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Out on a Limb

11/04/2013

I don’t know what it is about Halloween that inspires me to attempt the craziest of cakes. Last year, it was the Killer Klown. This year, I had decided not to bother, but then, at the last minute, the spirit of spookiness—and competition—won out.

I decided to adapt the Christmas-favorite bûche de Noël for a different holiday, turning the traditional tree limb into, well, a limb of a different kind.

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Yes it was entirely edible—though I wouldn’t recommend the ooozy parts, unless you have a thing for pure corn syrup.

First, I baked a standard chocolate cake in a jelly-roll pan and frosted it with caramel frosting. (This was the same cake and frosting combo I have writtten about before. The only difference was the baking time of approximately 18 minutes.

Then I rolled up the frosted cake along its longer edge. This was harder than I remembered, and I experienced some technical difficulties. In the end they didn’t matter, as the cake was all covered up, but I recommend turning the cake out onto plastic or parchment before frosting it. If you’ve never tackled a jelly roll or yule-log cake before, definitely find a recipe to study its helpful hints.

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I cut the “log” in to parts and arranged them on the cake board at a slight angle, to suggest an arm or a leg. Then I cut a bit from one end of the cake to fill in the knee-slash-elbow. At the time, I wasn’t sure which limb it would be. It ended up being a leg.

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After the angle was achieved, I used the rest of the caramel frosting to seal in the crumbs, and I put the cake in the fridge. Then I made the fondant, using this easy recipe. I had never made fondant before, and I am happy to have finally tried it. For a first-time effort, it went very well, though I definitely learned a few “don’ts” along the way.

The nice thing about fondant, versus buttercream frosting, is that it’s a lot less messy. I worked with the same intense food colorings as always, but my hands remained relatively clean. Colored buttercream stains your hands and towels, no matter how tidy you are. But the fondant seemed to trap the dyes. I was pleasantly surprised. It was very easy to mix in the colors, like working with modeling clay. You just separate your dough into batches and knead color drops into each one.

I made three different colors for the flesh: a tone I likened to Silly Putty, a putrid gangrenous green, and a batch that worked the two together like horrific marbled rye. I was going for “severed zombie arm.” I think it turned out well.

Everything decorating the limb is edible except the bone; I bought that at the Halloween store, sawed it off, and pushed it into the stump. At the other end is a small disk of “chopped off bone,” two pink “worms,” and some “maggots.” All of those were made with fondant, and none of them were eaten. The oozy stuff is your basic “movie blood” recipe: corn syrup with food coloring stirred in. The bone end was just lots of super-red, and the rotting end was both black and green. I don’t blame anyone for not tasting the ends of the cake. The black was pretty disgusting.

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I layered the fondant in sections, and then smoothed the seams together. With more practice I could have handled that better. The dough separated a few times. In retrospect, I should have rolled it out and chilled it again before lifting. The fondant got warm and soft rather quickly, so I had to work in sections. I put the cake in the fridge between stages to let the fondant harden. And of course, it sat in there overnight, getting nice and firm.

I wish I liked the taste of fondant; that is really my only gripe. This recipe was great to work with, and as good as fondant can be. It’s certainly better than the store-bought stuff, or those weird marshmallow concoctions.

From start to finish, the entire process took exactly four hours. This includes chilling time and cleaning up, so that wasn’t bad at all. Most of the buttercream cakes have taken much longer and usually more than one night. I’ll definitely use fondant next year, whatever I decide to make. If you decide to tackle a cake like this, be sure to warn your housemates before leaving it in the fridge ….

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From → Crafty, Desserts

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