The last weekend in July is the Crawford County Fair, which for the last two years I have entered a cake for the cake decoration and tasting competitions.
The first year I entered was astonished to find that my Bird’s Nest Cake won Grand Champion. Then last year I decided to up my game making various test cakes until I was ready to submit my Coffee and Doughnut cake, which also won first place.
This year with so many home improvement projects underway I almost had forgotten a about the Fair. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to put something together just in time to be judged.
The inspiration for this year’s cake came from Sugar High’s beautiful cake topper I saw on Facebook. When I saw these adorable love whales I was like I bet I could make that out of cake.
When considering what my whales would be made of, I thought blueberries might be helpful in making the cake blue. Turns out blue berries make a more purple dye than blue, but I didn’t realize this at the time.
Since I wanted to pair the cake with blueberries, I needed a base that worked well with them. After a little research I decided to go with a lemon cake.
I found the Baking is a Science Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling recipe on Pinterest and decided that would be the cake I would make, with one change. I was worried there would be enough lemon in the cake so I opted to add a full 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice and cut down the buttermilk to 3/4 cup, instead of a full 1 cup.
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups vegetable oil
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 2/3 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (preferably fresh)
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 4 extra large eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolks
- 1/3cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup Cool Whip
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup blueberry puree and juice
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
- pinch of salt
- 5-6 cups confectioner’s sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Shift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixer.
- Mix on low adding in the vegetable oil and vanilla until the ingredients are blended together then raise the speed to low-medium and continue to mix until smooth.
- Add 1 egg at a time, adding the next one after the previous one has been absorbed into the mixture. Stop the mixer periodically and scrape the bowl from the bottom with a rubber spatula to integrate ingredients, and return the mixer to low-medium speed.
- Once the eggs are well blended add in the lemon juice. Mix until smooth.
- With the mixer on low-medium speed, gradually add in the buttermilk.
- Continue to mix for another minute or until the mixture appears smooth.
- Bake for 30 -45 minutes, or until a toothpick to the center comes out clean.
- Beat the butter and sugar in mixer until well creamed.
- Slowly add the eggs and yolks.
- Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
- In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth.
- Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon.Don't let the mixture boil.
- Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl.
- Fold in 1/4 cup of Cool Whip
- Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools.
- Note: Mine never really did thicken.
- Then, place a generous amount (or however much you desire) on top of the first layer of cake and spread out.
- In mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth.
- Add blueberry puree and juice, vanilla, lemon zest and salt, and mix on medium-low until well-combined.
- Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating on low speed until combined. Then beat for 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
To carve out the whale shape I made four small loaf cakes, using the single cake recipe. I filled and stacked two loafs each creating two whales.
Using a bread knife, I carved off a bit of the top to create a tapered edge, this would extend down to the whale’s tail, I would be sculpting out of fondant.
With my test cake the curd filling was a disaster as it never solidified and just kind of soaked into the cake. At first I thought it maybe because I hadn’t let it chill long enough. However, my second attempt I got a similar result after a few hours of chilling. Finally I decided to add 1/4 cup Cool Whip to the filling. This unfortunately did nothing and once again my filling bleed into the cake. Despite my filling being soaked into the cake, the cake itself held up really good after being iced with buttercream and refrigerated over night.
Covering the cake proved to be a bit of a challenge, and only having made one test cake, I hadn’t had much practice at it. Although the final results are okay, I wasn’t happy with the odd seams. I also rolled the fondant a bit too thin on one of the whales, and there was some cracking and bubbling that occurred.
Once the cake was placed on its board I decided to set the scene of our whales. I covered the board with blue buttercream to simulate an ocean. Along the edge I scattered a mixture of brown sugar and graham cracker crumbs, to create a beachfront.
Then using some left over fondant I made some rather fun edible embellishments, of seashells and even an adorable crab.
While I felt rushed in making this cake in comparison to the years before, I was still quite happy with its outcome.
The cake was to be judged in both decoration and taste. I wasn’t there for the actual judging but it appeared no one else entered the decorating portion, so it seemed that they didn’t even give out awards in that category.
Thus, my cute cake was merrily judged on taste, which I graciously won third place for. Unlike past years I didn’t really have time to fiddle with the cake recipe and I foresaw the cake being a little too sweet and maybe even too lemony for some pallets.
Still third place out of 18 entries isn’t bad, and I still won a ribbon.
While I can’t say this is my best cake I did have a lot of fun making my Whale of a cake, even on a tight schedule.