Hamburger cake!

I offered to make a little cake for some friends who were getting married, just for the formality of cutting a cake at the reception – they were having a very informal wedding and potluck reception, and didn’t want a big fancy cake. The bride deferred to the groom on type of cake, saying she liked anything and he was more particular, but said he’d probably want a hamburger cake because he’d been quite taken with some at the grocery store. He was not present for that conversation – when I asked him what kind of cake he’d like, he said “hamburger cake.” No hesitation. So hamburger cake it was!

hamburger cake!

Clearly before the protective strips of parchment were removed. Those bottles contain red and yellow icing for people to add to their slices.

The hubs did at least as much work on this as I did, I should say. I started with a Food Network cheeseburger cake “recipe”, though I couldn’t find a 2.5-quart bowl, only a 2-quart bowl, and we decided to make only the burger patty chocolate.

A couple of weeks ahead I did a dry run. I thought I would make a finished, decorated product, but I ended up only baking the cake. I used half a box of chocolate cake mix (1 layer) and a full box of vanilla cake mix (3 layers, which seemed annoyingly excessive at first but turned out to be the right amount).

"dry run" cake in oven "dry run" cake

I took photos with my phone for later reference so the next cake wouldn’t be so bottom-heavy – the top “bun” looked silly, like a little hat perched on top, and the bottom bun could lose up to half its thickness and still be fine. However – look! A burger!

At this point we also thought the bare cake for the bun looked nicer than the icing-covered version, though no icing meant no sesame seeds (rice krispies being the universal “hamburger cake sesame seeds” according to my research). That’s actually why we did the “condiments” – the lack of bun icing meant overall a low quantity of icing, and we thought it would be nice for people to be able to add more if they wanted.

The day of the wedding we worked on the cake for SIX HOURS. I did not expect this to be a six-hour cake, but we made a lot of icing and had to go out for more powdered sugar at one point.

preparing the pans with parchment and grease filled pans (and bowl)

Preparing and filling the pans: cut out circles of parchment paper on the regular pans, thorough vegetable shortening on the bowl (via paper towel). A lot more batter in the bowl this time around – two-thirds full. Note that the bowl will take a long time to bake and even the pans will take longer because of the full oven. The tomato slice will be quicker, but for everything else start with a 30 minute timer.

leveled chocolate cake with crumbs for siding chocolate cake without its center, oops

I leveled the chocolate layer on a plate, saving the crumbs so I could put icing around the outside and pat them on (a great idea from the Food Network version). Unfortunately I should have put parchment on the plate beforehand and I lost the middle of the layer when I flipped it onto the bottom bun. A lot of toothpicks and additional icing later and it was okay, but not stable – it kind of disintegrated on the way to the wedding. I was able to make it look all right but there is a reason there aren’t as many photos of the finished cake as there might be…

getting the top bun out of the bowl

Flexible dough scraper with rounded edge: the perfect tool to get the top layer out of the bowl.

cheese and lettuce icing tomato slice on the cake/burger

The hubs insisted on cheese, lettuce, and tomato, and fortunately we had a small-scale cake pan (in fact it was retrieved from the to-donate box, so good timing!). I baked a skinny cake layer and he soaked it in glaze-style icing (powdered sugar and milk, as opposed to the easy vanilla buttercream – plus cocoa powder as appropriate – of the rest). He colored all the icing, except the green which was commercial, and iced on the cheese and lettuce. It was a minor miracle when we added the tomato slice; suddenly it all looked right.

an attempt at frilly toothpicks part 1 an attempt at frilly toothpicks part 2

We’ll close with a failed experiment – frilly toothpicks. I cut strips of fruit roll-ups into fringe and rolled them around the ends of bamboo skewers. I corn-starched one side of each strip but probably should have done both… on the way to the wedding they just solidified into a wad of gummy at the end of the skewers.

Larks as Learning Opportunities

Last night I went through a stack of magazines I’d picked up at a tourist information stand and free at work. Something caught my eye as I was paging through a tourism magazine, and a while later I had this:

No. 1: The Larch.
No. 1: The Larch. 9″x12″, 2017. Sketch pad paper, Mod Podge, two outdated issues of the Vermont Visitor’s Guide.

Well, not literally; I trimmed the edges this morning. But essentially.

Just a lark, slopped together with lots of mod podge and minimal care. I intend to make more collages in the future, though, so I thought I’d record what went well here and what I would change if I were doing a collage like this to be a serious piece.

The Good:

  • I laid my sketch pad paper out on waxed paper and glued magazine clippings off the edge. The waxed paper meant I could turn it over and see the edges for trimming this morning without having to try to peel it off in advance.
  • I had tons and tons of the little clippings. I kept cutting them even though I was sure I would end up with something like twice as many as I needed. Nope, I needed all of them.
  • I saved out one of each version of the key to make sure they were all represented on the top layer.

The Not So Good:

  • I couldn’t get a sweet spot between too much and not enough Mod Podge in its role as adhesive. If it was a thick enough layer not to dry immediately it wrinkled the paper and made it translucent. If I were doing this “for real,” I would … well, I’d be a lot more careful in a lot of ways! But in particular, I wouldn’t use Mod Podge as the primary adhesive. Instead, I’d use a glue stick to attach one round of clippings (probably over half) with minimal overlap but hopefully good coverage. Then I would dab on a thin layer of Mod Podge, covering the whole page, and let it dry. Intermediate layers of Mod Podge should mean I wouldn’t have to worry about making sure the glue stick was all the way out to the corners of every clipping. Repeat with the rest of the non-reserved clippings, and finally with the reserved clippings. Then probably one more layer of Mod Podge, thicker now because the previous coatings should protect the paper from wrinkling.

Quite a bit gained from following that moment of silly inspiration!

I’ve got a fever!

And the only prescription is… more Mod Podge!

notebooks decorated with magazine cutouts and other paper, via mod podge

It started with the silver notebook. I got it for free at work but it had a big ol’ vendor logo across the front. I wanted to cover it, and pulled out a magazine clipping from my stash – but my Mod Podge was nowhere to be found (it probably dried up). After procuring new Podge, I covered that, but then thought, “what other notebooks could I decorate?”

I wasn’t so keen on the tan plaid notebook to begin with; it came in a set. The chickens, from the back cover of a calendar, dress it up nicely, despite one likely being 90 degrees incorrectly positioned. The gopher-y creature was the front of a birthday card received from my parents years ago. I liked that notebook fine, but the whole back cover still has the zig-zag lines so there’s no real loss.

At that point I thought my supply had dried up – my remaining notebooks were too attractive to decoupage some random paper onto. Then I had a meeting and took the pinkish notebook – and realized I’d been using it for two years and was only maybe 1/4 through. Boring! Addition time. I do wish I’d trimmed out some of the white between the leaves near the bottom of the image, but it’s nice nonetheless.

Decoupage: highly recommended for instant gratification.