Monday, October 19, 2015

Halloween Brain Cake

Author: Jose G. Barr

A few years ago, after my 4th or 5th knee surgery, while I was recovering I tool an interest in baking. I started with cupcakes and worked my way into cakes and using fondant.  Baking and decorating cakes is a time for me to reflect and think about the day or week. This past week, after having watched the beginning of season 6 of The Walking Dead, and reading Yolanda Gampps article on the brain cake (kudos on an amazing cake), I decided to try my hand at it as well. 

First things first, you will need to bake a red velvet cake in a round bowl. My favorite is from The Food Networks Chef Alton Browns red velvet cake recipe. For this cake you will not need the cream cheese filling. Prepare the cake batter as instructed and pour into a round metal or glass bowl for baking. This will give you the basic shape to begin carving your brain.

While you cake cools, make some simple syrup to give your cake some moisture.  Making a simple syrup is easy. Place 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Some recipes direct you to bring it to a boil and then turn it off and let it cool, I like to let the syrup boil for about 3 to 4 minutes to give it a slightly thicker consistency. How you make it is completely up to you. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and place in a container. 

Once the cake has cooled, place the cake on a good work surface and start carving the cake until your have the basic shape of a brain. Pull up a picture of a brain on your phone or tablet to give you a general idea of what you want it to look like. When you are done, you will take the simple syrup you made earlier and drizzle it over your cake, use enough to give it some moisture, but not so much that it gets soggy.  

Next comes the crumb coat.  What is a crumb coat? Well, the best way to describe it is like a primer coat when painting something. The primer coat allows for a smoother, better looking finish.  In cake decorating, the crumb coat is the first layer of frosting placed on a cake, often picking up crumbs from the carved cake along the way.  you want your frosting to be a thinner consistency than what you would normally use, this allows you to spread it on the cake without doing any damage.  Once you have finished your crumb coat place the cake in the refrigerator for about an hour to allow the crumb coat to set.  

When the crumb coat has set you can begin work on the brain itself. For this I used Wilton's decorator Preferred Fondant. It is easy to work with and has a good taste to it. There are others on the market that are not as tasty and are much stiffer and difficult to work with.  Take the fondant out of its package and begin working with small amounts of it, rolling it into ropy lengths about as thick around as your pinky finger and 2 to 3 inches long. You will use these to simulate the folds of the brain. remember that every brain looks different and the patterns are different. Remember to separate the left and right hemispheres of the brain when you are placing the fondant.  Begin at the bottom, working your way up each side, pressing the fondant onto the cake firmly, but not so much that you take away from the cylindrical shape of the folds.  Once this is done, you will take the remainder of the your fondant to make the cerebellum at the rear bottom of the brain.   

For the bloody color I used raspberry jam as suggested by Ms. Yolanda Gampp, but I diluted the jam with the remaining simple syrup to make it easier to work with. I used a decorators bottle to drizzle the bloody ooze all over the cake. Next time I do this cake I will use a decorating brush to brush the color on rather than drizzle it.  
In the end my friends, making this cake was a fun way to relieve stress and spend some time with my beautiful wife who helped me with rolling the fondant.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

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