Fall Leaves Cake
by Jenn Mancini
(Huntington Beach, CA)
I wanted to make a cake for my family this Thanksgiving that was simple, but also a little bit unexpected. Rather than make a goofy, smiling cartoon turkey, I tried to find inspiration elsewhere. The trees outside my office had been dropping these leaves everywhere, and they were so many different shapes and fantastic colors. I collected my favorites and brought them home to wash.
The cake itself is two layers of Devil's food, iced with classic Wilton chocolate buttercream (medium consistency) and I used vanilla pudding as the filling so it would not be chocolate overload. I put it on the cake board and then piped a basketweave pattern all the way around the outside with the same icing. It is the technique taught in Wilton Course #2, using Tip Nos. 7 and 47. This was probably the most complicated part of the design.
The stars of the cake are the leaves. The light orange ones were made using white Wilton Candy Melts, tinted with icing color. After washing the leaves, I painted the melted chocolate on the back of each one. After chilling in the fridge for about 10 minutes, I repeated the process two more times so they had three full layers of chocolate on them. After chilling thoroughly again for a few hours, I peeled off the leaves (carefully, since a few did break) and the chocolate picked up the vein pattern off the leaves. The large red one is a real leaf... it was just too pretty on its own and I couldn't bear the idea of painting chocolate all over it. I also kept it intact just in case the chocolate ones failed and I needed it for the main decoration -- haha!
It's always good to have a Plan B. I used extra chocolate buttercream as "glue" on the back of the leaves to attach them to the cake, and worked quickly to arrange them on top of the cake in a semi-organized, semi-random way. The chocolate melts from the warmth of your hands so it is best not to touch them any more than necessary.
The cake was definitely the most popular dessert item on the table this year and I was very proud! Everyone grabbed it first and left more than one pie untouched sitting next to it. Proof that even simple designs can be enthralling to people.
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