Before Peter Capaldi, David Tennant was my Doctor, hands down, no contest. But you know what? I really love Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. He might have pushed Tennant off his pedestal in my book. I mean, have you seen Heaven Sent? Absolutely amazing. “I had a duty of care.” Just stab me in the heart, why don’t you, Doctor!
So for my birthday cake this year, I wanted to do a tribute to the 12th Doctor. I still wanted to try my hand at the Tardis again since it crashed last year. But instead of piping random swirls on the rounds underneath the Tardis and calling them ‘the time vortex’, I actually wanted to put some thought into it this year.
I LOVE the maroon velvet coat that Capaldi dons towards the end of this last season. Totally agree with Clara–very Doctor-y.
“I like that velvety one. It’s very Doctor-y.”
So I decided that I would make the sides of the rounds look like the Doctor’s maroon velvet coat. I wanted the top of the rounds to have the swirling clock design that the new intro has, with the Tardis standing on top of it.
Not a Doctor Who fan and have no idea what I’m talking about? Well, you really should go binge watch it on Netflix because it’s an awesome show. But here’s a picture of the coat in question for frame of reference:
And here’s the new intro I’m yammering on about:
I haven’t done a chocolate cake in awhile; everyone’s been asking for vanilla lately. Mama needed a chocolate fix. Plus this is my birthday cake. So chocolate it was. Cookie dough filling is pretty much the best thing ever, so that was definitely happening again (you can find the recipe in the post on my basket of roses cake). Frosting had to be vanilla because I needed to color it, since I was NOT interested in messing around with fondant. Fondant and I don’t really get along.
Sadly, my Tardis didn’t even make it past the crumb coat phase. My chocolate cake recipe is just too moist and soft for structures. Last year part of the Tardis’ cause of death was weight of the pound cake that I used; it was much too heavy. This time I went to the other extreme and made a cake that was too delicate. SIIIIGGHHHH. Perhaps I’ll get the Tardis just right for my next birthday.
But I knew my design for the round cake tier was good enough to stand alone, so I didn’t give up.
Technically speaking, my cake was ready 4 days late, as my birthday was Wednesday. But since I wasn’t having a party and it was already late, I saw no point in rushing anything. I took my time with each of these steps, content with however long it ended up taking to make it, so long as it was done well.
To get the maroon color as close as possible, I added a touch of black icing color along with the ton of maroon icing color. I didn’t want to add too much icing color though because then it affects the taste of the frosting too much, so I settled on a slightly lighter hue than the real coat. The darker the color, the harder it is to get right. I put that frosting on the sides of the stacked rounds, getting it as smooth as I could.
While it was firming up in the fridge, I moved on to figuring out how to get the velvety texture just right. I saw a tutorial on Ashley Marie’s blog on how to get a velvet texture to a cake. But she used cocoa powder dusted onto a fondant covered cake. I was attempting to apply the fundamentals of her technique to a buttercream covered cake in a different color. Figuring this technique out took the better part of a day. But it was so worth it!
I first tried adding the maroon icing color to cocoa powder, thinking that I wouldn’t have to use as much coloring because I was already starting with a dark color. However, the powder was repelling the liquid color and the brown of the chocolate was swallowing up any bit of color that I managed to massage into it. Then I tried coloring powdered sugar, but got horrible results. The powdered sugar behaved the same as the cocoa powder, repelling the liquid color. I was able to massage some color in when I used my hands, but it left white clumps that were too microscopic to sift out, but were large enough to still be visible. I gave up on trying to add color to the powdered substances, because it just was chemically impossible.
My next idea was to sift together cocoa powder and powdered sugar to get as light a brown as possible. The color of the Doctor’s coat is very dark, so if I thought that if I got the brown light enough, that it might work since my frosting was a bit lighter to begin with. First of all, the cocoa powder and powdered sugar did not play nicely together; I could see white specks throughout the mixture because they never blended completely. When I tried it on a sample slab of frosting however, the powdered sugar absorbed, so there weren’t any specks anymore. But it was still coming off too brown; the maroon color was completely lost underneath it. So I had to scrap that idea. Desperate, I then tried dusting straight white powdered sugar on another sample slab, but it did exactly what I thought it would, and made it look like the Doctor had been wearing the same coat for 4 1/2 billion years, collecting dust as he went along.
My heart was already set on getting the velvet texture to his coat, so even though my experiments were failing epicly, I refused to give up. The color wasn’t being absorbed by powdered sugar, but I knew that it was possible to color regular granulated sugar, because I had done that to make my own sprinkles before. So then I had the thought that saved my design: why don’t I just make my own powdered sugar? It’s easy enough, after all–just blend granulated sugar and corn starch together in a blender or food processor.
So I took 1 cup of sifted white granulated sugar and added maroon icing color to it. You have to mix it with your hands to get it to absorb properly, squishing it together until the color is completely mixed through.
Then I threw that into my blender with 1 tablespoon of corn starch and blended it on the highest speed for 5 minutes. I know 5 minutes sounds excessive, but I tried it after only 1 minute, and there were still sugar crystals in it. I couldn’t see them though until I was brushing it onto my sample frosting. Once it began absorbing into the frosting, the sugar crystals became very noticeable. No less than 5 minutes in the blender! I gently leaned the blender to each side a few times during the 5 minutes, to ensure that nothing was getting stuck to the sides. I wanted all of the sugar to get completely pulverized so I had a really fine powder.
It. Worked. PERFECTLY! I can’t express how happy I was to have figured this out. In my opinion, it makes the cake. It’s one of those small details that you can’t appreciate unless you see the cake without it first. But the frosting just looked so flat before I applied the colored powdered sugar. That little detail took all day long, but adds so much depth and texture that I can’t imagine the cake without it.
To apply it, I just gently dusted it onto the cake once the frosting had crusted. When I first applied it, it was obviously a powder on top of frosting.
So I had to go over each spot multiple times until the powder absorbed. I didn’t use brush strokes, but rather soft dabs. Over and over and over and over again….
But seriously, how awesome is this velvet effect?!
In comparison to figuring out the velvet effect, the rest was a breeze. Using a toothpick, I sketched out the Doctor’s shirt and vest.
Then I carefully removed the frosting within my boarders for the vest using what is becoming my favorite cake decorating tool, the toddler butter knife.
Once it was removed, I piped in the black frosting.
Since I still had to remove frosting for the shirt, I didn’t bother to smooth out the black frosting quite yet. Once the white was piped in, I carefully smoothed out both sections separately with my toddler knife, being careful to wipe off all frosting with a paper towel before switching.
Then using a Wilton #2 tip, I added the collar detailing on the shirt. Going back to the black frosting, I added a dot on the vest for a button. After the frosting had time to set in the fridge, I used a clean toothpick to poke 2 holes in the dot to make it look more button-like.
Using a clean toothpick, I outlined the lapels of the coat and piped it out. I was going to leave it as just an outline, but decided to fill it in and smooth it out to give it depth. Once the frosting had time to crust in the fridge, I added the colored powdered sugar to them.
I decided on a dark grey for the top of the cake, to mimic the look of the opening credits.
After the frosting had time to set in the fridge, I then piped the white spiral on using both a Wilton #789 and #47 tips. I wanted the spiral to start large and then get smaller towards the center, so I did my best to blend the two sizes together.
Honestly, I’m not 100% happy with it because the edges and the transition could have been smoother. But overall, I got the effect I was looking for.
Then using a #3 Wilton icing tip, I piped black edges inside my white spiral.
I then switched over to a #2 Wilton icing tip to pipe the Roman numeral numbers. The numerals need to go from left to right, which meant starting the sequence in the middle of the cake and working outwards. Which I didn’t realize until after I had piped a ginormous ‘I’ at the other end of the spiral. Luckily I ended on ‘XI’, so it worked out.
The next morning when I went to get my pride and joy out of the fridge to transfer it to a cake stand, I saw that my darling 3 year old had gotten to it first.
To prevent this same child from eating the leftover frosting straight out of the piping bags, I threw out all the extra frosting except the black. Next time, I will save all the extra frosting until the damn cake is being cut into because so help me God that child has a knack for getting into them behind my back. To fix this without any extra maroon frosting I carefully scraped the black spot off using my handy dandy toddler knife. Then I warmed up the same toddler knife under hot water for about 20 seconds, dried it off, and held the heated knife against the offended spot. This warmed the frosting up enough to smooth it out a bit. You could still see a slightly darkened spot, but it wasn’t too noticeable if you weren’t looking for it.
Once I transferred the cake onto the cake stand, I added the Roman numerals around the cake as the finishing detail.
Even though I didn’t have a Tardis cake to place on top, I am completely in love with this cake. I know that my piping is shakey in some spots, so it’s not technically perfect, but as far as I’m concerned–it’s perfect. It is exactly what I set out to do. A perfect tribute to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor; my Doctor.
Perfect outside and perfect inside as well.
Yes, I enjoyed my cake with coffee in my Harry Potter coffee mug. My nerd game is strong.
I’ll sign off with a picture of my kids covered in powdered sugar when they “helped” me make the frosting.
Needless to say, they went straight to the bath after that…
For kicks, I’ll throw in a Dalek meme I drew up this morning.
Like I said, my nerd game is strong.