A Rubik’s Cube Cake

My little one turned 6 and I baked him a Rubik’s cube cake.

So he was the boy who brings the Rubik’s cube to school every day. He would fiddle with his cube while waiting for me to fetch him after school and was quite sure he wanted a Rubik’s cube cake for his birthday. I tried convincing him into bringing a Minecraft cake instead, since the last one I baked turned out to be quite a hit with the kids. He was agreeable for a while but changed his mind the next day. I went ahead to have something Minecraft prepared, just in case he changed his mind or my Rubik’s cube cake failed!

A week prior to his birthday I started looking for alternatives to baking a full size Minecraft grass block. I found a clever idea to turn rice crispies into blocks without having to bake up a storm. It was as simple as mixing rice crispies with some sticky chocolate and have them chilled in the fridge.

The recipe uses melted marshmallow and chocolate candy melts to coat the rice crispies and then have them pressed in a baking dish before popping the dish into the fridge. Once chilled, cut up the hardened rice crispies into square pieces and have 2 squares stacked on top of each other to create a grass block. Use green buttercream frosting to pipe on the ‘grass’ and there you have it, a delectable grass block. I was quite sure the kids would love it as it’s hard to go wrong with Chocolate coated rice crispies!

Because I wasn’t comfortable feeding his friends sugary marshmallows that come in big 2 dollar packs, I substituted the marshmallows and chocolate candy melts with chocolate Ganache made from Chocolate couverture and cream. Lined these blocks together to form a bigger grass block and it looks almost as good as a cake at half the effort.

After setting in place a back up plan, I went on to work on the Rubik’s cube cake, I did a trial bake the week before and I was glad I did. It took me 3 days of baking, frosting and decorating it with fondant and I secretly wished that the birthday boy would change his mind and opt for the rice crispies grass blocks instead.

First look at a Rubik’s cube cake; a cake that is made from multiple square cakes, stacked together to form a cube. There are 5 faces (minus the face that will be sitting on the cake stand) that need to be decorated, each face with 9 squares. It looks pretty straightforward with little imagination required. No fancy idea required to crush cookies to create ‘dirt’ or cover up flaws (unlike the Minecraft birthday cake).

I soon learned that making a Rubik’s cube cake wasn’t about creativity. It was about precision. From choosing the size of the baking tin to deciding on the number of layers required and cutting each squares to fit onto the blocks, everything needs to be precise and it got quite mathematical along the way.

Here are some of the mistakes I made while making the cake and I thought it would be great to compile these lessons learned.

Mistake #1 Do not take short cuts unless you are very sure it leads you to the same result

Instead of getting 3 cake tins of the same size and baking in 3 separate batches, I did everything in 1 batch with whatever size cake tins I had.

I used a 7 by 7 inch baking pan and a 13 by 9 inch baking pan thinking I could trim the 7 inch cake and patch up a 6.5 by 4.5 inch one (by diving 13 by 9 inch into 2) to get a 6 inch cube. I ended up spending a long time trying to ‘perfect’ the cube coating it with crumb coat.

Tip : Use baking pan of the same size for all the layers. It’s more worth it spending the time baking proper size cake than to spend the time patching an odd size one. The result of the latter isn’t guaranteed.

Mistake #2 Don’t be obsessed with fluffiness

I needed a cake recipe that was dense enough as I had read how the weight of fondant might crush the cake. I decided to go with a butter cake recipe from here with raving reviews.

I also read how cake flour could make a cake fluffier. I decided to replace self raising flour with cake flour I had and adding a tablespoon of baking powder to it. Bad idea!

My cake turned out soft and fluffy and it was so difficult to handle. The cake broke into half and crumpled into pieces even before I could stack them up!

Tip : A butter cake is a great base cake for a fondant cake because it is dense and could hold the weight of the fondant. So save your soft and fluffy cakes for other occasions.

Mistake #3 Hand painted fondant doesn’t give you even colour

I thought I could hand paint the fondant like what I did for my Minecraft cake but the end result was patchy colours. A Rubik’s Cube is much less forgiving when it comes to colours. You can colour a Minecraft grass block cake with different shades of green and it will look natural but for a Rubik’s Cube cake, it has to be solid even colours.

I sticked to the conventional way of colouring fondant during the actual bake, ie. by mixing colour gel to white fondant. The colours did turn out smooth and even but in a lighter shade. I thought I could live with that little imperfection so long as I didn’t have to add copious amount of food colouring to the cake.

Tip : Buy ready coloured fondant if you need vibrant colours. You’ll save a lot time trying to get the colour right colouring white fondant. However if you are ok with pastel colours, white fondant is great. There’ll be less wastage, more flexibility and it is cheaper.

Mistake #4 Whipping thickened cream is different from heavy cream

I used chocolate ganache for the icing and the recipe called for heavy cream which I substituted with Whipping Thickened Cream as I can’t find the former in our local supermarket. The chocolate ganache turned out runny. I did manage to frost the cake but I had to leave it in the fridge for the ganache to harden before decorating it with fondant.

Tip : Use Thickened Cream in replacement of Heavy Cream. Whipping cream is different even if it’s the thickened kind

Mistake #5 Fondant ‘sweats’ in humid Singapore weather

I couldn’t decorate the cake with fondant in a go and had to store it in the fridge till I had time to continue. Because of the change in temperature and humidity, water started to condense on the surface of the chocolate ganache when the cake was brought out the fridge. This caused the fondant to ‘weep’ and ‘sweat’.

Tip : Store your finished fondant cake in a cool room, preferably an air conditioned room. Avoid drastic change in temperature as it will lead to condensation and thus cause the fondant to melt.

Thankfully most of these mistakes were made during the trial bake and I could prevent making the same mistakes on the actual bake. My boys loved the cake and the children in school wiped out every single bit of it.

Will I bake this again?

Probably not.

But knowing how forgetful I am when it comes to painful bakes, it shouldn’t be long before I dive into another arduous bake.

Here’s another post I wrote on Tips for making cake pops



Our Current Obsession – The Rubik’s Cube

We are currently crazy over the Rubik’s Cube. The boys pack it with them everywhere they go. They play with it during car rides, while waiting after school, in the restaurant and even when they are hiking outdoors. They (we) are totally obsessed with this piece of twistable, rotatable plastic.

I remember playing with this puzzle when I was in Primary School. It was one of those geeky toys that I could never figure out and I had never gone beyond solving 2 faces.

Forward 30 years later, with the advent of the Internet, you can find a slew of Youtube videos on how to solve the Rubik’s cube. The only challenge is to be able to sit through the videos, understand the instructions and follow the steps.

I got inspired after watching a 2 year old solve the cube on YouTube. After a day of staring intently at the screen, I got it solved but could only do it by going back and forth the video many times. There were just too many steps, or what they call algorithms, to memorize.

My boys were surprised to see that I could actually put the pieces into its original position without throwing it, kicking it, jumping on it or blowing it up. Since the least geeky person in the house could do it, it couldn’t be too difficult. So they thought. And that was how it all got started.

My 11 year old got it figured out after watching the video and he was determined to beat me at the timing. In the beginning, it took me more than 20 minutes to solve the cube but after a few days of playing with it, I could do it in less than 3 minutes (if I got lucky).

We bought more cubes. Now each of us owns one. The new cube is smoother and could turn faster. The quality isn’t as good as the original one but it costs less than half the price. The boys were happy with it and they call it the ‘speed cube’. Within a couple days of twisting and turning, my elder boy improved leaps and bounds and now he could beat me flat. He could solve the cube in less than 2 minutes.

Marcus was eager to join us but even after having sat through the video with us, he couldn’t grasp what was being said. I decided to teach him myself. My husband thought it would be futile for me to teach a 5 year old something a 40 year old couldn’t do. Little did he expect to see him master the cube in less than a week.

These days, we would sit at the dining table and have a cube race while the Dad watch on. We have officially dethroned Dad as the Geekiest guy in the house. He was totally impressed, humbled and amused.

I guess I would be too, if my 5 year old has to teach me how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.


Surviving The Haze

It’s been more than a month since our little red dot was covered with smog. Almost every morning I am greeted by a dismal view from my bedroom window. I could hardly make out the ships in the distance, which is a good indication that the PSI reading is well above 100, in the unhealthy range.

I miss basking in the warm sunshine and I miss riding with the wind in my face. I miss battling with’the sun is too hot to run’ or ‘the wind is too strong to cycle’. The kids miss jumping into the pool and riding around the estate with their friends and I miss having them out of the house so that I can have some peace and quiet at home! Our daily routine got thrown off. The boys were asking for their ipads more than usual. Everyone was driving everyone nuts.

The mother in me felt that I should be doing something to help them occupy their time.

We tried crafting. I tried to pique their interest in making something cool for the Lantern Festival. We decided to make a storm trooper lantern using old plastic containers. It got them excited enough to put everything together and had it painted but thereafter, the ‘lantern’ was pretty much left sitting on the shelf. They were more interested in lighting candles and playing sparklers.

I sorely recalled the jet pack we made for the SuperHero Me party held at the National Library a while back. My 5 year old was eager to put on a jet pack for the party. He woke up early in the morning, determined to get it done on his own. Since it was a kids’ costume party, I was set to help him make a cute looking jet pack with 2 rocket boosters on the wings, decorated with happy colours. I told them my idea and they both protested.

Firstly, a jet pack doesn’t come in rainbow colours. Secondly they don’t have rocket boosters on the wings. The weight on both wings need to be exactly the same and having rocket boosters on the wings will risk sending the jet pack into a crazy spin if one side will to break down and will likely kill the user!

Ok, so Mom doesn’t know much about making jet pack.

One week passed, then one month passed and we were still getting the haze from our lovely neighbour and we had slowly gotten used to not seeing the ships from our window.

The boys were left on their own on most days and we were less restless after accepting that the haze will be here to stay and we will be confined at home. The kids had also gotten better at finding things to do around the house.

It was not all peace and quiet. They squabbled and they drove me crazy on occasions when they got too rowdy but we survived. I think the good thing that came out of this episode is we got better at dealing with boredom and here are some things that kept them busy.

1. Learn to fly the drone without breaking the house

The Dad was away for a week and gave them the permission to fly his new toy IN the house. They were thrilled. It took them a long while to figure out how to take off and land the drone without crashing into something. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted to watch them fiddle with their new toy and I usually choose to hide in the kitchen.

2. Boardgames and cards

We aren’t very creative and often stick to the traditional Chess, Uno, Monopoly, Scrabble.

We were at a toy shop the other day and got smitten by this beautiful chess set For less than 50 bucks, I thought it was a steal for a wooden set. Alas it turned out to be a plastic one with wood looking finishing! I was a tad disappointed but the kids weren’t bothered and were happy to have a new chess set to add to their collection. We played with it for many nights. They were pleased with its magnetic pieces and have decided to bring the set along for our upcoming holiday.

If you are more adventurous in trying out new games, head over to MyFirstGames and choose from a wide selection of fun and interesting games (non electronic) for kids.

3. Make something edible

Onigiri or Japanese rice ball, not the usual kind of sushi I would make but they are fun and easy enough for my 5 year old to help. In fact he was the one who taught me the clever trick of using cellophane wrap to roll the sushi into ball after learning it in school. So you can make these without having to own a whole range of sushi making tools.

The kids like theirs with tuna, crab meat or egg. I like mine with avocado and cucumber. Sprinkle the balls generously with sesame and seaweed condiment before popping them into your mouth. We made enough to let the kids bring to school for snack.

4. Indoor Ping Pong

The kids got interested in table tennis after watching some para athletes play the game at a shopping mall a while back.
They had been bugging me to get a table tennis set but we couldn’t fit a table tennis table into our home. Instead we turned our coffee table into one. It was good enough for them to hone their ping pong whacking skill and even my husband and I can have a match using this.

5. Lego

I think this has to be the best investment we’ve made as parents. The boys still play with them everyday and I would have saved loads of money if I had it figured out, that these are the only toys the kids ever need. Here are some thoughts about playing with Lego

6. Create something

My 5 year old enjoys doing craft only if mom is not there to tell him how to do it. He discovered Mister Maker the other day on Youtube and got so inspired after watching that he hauled up the craft box and turned some old cardboard boxes into a castle for his Lego troop.

The boys are fascinated with things that can fly, shoot, burn and explode and we usually let them try out. Recently my elder boy had a really bad burn on his finger while playing with fire. The blister was huge and it took weeks to recover. His blunder would be a great add on to his list of ‘How Not To Get Burned’. They came up with their own shooting ‘toys’ and had a game to see whose creation is better for target shooting.


7. Watch Youtube Videos

We have a love hate relation with the internet.

My elder boy learned to code his first computer program via the internet. My younger one learned about planes, ships, oceans and space watching Discovery Science and National Geographic.

Recently we bought a book on how to fold paper planes. As it turned out, it was easier to learn to fold paper planes from Youtube videos.

They learned to do cool experiments at home, some more dangerous than others and I am beginning to think that the Science teachers in school should turn to Youtube for inspirations.

The latest thing we learned from Youtube is to solve the Rubik’s Cube. I was overjoyed that I could solve the Rubik’s Cube! I was so proud and relieved that my brain still function well after more than a decade of mundane chores.

Now everyone in the family can solve the Rubik’s Cube except the Dad and that of course made the boys uber proud.

The internet has certainly changed the way how kids learn these days and it is definitely a life saver for a stay at home Mom like me.

I guess like all things, moderation is the key and our challenge is to harness power of the internet, mitigate the risks and try to gain the most out of it.



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