Did you miss your letter to Hogwarts, too? I cry about it all the time.
I would have been a model student at Hogwarts. I always loved the thought of using a cheering charm. And I’m endlessly entertained by this passage about Harry and Ron from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
"Harry slightly overdid his [Cheering Charm] out of nerves and Ron, who was partnering him, ended up in fits of hysterical laughter and had to be led away to a quiet room for an hour before he was ready to perform the charm himself."
Can you imagine “accidentally” overcheering your friends until you’re all laughing maniacally together like a pack of hyenas.
Or maybe getting really good at Transfiguration in high school which means you could turn something you’re not supposed to have into something not-suspicious so your parents don’t know what you’re up to (after re-reading that statement, I know most of you are probably thinking I was alluding to something like turning a joint into a pile of books, but when I was growing up the thing I wasn’t supposed to have were books after bedtime, so I was actually thinking of turning my pile of books into more pillows so I wouldn’t get caught #NerdLife).
Yeah. Those were thoughts I had while growing up and reading the Harry Potter series. Hermione and I would have been besties.
Anyway, it’s easy to understand why I have Hogwarts on my mind and wanted to create a tribute to the beautiful school.
Unfortunately I have the shakiest hands ever and would never be able to just pipe something as intricate as Hogwarts onto a cake. Any time I need to do something that involves precision or straight lines, like painting my own nails or applying mascara, I shake like a chihuahua.
The shaking is even worse if I have to work with royal icing. It’s such a thick substance that it requires intense squeezing which in turn causes more squiggles in the icing and it all snowballs from there. #Facepalm Throw in the fact that I generally decorate my cakes first thing in the morning, and I don’t eat breakfast but I do drink really strong coffee, and then you’ll fully understand why my hands shake like I’m actively being electrocuted.
Fortunately, for today’s cake, I used a technique that I haven’t used in years. It’s called a design transfer. The gist of it is that you trace your design onto parchment paper, freeze it, then press it into your smoothed frosting and viola! Your design is on your cake now!
As I worked on today’s transfer I remembered a few things that I used to to to make this a successful technique and I will share them with you for my Tip(s) of the Week.
First, you have to trace the back of your design. This way, when you press the design into your cake, it comes out facing the correct way.
I had trouble seeing the transfer design from the back, so I traced the back in sharpie before placing my parchment paper on top to trace it.
Second, make sure to smooth out the piped frosting on your transfer sheet. While your design will look good from your view, but when you don’t smooth it down, the bottom (read: the part that is visible once it’s on the cake) is lumpy and sometimes the frosting doesn’t even make it all the way down to the parchment paper anyway, so you’ll have holes. My design was very delicate so instead of smoothing with a spatula, I chose to use a scribe tool to help with the texture.
Next, freeze, freeze, freeze!
Your cake needs to be very cold and your transfer needs to be very cold. And once you put the transfer on the cake, you need to put it back in the refrigerator and make it very cold again before you peel it off. (Operative word here: COLD.)
The reason your cake needs to be very cold is that the paper surrounding your design will pull the frosting off the cake when you peel it off if it's soft. I had a small issue with this today, mostly with the small windows that were unattached to the rest of the design, but textured cakes are super popular right now so I decided to leave them off and keep the textured frosting instead. But if you spend a lot of time smoothing your frosting, you won’t want this to happen and you’ll be very upset, so consider yourself warned.
Your transfer design needs to be very cold otherwise when you press it into the cake frosting, it will smush and smear and there goes your hard work. Then you'll need to get everything else back in the freezer again before you peel the paper off so that the transfer design doesn’t come off with your paper.
Something else that you might not know about today’s cake is that it is a dummy cake! This is 100% a clear-out-the-cupboards/don’t-bake-anything-else-because-my-waistline-can’t-take-it cake! I have a bad habit of saving all of my different colors of frostings in the refrigerator like one does in a large production bakery. Frosting has an extremely long shelf life in the refrigerator, and those colors can always be used for something else so why waste them?
The problem here is that I don’t bake enough cakes for this side gig of mine to really use all of that leftover frosting, so it takes up space in my refrigerator until I am completely out of room and/or I need the bowls that the frosting is stored in.
Also, dying buttercream black is really hard to do. Generally I recommend that you start with another color (usually I use purple or blue) to start off the coloring process, then add the black dye to get to the color you want. It’s extra helpful if you’re the type of person who can plan ahead and dye your frosting a day or two in advance because the color deepens the longer it rests. To get an even deeper black hue, I like to add a tablespoon or so to my frosting to get it darker without the coloring flavor.
So there you have it - all of my tricks for the magic of using a transfer design and then some.
Who’s ready to storm Platform 9 ¾ so we can get to our beloved Hogwarts and practice some real magic?
Happy eating, y’all!
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