• Bear Birthday Cake

    Happy birthday to my little bear cub!  I made this cake without a cake mix, almost all organic ingredients and no food dyes.  I have two little cubs…well, actually, one bear cub and one mouse…I don’t like to use valuable sleep time on baking, so I had to quickly do this during a nap and a park date with Daddy.  As I was finishing the “fur,” the garage door was literally opening with their return.  There are a few flaws that I can pick out in the picture (like that darn eye on the right!) but feel free to spend as much time and creative ability as you have available.  I won’t go into every detail as to how I made this, but I will provide some links to help fill in the gaps.

    This cake took me approximately 3 hours to make and decorate, so plan according to your ability.  I baked the cake the night before the party, then the next day made the whipped cream and ganache and decorated it.  

    >First, the cake.  I really like Martha’s vanilla cake.  It is moist, not too sweet and easy to make.  Be sure to follow good baking practices like using room temperature butter and eggs, preparing the pans, measuring accurately, using light colored pans, following directions precisely and using cake strips.  Since I used cake strips, my cake came out of the oven perfectly flat and did not need to be trimmed.  If your cake has a center dome, carefully trim off the top with a sharp bread knife to flatten the surface.

    Versatile Vanilla Cake from Martha Stewart

    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3 large egg yolks
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.
    3. Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack. Let cool completely before decorating.
    If you are going to finish the next day:  When cakes are mostly cool, place cakes on cake boards or the bottoms of springform pans and wrap well with plastic wrap.  Store at room temperature (on the kitchen counter.)  I buy most of my cake supplies through Joanne’s and use their 50% off one item coupons through their fliers.
    >Second, make a template.  I used the cake pan as a guide to draw two 9 inch circles on paper.  On one paper circle, I freehanded and then cut out the shapes I needed complete the bear – two ears and one circle for the snout.  I traced around a drinking glass for the snout’s circle.  When I was happy with them, I traced and cut them out of sturdy construction paper.  I did this while the cake was in the oven.  When I was ready to decorate, I held the sturdy paper ears and snout circle on one of the cakes and cut around them with a sharp knife.  Then, I used a basting brush to get rid of excess crumbs on the pieces.  Don’t throw away the trimmings!  Keep them in an airtight container for a little treat later to dip into your leftover ganache and cream.

    >Make the frostings:   The frostings  both are incredibly easy to make and very fast, however, the ganache needs to come down to about room temperature to whip, so make it first.  Italian meringue buttercreams or French buttercreams take time and several bowls to wash.  Ganache and whipped cream, however, take approximately 5 minutes each to make once you know what you are doing.  I have two mixer bowls for my Kitchenaid mixer, but if you don’t, you will need to empty out one frosting into another bowl when it is done and wash the bowl so you can use it again for the second frosting.

    Whipped Chocolate Ganache

    Chocolate Ganache from Food Network

    • 8 ounces Semisweet Chocolate
    • 1 cup Heavy Cream, boiling

    Directions:  In a medium bowl, pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.

    To make it whipped:  Wait several hours (*yawn*) at room temperature or place in the refrigerator.   When the ganache has partially cooled and set, whip with a mixer using a whisk blade (*be patient – it takes a few minutes, but if it doesn’t work at all, try cooling it for a bit longer*) until it looks like a regular chocolate frosting consistency.


    Mascarpone Whipped Cream from The Cake Bible

    *Notes: I halved this recipe, but if you want to fill the cake and decorate comfortably, make the whole recipe.  This is also tricky to smooth, so if you’d like to save some time and money, use plain whipped cream, however, this recipe is heavenly!  If you cringe at the price of mascarpone, just think about how much this cake would cost you at a bakery…a LOT.


    • 2 cups mascarpone
    • 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream
    In a mixing bowl place the mascarpone and sugar and start beating at medium speed, preferably using the whisk beater.  Gradually beat in the cream.  The mixture may curdle at first but continue beating and it will become a smooth cream.
    >Construct the cake:  Find yourself a nice surface to hold the entire cake.  I used a cheese board and covered it in aluminum foil.  Place your 9 inch round cake where you like it and the pieces to form the bear’s head.  I used a bit of whipped cream as “glue” to keep my pieces from sliding – under the entire cake, under the smaller circle and for the ears.  Big pancake spatulas can be helpful during this step.
    BUT HERE WAS MY MISTAKE —  I meant to cut the main circle in half (horizontally) and use some of the whipped cream as a filling.  I forgot.  It really should be there.  So don’t forget!  If this part scares you, here’s a great video…and I promise it’s not that hard.

    The “bear” bones of the cake…

    >Frost and decorate:  Using an offset spatula, make a crumb coat on your cake by covering the entire surface with a thin coating of whipped ganache.  (see picture below) Make inner ears, eyes and snout a lighter color by using the whipped cream.  I mixed a small amount of unwhipped, cooled ganache into my whipped cream to make it tan.  When smoothing the whipped cream, keep a cup of hot water and a towel close.  Dip and wipe spatula often.

    Create the fur by using a decorating tip with multiple holes like the #233 tip from Wilton.  I also used tips #5, #12 and #1 – using the larger ones for the nose and ears and smallest one for the writing and whisker dots.  You can also use a star tip, but I like the shaggy fur look!  Click here for a fantastic video of my favorite cake hero, Rose Levy Beranbaum, instruct on how to get your pastry bags ready and basic piping techniques. To make the eyeballs, take a small amount of cold ganache and roll it into two small balls.  Place in refrigerator until hard and you are ready for it.

    “Beary” close to being done!

    >Variations:  A pink pig with pointier ears and strawberry whipped cream frosting, a panda bear with unwhipped chocolate and white chocolate ganache, a dog with longer ears and same coloring, a cat with peach whipped cream snout and white chocolate ganache fur, a mouse with larger, round ears, a rabbit, etc…the options are limitless!

    Happy birthday, Baby Bear!


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  1. […]  my favorite vanilla cake recipe is also from Martha.  You can find what I made with it in this link.  This recipe was found on the blog Confessions of […]