A Rubik’s Cube Cake

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

 
 

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Malcolm Turns 11

Malcolm turned 11 over the weekend.

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He had missed school for 2 weeks because he was infected with the mumps virus.
Yes he was vaccinated and we were totally clueless where or how he caught the virus.

A week before he got infected, we were just saying that we hardly see kids with mumps these days. I remember it used to be a common infection because all my siblings had it when we were young. I was explaining to the boys how the old folks believe that the ‘cure’ to mumps was to ask someone born in the year of tiger to write the Chinese character 虎 on the infected cheek with some sort of blue ink mixed in awful vinegar. The ‘tiger’ was supposed to ‘eat’ up the ‘pig’ which is what you called mumps in Hokkien, translated to  (猪头皮) in Chinese. It sounds like a silly thing to do but we all went through that when we were little, even my husband wasn’t spared. We were all laughing about it and then the next thing we know, Malcolm caught it.

We brought him to the A&E on a Saturday and the nurse immediately whisked him off to an isolated area as they already suspected it was mumps. We were out in half an hour whereas the other patients had to wait 2 hours in line. We found out that mumps was considered a highly contagious. disease.

The doctor came, had a quick look and sent him home with 2 weeks of mc and a bag of painkiller. Without any blood test or whatsoever, he concluded that ‘it was most likely mumps’. At the back of my mind I was thinking, what if it turned out to be something else? what if the swell doesn’t go away after 2 week?!

So we waited. The swell got worse. For a couple of days, he only had mushy porridge because anything else would be too difficult to chew with his very swollen and painful parotid glands.

Thankfully the swell did subside after 2 weeks but unfortunately we missed his birthday. I had his party all thought out but we were unsure whether he could recover in time and I was quite sure none of his friends’ parents would want their kids to risk an infection for a birthday party.

I did managed to bake him a cake, a very chocolatey one as per his request and we had a simple celebration with a couple of friends and family.

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Happy 11th Birthday to my nerdy, smart alecky boy.
Love you loads!
xx

 

 

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Dear Malcolm

You turned 10 on Easter Friday and you chose a beach holiday over a birthday party because you realised that it would probably be the last chance for you to visit the beautiful beaches in this part of the world.

We spent the long Easter weekend at a popular tourist destination 3 hours from where we live. It was cloudy and windy, but it didn’t stop you from having a blast at the beach. You raced with the tides and crashing waves. White sand beach and emerald green water made you so happy.

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We spent hours building sand castles at the beach and you were determined to build the best sand castle. It was good to see you so focused and determined to do something well.

photo 3 (28)Later in the evening, we went to a local seafood place for your birthday dinner. It was a little restaurant that sat on stilts and stretched into the sea. A little run down, no frills, nothing extravagant or fanciful. You loved it and I was happy you did because the last thing we want is for you to grow up with a sense of entitlement especially on this special day.

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Before we left for the beach holiday, you had a great time celebrating your birthday with your friends and teachers in school though. The minecraft birthday cake I baked made you so happy. Before that, you’ve been telling me that I needn’t have to because you knew how much effort it took. You can be muddle headed but once in a while you surprised me with your thoughtfulness.

It was also the same day, when your “favouritest” librarian, Mr Martin told you that you had broken the school reading record and were on your way to setting a new record for the school. His beard was still there though. I think you must have made him ‘work’ very hard to keep his beard this year!

Frankly, I was the excited parent while you were nonchalant. To you, it didn’t matter whether there was a reading test or if there was a target to hit. It didn’t matter whether you came first or last. You read because it was fun. Period.

Even though you had hit your reading target, you picked up your first Harry Potter books and devoured 2 books over the weekend. You think that the next best reader in your class did well despite the fact that his score was only a fraction of yours and you weren’t particularly eager to announce your score to the class. You remember what we said about being smart. That it matters more to put in effort and to have a positive attitude. And that nothing is quite impossible when you put your heart to it.

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I am proud of you in so many ways. I am proud that you are humble and that you are kind and sensitive to your friends’ feelings.

I am happy that you seem to understand that the only person you really need to compete against is yourself. Most of all, I am happy that you are driven not by recognition and fame but by a genuine love and passion.

You may be just 10 but sometimes I feel you already have the answers to some of the big questions in life.

It is my wish and hope that you will never lose sight of the really important stuff as you grow up in this competitive, materialistic and mostly imperfect world.

Love Always,
Mummy
 

 

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