Art is Joy: Painted Chocolate Peanut Butter & Jelly Cakes

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Every child is an artist. –Pablo Picasso

Happy Friday to you! This is a bit of a long (but colourful) post, guys, so you may want to grab a bucket of Skittles and a big glass of milk and get comfy. Heck, make it strawberry milk. Simply put, this post makes me happy. Art is joy and, well, cake isn’t half bad either. So, when I can marry most of my favourite things in life into one post, there’s no getting around it making me so happy. Let’s see, we’ve got colour + art + my cakelets + chocolate + cake + peanut butter buttercream . . . yep, that’s pretty much happiness in a nutshell.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Art is just a way of life at our house. Aside from my own colourful chaos that has seemingly taken over our home, I have been blessed with two small girls who both embrace art everyday. Sometimes all day. So, even though it adds to that colourful chaos I mentioned, I have started to encourage this love of theirs by leaving appropriate art supplies on every table in the house. And, well, the floor (see below). So as a matter of natural course, I often try to find a way to incorporate baking and caking into their love for arts and crafts. You may remember the Artist Palette & Paintbrush Cookies I created or the Rainbow Doodle Cake that Reese created for her 4th birthday using these pens: Americolor Food Marker Writers- 10 Color Pack. That was the very first time Reese had ever been such a big part of creating her own birthday cake, and she thought that was pretty awesome (as she should have–she’s quite the artist, if you ask me!). Well, I thought it would be super fun for her to do the same type of thing again, but by painting onto a white fondant cake. Since she spends almost all of her waking hours drawing & painting, I knew she’d be pretty enthusiastic about this one.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

That cake would make even the Tin Man smile, don’t you think?

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

For those who may not be familiar with it, the “paint” is something that is often used in cake decorating for many effects, and is made by mixing non-toxic luster dust or petal dust with either clear lemon extract or vodka (which evaporates quickly). Luster & petal dusts are dry chalky-looking dusts that are sold in wee jars (about 2-4 grams) and come in dozens of colours. They can be used dry by brushing onto fondant and gumpaste (any frosting that is dry to the touch) for touches of colour or shimmer, or as we did here, used wet as “paint.” Although there are many types of dusts with varying shimmer-factor, luster dust is typically the shimmery dust (such as Super Gold 43-1233 Luster Dust 2g) and petal dusts are matte (such as Fuchsia Petal Dust, 4 grams). We used some of each with this painted cake.

Here’s what I was referring to above–even the floor has become a great spot for my little artists. If you happen to follow my Instagram photos, you might recognize this image of my cakelets colouring all over a huge piece of white photographer backdrop paper that had seen better days and I needed to replace. Sending a recycling message feels good too. I was going to save this once they were done, which I still will (I’m a bit nutty about keeping everything they do–I can’t seem to throw any of it away), but I decided to then use it as the surface top for this post’s photoshoot, complete with toddler scribbles and pre-schooler drawings. I love when things work out that way!

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Because this project is really ideal for preschoolers up to adult, I was going to try to keep little toddler-Neve occupied by having her colour or paint at her own little “station” beside Reese, but there was no way she was letting that go. She wouldn’t leave her older sister’s side (literally) while Reese brainstormed her design. I’m estimating that this had 49% to do with sisterly affection and 51% to do with cake.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

The longer you let your cake chill before painting, the more firm the buttercream and fondant will be, which is ideal for painting, because the little hands will be pressing into the cake a bit while they work. On a sidenote, contrary to what many will say, you can, and I always do, put your fondant-covered cakes in the refrigator while working on them to firm them up. Otherwise, you will end up with fingerprints and dents in your cake, especially when little ones may not realize.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Perhaps this was creative moral support. Or maybe Neve was plotting her cake-tasting plan.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

An artist at work. I love photographing the kids in more candid situations, as it’s always evident in the photos when they are relaxed and in their element and, most of all, don’t realize they’re being photographed. I think what made this project even more special for her was that it wasn’t her birthday. It wasn’t her sister’s birthday. It wasn’t any holiday at all, but just a regular day.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

 Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Because the alcohol in the vodka evaporates so quickly, it’s helpful to keep some nearby (and if you are hosting a birthday party and have a houseful of kids, you may or may not want to keep a martini glass nearby) to add a drop or so when needed. It’s best to keep the paint thin enough so that it glides on the cake but not too thin that the colours look diluted, because the best part about these dusts is that the colour is intense. The luster colours have such a lovely shimmer-quality to them, even once dry.

Painted PB&J Cakes via Sweetapolita

So what’s better than a hand-painted cake? A hand painted cake that is rich dark chocolate filled with the fluffiest and most satiny Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream. For the PB&J version, I spread a thin layer of Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry Jam onto the cake before the buttercream. The other cakes I left as simply chocolate & peanut butter.The reason I did Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream, rather than the more common sugar peanut butter frosting is that I wanted to put a really thick layer of filling and because it’s not too sweet, it really brings out the peanut butter flavour. Peanut butter & meringue? That is so right. Even though it’s not cloying sweet, it’s still ideal for kids, especially with this cake because the fondant is very sweet. I heard Reese tell her dad that “Mommy made an excellent choice with the icing,” so it sounds like this one could be a winner. I think she was just relieved that it didn’t have key lime in it–long story.

Art = Joy!

For those of you who also love all-things-colour, I can’t get enough of Design Seeds. Endless colour inspiration!

I also found this kids’ painting party idea absolutely darling.

Here’s the recipe and info on making these painted cakes:

Paintable Chocolate PB&J Cakes         {click to print all instructions}

Use your favourite chocolate cake recipe baked in 3 separate cake pans. I used this recipe and baked using 3 Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum Oval Cake Pan, 9 Inch x 2 Inch. I put 500 grams/~17 ounces of batter in each, and made some cupcakes with the extra batter. I then sliced each cake in two when frosting. So in this case, I use 3 pans to yield 3 finished cakes ready to paint.

Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~10 cups of buttercream (enough to fill & frost 3 oval 9″ x 6″ cakes)

Ingredients

10 large egg whites (~300 grams/10 ounces)

2.5 cups (500 grams/17 ounces) light brown sugar

3 cups (1.5 lbs/680 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

3/4 cup (190 mL) Kraft (or other quality brand) smooth peanut butter, or to taste

Method

1. Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and brown sugar and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 8 minutes if you used room temperature egg whites. About 12 if they were cold. Just be sure you can’t feel any sugar crystals when you rub a small bit between your fingers.

2. Place the bowl back into the mixer, and with whisk attachment attached, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10+ minutes or so). *Make sure your meringue is completely cool before adding butter–this may take much longer than you expect, but if the meringue is very stiff and still warm, just turn off mixer and wait until it has cooled. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing on medium-low and it will come back to smooth).

3. Add vanilla and peanut butter, and continue to beat on low speed until well combined. *It’s also pretty delightful to leave unblended swirls of peanut butter.

Notes:

1. You can easily cut this recipe in half, and essentially it is Brown Sugar Swiss Buttercream with peanut butter whipped in at the end, so you also make it minus the peanut butter, freeze it, and then whip in peanut butter when you’re ready to use. That way you have the option of 2 flavours in your freezer. It keeps frozen for ~2 months.

2. You can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

3. You can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

4. If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

5. For more detail about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, you can find FAQ here and photo tutorial here.

Assembly of the Paintable Chocolate PB&J Cakes (or Chocolate PB Cakes)

1. Wrap & chill cake layers in refrigerator for ~30 minutes.

2. Carefully slice each of the 3 cakes into 2, horizontally, using a very sharp, serrated knife. If your cake has domed, don’t worry about trimming it, as you can put the dome side face-down. Since it’s a 2 layer cake, you don’t want to waste any cake by trimming it away.

3. Place first cake layer on a plate or cake board face up, and spread a thin layer of blueberry (or other desired flavour) jam onto the cake. Then spread a 1″ thick layer of Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream on top, smoothing with an offset spatula. You can omit the jam, if desired, or do some with and some without.

4. Place top layer cut side down (or up if your cake is domed). Cover with a thin layer of the buttercream using an offset spatula and chill until set, about 30 minutes. You can also place in freezer for about 15 minutes. This seals in all of the crumbs. *You must chill the cake at this point to allow for a smooth, crumb-free top layer of frosting.

5. Once chilled and set, add a thick layer of buttercream, trying to get it as smooth as possible using your offset palette knife.

6. Roll out 1 lb 2oz (~525 grams) of white fondant (I love Satin Ice Rolled Fondant – White – Vanilla – 2.5 kg) on a smooth surface dusted with icing sugar or cornstarch, or you can use a fondant mat (I always use Ateco 24 x 36 Inch Fondant Work Mat) until it’s about 1/8″ thick or a little thicker. If your buttercream isn’t completely smooth, you will want to make the fondant on the slighlty thicker side to mask those imperfections (definitely no thicker than 1/4″). Transfer the rolled fondant onto the cake using a rolling pin and gently lay over the cake. Working quickly, smooth the fondant all over the cake using your hands and/or fondant smoothers (I use Wilton Easy Glide Fondant Smoother), working from the top down. Trim the excess fondant from the bottom of the cake using a small sharp knife. Smooth rough edges with a small palette knife. Chill for at least 1 hour.

7. Take selected lustre dust powders and tap small amount into a paint palette or small ramekins. Add a few drops of clear lemon or vanilla extract and blend with small paintbrush. *You can not use water. You can use clear alcohol, such as vodka, as it evaporates when dry. Once your liquid is added, you now have…edible paint! You will need a paintbrush designated for each colour.

8. Remove cake from refrigerator. The fondant may “sweat” a little, which causes it to be a bit tacky at first, but as long as your home isn’t extremely humid, this will evaporate fairly quickly and be ready for painting.

9. Let the child (0r, ahem, yourself) paint until their heart’s content.

10. Wash brushes, blot with paper towel, and let air dry. Wash paint bowls or palette.

Other colourful ideas:

1. Make mini cakes, say 4″ rounds, and let each child at a birthday party paint their own, then pack it up for them to take home as their “loot bag,” to show their parents.

2. Create an entire party around the painting theme. Art parties are so popular right now, and for good reason. They are awesome!

3. You could make these cookies as party favours.

4. You could create this rainbow cake for the inside of the painted cakes, for a real hit of colour.

5. You could create a mix of colouring and painting sweets for a party using the Americolor Food Marker Writers- 10 Color Pack + edible paints.

Whoa…that was a lot of info in one hit. Feel free to leave any questions below, and, as always, I’d love to hear your comments and/or experiences with this cake.

What would you paint on a pure white porcelain-finish cake?

Good luck & enjoy!



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