28 November 2013

Army Party: Camouflage Birthday Cake & Cupcakes

I'm not a precision cake decorator, by any means. Birthday cakes for me need to be deceptively simple - the best ones look impressive but are actually straightforward and easy to do.

When Dash requested an Army Party, I was racking my brains trying to figure out what birthday cake I could make to suit - until I spotted the brilliant gummy Army Men lollies on KiwiCakes website. Suddenly I knew what I could do - a battlefield cake. My old fallback-in-a-roasting dish, a nice big rectangular cake canvas, on which to create an edible work of art.

I was already planning to make camouflage cupcakes, but a genius friend suggested making the birthday cake camo on the inside too. Again, deceptively simple. Here's how to do it...

Bake the Cake:

To fill the roasting dish, bake a double batch of your favourite butter cake recipe, or use this one I've doubled for you already:

3 cups of high grade flour
6 teaspoons of baking powder
2 cups of white sugar
1 cup of milk
4 eggs
250g butter, melted
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Beat all ingredients on high with an electric mixer for five minutes.

  1. Separate the mixture into three bowls and add a dash of gel food colouring* to each: Projel Khaki, Leaf Green and Black (with a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder added to the black bowl as well)
  2. Place spoonful blobs of each colour randomly into a well greased (or lined) roasting dish
  3. Continue until all the mixture is used up and bake for 25-30 minutes at 180oC or until cake springs back when lightly touched
*gel colouring must be used if you want your cake to have the vivid colours; regular food colouring will turn out dull and disappointing once baked. You can find professional grade gel colours on the KiwiCakes website

Once the cake has cooled, it's time to Decorate the Cake...

Mix up a double batch of buttercream frosting and separate into three bowls; Add a dash of gel colour to each bowl: leaf green (for the grassy areas), khaki (for a clay effect) and black with a little cocoa powder added to the black bowl for the dark mud base.

You will also need to have kept aside three camo cupcakes (see below) to create the knobbly hill. To decorate you'll need some mini flake bars, licorice straps and gummy army men lollies.

Separate the licorice straps into thin strips using your fingernail; this will become the "barbed wire" for your trench.

Create your battlefield layout: (1) Cut the tops off two cupcakes and arrange the three of them into a hill in one corner of your rectangle cake. (2) Dig out a shallow "trench" on the opposite end of your cake with a knife (you can see the camouflage effect inside the cake *yay*)

Using a rubber spatula, apply the darkest colour frosting to the inside of the trench and its neighbouring cake edge, and to secure the cupcake hill and "cliffs"

Now comes the part where you can be artistic

  1. "Paint" and "sculpture" your battle field with the buttercream frosting
  2. Use the khaki "clay" colour for the sides of the hill and around the edges of the trench; put the green grass colour on last, but then mess it up a little with the clay in spots - it is a battle field after all... no golf course grass here!
  3. Using a rubber spatula gives you great control and it goes on quickly. 
  4. Layer up the colour to create depth and texture (aerial view)
  5. The "cliffs" side view - see how textured and random the layering is, but it creates a real sense of depth

Now you get to have fun adding in the details. Position your army men on the battlefield (cut the legs off before placing them in the trench); wind the "barbed wire" around slivers of flake bar "logs"; scatter flake bar crumbs around the edges of the trench for added texture

Lastly, I added a "flag" on top of the hill, and candles. 

AT THE PARTY (Overhead on the way to lighting the candles): "Hey come on! Come check out this epic cake!" Yep, our platoon of 11-year olds were impressed...

... and inside, a camo surprise!

Camouflage Cupcakes

After all that you should find making the camo cupcakes, super-easy! Use your favourite recipe or mine (found here); mine makes 12-15 cupcakes. Double it if you need more than this (remember to keep three cupcakes back for your "hill".

  1. Use the three gel colours as before: Projel KhakiLeaf Green and Black 
  2. Separate the mixture in three bowls - for the cupcakes I actually had four colours, but three works better, I realised in hindsight.
  3. Add your gel colours to each bowl of mixture (with a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder added to the black bowl as well)

Line the cupcake tins with plain cupcake papers (remove these later and put them in your fancy wrappers; if you bake the cupcakes in your fancy wrappers, they will lose their colour and go yucky. very disappointing.
  1. Add a small blob of khaki mixture to each cupcake liner with a teaspoon
  2. Add a blob of each other colour to your cupcake liners
  3. Keep adding mixture colours randomly until all the mixture is used up.
Then, you bake them. (When they're baked they come out all colourful and camo-like.)

Once the cupcakes have cooled, remove them from their plain wrappers and put them in their fancy ones (I used dark green with scalloped edges from KiwiCakes.

  1. Mix up a batch of  buttercream frosting, separate into three bowls and add your three colours as before Projel KhakiLeaf Green and Black (with a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder added to the black bowl as well). I suggest making the colours LIGHTER than what I did by using less colouring, as the colours darkened between when I first mixed them on Friday and our party the next day
  2. Put random blobs of colour into an icing applicator (mine is a $2 shop cheapie, but works just fine)
  3. Apply a swirl of icing to each cupcake - ooh look, it's camo!
Then use any leftover icing and lollies to turn plain cookies into army themed ones...

More Army Party Stuff:

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