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Graduation Hat & Diploma Cake

I have a dream that one day I'll decorate a cake and everything will run smoothly. I won't run into any difficulties, everything will come out as planned, and my finished product will be something I don't see any flaws in. By the looks of things, that dream isn't coming true any time soon. And this cake in particular wasn't very encouraging. Out of all the cakes I've ever made, this one definitely gave me the highest blood pressure.

Things were off to a good start at first. The cakes baked nicely, compliments of Pillsbury and the custard filling was delicious and more importantly, stiff. I made a dam of the filling around the outer perimeter of the cake to hold the filling like I usually do, added some sliced strawberries, more filling, and then placed the second cake layer on top. Things were all jolly until I started to do my crumb coat and the filling started sticking to my spatula and mixing in with the frosting.

Since that has never happened to me before, I immediately started freaking out...and then I fixed it by using more frosting. I realize now that I probably should have made a dam of frosting around the outer perimeter, rather than a dam of filling. And I also shouldn't have made the dam so close to the edge of the cake. Either way, I learned my lesson...which by the way, was the first of many lessons I learned in this endeavor.

But before we get into lesson two, can someone please explain to me how you can get worse at smoothing out frosting the more practice you get? I had so much trouble with smoothing out the frosting on this cake and as I looked back on previous cakes, I wondered how I had done such a better job. I don't think it helps that I'm a perfectionist either, because each time I think I've gotten the frosting smooth enough, I feel like it could be better. And then I just make it worse. And then I cry about it and try again. And then I just give up. That is literally the series of events that takes place, every single time.

The next problem I faced while making this cake made my lack of smooth frosting seem so insignificant. I ran out of red food coloring. Wait, let me rephrase. I used nearly a whole tube of red gel food coloring on maybe about a cup of frosting and all I got was a shade of hot pink. Betty Crocker, you are a wonderful person and you have some pretty legit cake mixes and frostings, but your gel food colors SUCK. I don't think using a whole tube of any of the colors in that box will get you the shade that you want...except maybe yellow. The thing is, I have known for a while that Betty Crocker food colors suck, but I just assumed that I'd be able to get the right shade if I didn't use a lot of frosting. Obviously, I was wrong. And it was too late to go to Michaels and get a proper Wilton icing color. So, my only option was to go to A&P and get red food coloring.

Well, A&P doesn't sell their food colorings separately. So, it was either, buy another box of whack gel food colors and risk STILL not having the right shade of red; buy a really small tube of red icing that is generally used to decorate cookies, or buy a larger tube of red Cake Mate decorating icing. I went with Cake Mate. Tubes of Cake Mate icing are actually supposed to be used with Cake Mate decorating tips, but I just cut the top of the tube off and squeezed all the icing into my decorating bag and saved the day. The moral of the story? Always make sure you have the right amount of every ingredient before you decorate and NEVER assume/estimate that you have enough. Ever.

After my red food coloring dilemma had been resolved, I was ready to finally make the hat and diploma and get things going. I used Wilton black icing color for the first time and it was...interesting. First of all, you have to use a good amount of the color or else you'll get some weird shade of purple. Secondly, I advise you to instantly wash anything the icing color or the dyed frosting makes contact with. It stains BADLY. I may or may not have accidentally stained my mom's plastic tablecover which may or may not have made her swear off me decorating another cake ever again...but she'll take it back hopefully.

My favorite part about decorating this cake was definitely the tassel on the hat. My least favorite part was the black icing color melting into the tassel and making it look dark red rather than the bright red that it was. Like I said, that black icing color is dangerous. But it's kind of my fault because I left the cake in my garage overnight and although the temperature in there is usually very cool, it must have not been cool enough that day. My mom, of course, didn't realize this so when she went to do a touch test the next morning and see if the frosting was dry, she ended up poking/denting the cake and obviously discovering that it wasn't dry. And then I found out and threw a fit. Gratefully, the ribbon I tied around the bottom border of the cake sort of covered up the dent she had made. 

Just when I thought that all the mishaps were finally over, the white styrofoam board that I use to reflect light on my photo subjects landed flat on the cake, fortunately, AFTER I was done taking all my pictures. What a grand finale right? Sigh. Since I had stuck the cake in the freezer to cool beforehand, it didn't really get ruined. And in the end, the graduation girl loved her cake, and let's face it, that's all that really matters :)

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  1. I thing that in the end you did a gread job. Congrads to you!!

  2. I have done cakes semi professionally for years and STILL can't get them smooth. So I just decorate the daylights out of them!


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