However, it is super fun!  Its bringing out all my artistic and perfectionistic juices… they’re flowing at full force!  And as long as catastrophe isn’t striking (which it did last night, I’ll show ya in a minute) I’m enjoying the process very much!


As with any large-scale goal that carries with it a deadline… you make a plan.  A plan constructed of mini-plans for what to accomplish each day.  Ordinarily an endeavor like this might come accompanied by a kit (maybe some cake molds, some instructions, you know… the kind of stuff any sane person would think to acquire before launching into such a project.)

But the plan with which I’ve launched into this pencil cake project lacks a kit.  It lacks instructions, and it lacks cake molds.  That plan looks a little something like this…

Two days ago:  Buy cake flour, chocolate, sugar, and eggs.  Make practice cake.  Mess up entire kitchen and go to bed at 1:00 am.

Yesterday: Go back to the store and buy ingredients for buttercream.  Decide what parts of the cake will be the least affected if made a week ahead of time.  Make those.  Realize you forgot Oreo sticks at Kroger and send husband for a third trip.  Realize you planned way too much for one night but that you’ve passed the point of finding a good stopping place.  Give in to the inner-perfectionist and get every last detail up to snuff.  Go to bed again at one…. thirty.

-Today:  Clean kitchen.

-Tomorrow:  Bake, fill, roll, and ganache-coat three out of six of the cake rolls.

-Monday:  Bake, fill, roll, and ganache-coat the remaining three.

-Tuesday:  Busy doing other things.

-Wednesday: Host LifeGroup… clean noticeable areas of the house.

-Thursday: Piece together pencil components and make sure the thing is sturdy.  (Will try using toothpicks and ganache to connect the pencil tip to the body of the pencil.  Think it’ll hold?  Might also hollow out the pencil tip and eraser a bit… they’s heavy!)  Question:  Is it a bad idea to try and move the pencil once I’ve pieced it together?  I’d rather not store it for three days on the huge white serving board I bought for the wedding day.  I would have no room for it in the fridge.  Any idea where I could find a thin sheet of clear acrylic to cut to fit precisely under the pencil so its out of sight?… it could be under the pencil for more support if I move it to the serving board the morning of the wedding.  I need feedback!!!)


So… what’s missing from that plan?  Experience.  “Decide which parts can be made a week a ahead.  Make those.” Sounds like a simple step, eh?  WRONG.  That’s what kept me up last night.  In my inexperienced estimation, I decided that it sounded reasonable to make mint buttercream and milk chocolate buttercream for six cakes, as well as the pencil tip, eraser, and clip (with red ganache for the eraser and clip.)

Allow me to share a few pictures from the evening…  (Disclaimer: I paid no attention whatsoever to the following: lighting, composition, focus, color, white balance, the mess in my kitchen.  You’ve been warned.  Proceed.)

There was a lotta chocolate chopping going on.  (This may not look like much but what you don’t realize is that this bowl is the size of a schoolbus.)


A lot of buttercream frosting calls for… you guessed it, a lotta butter!


Here we go… enough mint filling for two cakes…


And enough chocolate filling for four more!  (This bowl weighed like thirty pounds… for real.)


Remember that catastrophe I mentioned earlier?

Well, see… I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe and tried baking it in a loaf pan so I could get the height I needed to carve a 4″ pencil tip and eraser…

… and it turns out this cake batter is particularly heavy on the baking powder.  I figured it would just rise over the pan like a souffle… but no.  It just started pouring chocolate lava over the edge of the pan into the oven floor.

Twice I took it out and poured excess batter into a bowl.  Both times it began to spew forth a few minutes after being placed back into the oven.

Can you believe I salvaged it!?  I did.


From there I began carving away with my amazingly sharp Cutco Knife.

Here’s the pencil tip! (Crumb coated with buttercream)


Eraser parts…


And clip!  (Its amazing I was able to construct a clip out of what was left considering I stuffed almost every freshly-carved piece straight into the ol’ gobbler.)


Next, I stabbed an Oreo Stick into the pencil tip for the lead.


Here’s a little tip.  If you get a brilliant idea like, “I’ll just make red ganache!”  DON’T act on it.  Use buttercream… use modeling chocolate, (I can’t believe I’m saying this, but) use fondant!  Red ganache is not something I recommend attempting.

First, I tried making plain white ganache.  Apparently white chocolate is nothing like dark in texture.  It never worked.  It was more see-through than white. I had to switch to almond bark.

Then I tried a light brown ganache that would serve as a base for adding red food coloring…

…and this came out the darkest of browns (again, I blame that see-through white chocolate.)


So the final product you see coating the eraser and clip is a combination of white chocolate, almond bark, dark chocolate, red food coloring, and powdered sugar.  I basically fiddled with it until it was smooth enough to spread like buttercream.  Wish I’d just done buttercream to begin with, but this did harden better.  (If you attend the wedding, I don’t recommend eating the pencil clip… it’s probably suuuuuper sweet.)


The chocolate ganache for the pencil tip was a breath of fresh air!  It behaved exactly how I needed it to, expected it to, wanted it to.  It slid effortlessly down the slope and hardened beautifully.


And I went to bed.


My hope is that all this pre-work will make everything else on the list much easier.  Filling is made, carving is done, difficult ganache is behind me.  It can only be smooth sailing from here, right?


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