I guess it’s time for another confession: I LOVE pandas! I mean truly, I adore these ‘tit cher bébés (Translation: dear little babies. Sorry, my Cajun French just slipped out because I was excited!) so much that I even follow an Instagram page or two dedicated to only pictures and videos of pandas. I even love them so much that this Irish chef has decided to forgo the traditional green cake and shamrock shaped cookies leading up to St. Patrick’s Day to make a cake dedicated to pandas instead. They’re just so darn cute!
I’ve always liked panda bears and thought they would be awesome to snuggle with (aside from that whole wild animal danger thing), but really my interest turned into a full blown obsession at about the time I started dating my man candy. You see, the day after we “made it official” way back in 2015, he jet-setted off to China to run a marathon on The Great Wall. Like a maniac. But while he was traveling throughout the country he mentioned that he was going out to see some pandas and I flipped!! I requested plenty of pictures of pandas, which he very sweetly obliged (those are some of his actual photos from his trip!), and then I asked him if he had ever seen photos of a puppy panda (which he had not), and that just took us down a whole other rabbit hole, but it firmly reinforced the fact that I appreciate the pandas.
Fast forward to a few years later when I came down with a pretty nasty cold. He asked me to come over to his place after work one day, and he had this lovely little get well package waiting for me! I unimaginatively named this cutie pie "Panda" (naming inanimate objects really is not my forte), and he’s been my snuggle buddy ever since!
Suffice it to say that when I realized that March 16 was National Panda Day, I jumped at the chance to make a panda cake. But I wanted to make it super special by finally trying out a new cake pattern that I’ve had my eye on for some time. The checkerboard pattern! I am definitely pleased with the way this came out. I learned a few things along the way, too, but then again that’s the whole point of trying out new techniques ;)
Let’s start at the beginning - I tried for a “black and white” theme for the inside of the cake so I baked a batch of my classic vanilla cake and a batch of my classic chocolate cake. Now, we need to discuss a little thing here. My vanilla cake is not a white cake. To make a white cake, you must omit butter and egg yolks (instead using shortening ::gasp:: #sacrilege and only egg whites instead of whole eggs) for the pure white color. To be quite frank, I don’t care enough about the color to not use my beloved, delicious butter so technically I don’t have a true black and white cake. And truly, that’s ok with me.
Next I had to carve the cake layers into rings - kind of in a target/bullseye shape. After the layers were carved out, I just mixed and matched the cake rings in alternating patterns and stacked my cake layers so that when we cut our slices of cake, it came out with a super cool checkerboard pattern. What do you think?
While the cakes were baking, I formed the panda facial features out of fondant and after I frosted the cake, I arranged the facial features to make him look as cute as possible. Then I shoved the ears into the frosting and carried this guy out to the pool where some of my friends were gathered to share some pizza, laughs, and panda cake.
Happy eating, y'all!