For the Love of Fondant Asparagus (and 8-Layer Cakes)

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, hello! Please forgive the fact that it’s been 10 days since my last post–I would have shared one sooner, but I swear I’ve been dyeing, rolling, snipping, and dusting fondant asparagus since the last post. If you’ve never seen the earlier version of this cake, then I’m excited to share it’s craziness (and deliciousness) with you for the first time; if you have and you’re wondering why in the world I’ve made it again, well, I couldn’t resist.

The thing is, I’m usually partial to much traditionally prettier, and much less hyper-realistic novelty cakes, but under the circumstances of the first Asparagus Cake, it just made perfect sense to attempt a fondant asparagus wrapped layer cake. After the first time, I somehow fell in love with it’s quirky beauty and unexpected appearance. You can read all about the creation of my first version here (which happened to be one of my very first blog posts!), but I’ll quickly explain that I first made it back in October, for Grant’s gorgeous sister, Mary. She had eaten heaps of asparagus for months, while rigorously training for a fitness competition. I recall a text she sent me a few days before her show, expressing her disgust with eating even one more asparagus, and when I had asked her what she wanted for her first post-show meal,  she said “anything but asparagus!” She also requested that we have any kind of chocolate cake with Swiss meringue buttercream for dessert. At first I started planning a pink, ruffly cake, and then with no warning, it came to me in the middle of the night: whatever it took, I had to conceal her rich chocolate cake and buttercream with a bunch of asparagus made from fondant.

I began working on it the very next morning, and didn’t stop until it looked as realistic as possible. She loved it and the proverbial “icing on the cake” was that she came in first place! Ever since that time, I’ve been eager to create and photograph this cake again, and I thought it would be fun to kick it up a notch this time by building an 8-layer chocolate cake inside, as opposed to the traditional 3-layer version I did originally. Asparagus or not, slicing and serving an 8-layer cake just feels right.

Asparagus via Sweetapolita

Just as I did the first time, I referred to a real bunch (above) of asparagus for inspiration, but, it’s funny — even though they’re green and, well, all vegetable-ish, I see such beauty in them, particularly raw and full of purple highlights. Creating them out of fondant and petal dust is actually very similar to creating hundreds of sugar flowers — each one unique and full of organic details and personality.

Sweetapolita

Little Neve was a trooper through this project, and I’m pretty sure she spent the duration of the week trying to figure out what I was doing. She sat with me in the daytime while I made hundreds of fondant asparagus tips and stalks . . .

Sweetapolita

I’ll give her another year of freedom, but then she’ll be ready for some official fondant-asparagus-training.

Sweetapolita

For now,  just being adorable, making me laugh, and keeping me sane while I dye, roll, cut, snip, and dust for days, will do perfectly fine.

In the works . . . can you believe I actually find building this cake therapeutic?

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

After a few days, it’s done! I was dying to slice into this because I knew the 8-layer chocolate cake factor was going to make it even crazier looking . . .

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

And I’m always up for some crazy! Ooh, dramatic desserts will always have my heart. Always. Most of the time when I make chocolate layer cakes, I use my standby Rich Chocolate Cake recipe, which is a one-bowl, moist, dark cake. A few weeks ago for the Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake, I did a southern version of Devil’s Food Cake including butter, mayonnaise, and buttermilk; it was unbelievable! This week, I thought it would be fun to try another Devil’s Food Cake recipe (typically richer than the one-bowl cake and made butter-cake style by creaming sugar, adding wet and dry ingredients separately, etc), so I played around with a more traditional version that didn’t include mayonnaise.

I baked three 8-inch round pans and then sliced each one into 2 for this cake. You may be asking yourself how I get an 8-layer cake with a total of 6 layers, but the truth is I had a layer of chocolate cake I needed to use up, and so I sliced it in two and popped it on top to create 8-layers sandwiched between vanilla swiss meringue buttercream (I should add that I added about 20% less butter this batch, and it was gorgeous; don’t be afraid to play around with your ratios.). I can’t stress enough how quickly you can create a wow-factor by slicing a regular 3-layer cake into a total of 6 layers — it only takes a few extra moments, and it changes the complete dynamic of the cake! It could even be a classic vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream or filling, and once you start stacking layer upon layer, it offers a touch of drama.

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, the good news for you is that I’ll spare you the step-by-step tutorial on how to make an Asparagus Cake, because I have a feeling that I’m the only one silly enough to spend days making a layer cake so unusual, but I’d love to share this variation of the Devil’s Food Cake I baked for this cake. Its texture is a bit lighter than the southern Devil’s Food Layer Cake, but it’s a gorgeous classic version and divine in its own right.

NEW! How to Make a Fondant Asparagus Cake {a Tutorial}

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dark Devil’s Food Cake            {click here for printable recipe}

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans

3/4 cup Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark

1/2 cup boiling water

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Add boiling water to sifted cocoa powder in medium bowl and whisk; set aside to cool.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.

Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting and whisk together. Whisk buttermilk into cocoa mixture. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan to ensure even layers.  Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 35 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes barely clean. Try not to over-bake. I tend to under-bake a few moments, so the skewer is a little bit gummy. This works well for a moist chocolate cake (not vanilla). Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Moist Devil’s Food Cake

For Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe, visit the previous post Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified

You may also find this previous post helpful 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes

The Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (my all-time favourite) is what makes this chocolate cake taste so incredible. You can find it by clicking here: Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark

Good luck & enjoy!

Love, Rosie xo

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