Not All That Glitters is Gold!

This year (as every year) New Year’s Eve party cake was requested (thankfully.) I love to make them. A couple of days later a follow up request for a silver 2022 topper which was an excellent suggestion. I decided to learn to work with isomalt to create the numbers, rather than buying some. It never hurts to add a new skill.

It took some practice to learn the method (how hot to boil it, the amount of water to add, how long to cool after it reaches the optimum temperature, and more.) It took a lot of practice and failures.

Some were boiled too long and discolored. Some were too thick, some never cleared.

Finally I found the correct combination. And the resulting sugar numbers were acceptable.

Once the temperature is 320 let the molten sugar sit for a few seconds to clear some of the bubbles then place the pan into cold water to stop the cooking.

After the sugar is cold, place some sticks on the back and “glue” them in place with some molten sugar. Once they are cool turn the numbers (or stars) over and dampen slightly with your finger, then sprinkle sparkly glitter on the damp sugar and spread with a brush to cover completely and let dry.

Frost the cake and add the numbers. I used plastic straws in the cake to give the numbers and stars more support. Once the numbers were in place I added the stars, staggering their height. The colored straws gave the impression of fireworks. (I hope.) Lots of fun and an opportunity to learn new skills.

Extreme Chocolate Cake

Makes two 9” round cakes

(Makes one 10’ ROUND CAKE [and two 5”] – quantities are in parenthesis.)
• 2 cups white sugar (3)
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (2 2/3)
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (1 ¼)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (2 ¼)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (2 ¼)
• 1 teaspoon salt (1 ½)
• 2 eggs (3)
• 1 cup milk (1 ½)
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil (¾)
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (3)
• 1 cup boiling water (1 ½)
• 3/4 cup butter
• 1 1/2 cups (125g) unsweetened cocoa powder
• 5 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar 624g (1c confectioners sugar = 117g)
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. (SEE QTY FOR 10” CAKES)
  2. Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa,
    baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an
    electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water by hand. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans. (For cupcakes,
    portion ¼ scant cups in each cupcake paper.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or 205
    internal temp. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, use the second set of ingredients. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Stir in the
    cocoa and confectioners’ sugar alternately with the milk and vanilla. Beat to a spreading consistency.
    (This recipe will frost 36 cupcakes.)
  5. Split the layers of cooled cake horizontally, cover the top of each layer with frosting, then stack them
    onto a serving plate. Frost the outside of the cake.

  6. Mix isomalt and water in a 4:1 ratio in a stainless steel or non stick pan
  7. Heat under medium high heat until the isomalt reaches 320 deg F
  8. Remove from heat and let sit for a few moments to allow the bubbles to subside then place the hot pan in water for a few seconds to stop the isomalt cooking.
  9. Carefully pour the molten solution into dry molds and let cool.
  10. (I wear heat proof silicone gloves while working with molten sugar. It is very hot!

    a. Do NOT let the internal temp exceed 210 deg F or the cake will be overdone.
    b. Fill cupcake papers 2/3rds full. This will allow space for the cupcakes to expand and create a nice
    domed shape.

Sugar Snow-Globe Cake

I saw a technique for making sugar domes on Netflix’s School of Chocolate. Initially, I thought that looked like a fun and easy skill to learn. I soon discovered it was fun. Plus I had the added incentive of wanting to make a snow-globe cake for my granddaughters. I envisioned an evergreen tree and snowman under the dome.

‘Simply’ pour a little (1-2 Tbl depending on ring size) molten (hard crack) sugar/glucose mixture inside a ring mold, resting on 3 layers of plastic wrap stretched (not too tightly) and sealed across a large bowl.

Press down on the outside of the ring and keep increasing the pressure until the sugar reaches the side of the mold and starts to dome up. If the sugar is too hot it can melt the plastic wrap, too cold it won’t spread to the edges of the ring mold. No matter what you do, your fingers will burn. (After this I purchased some heat resistant silicone gloves.)

It was about now that I decided to make the cake an actual snow-globe. There is no way to pick it up and shake it, but a life time of skiing around snow makers gave me an idea. If I could blow the ‘snow’ (or powdered sugar) from inside the dome it would look like it was snowing.

I changed my plan from a small dome on shell tart to a 5” fondant covered cake. Now I had to make the domes bigger and higher.

I saw a method for making the globes (the author was actually making sugar bowls, but inverted would be perfect.) Ann Reardon – How To Cook That has a great tutorial.

Use helium quality balloons so the molten sugar doesn’t melt them. Ann explains using water filled balloons to disperse the heat and keep them from bursting when covering with the sugar.

This technique also required some practice. You need to be sure to use enough molten sugar or the balloon won’t be fully covered. I found covering the balloon in one smooth pour was more successful than trying to go back and filling in places that weren’t covered.

I made some white gum paste and rolled a little into balls for the snowmen. I colored some black to make buttons, eyes etc. I dyed some green and shaped it into cones. Another YouTube video demonstrated how to use cuticle scissors to snip bits to make the boughs of the trees.

Now to the engineering ‘genius’ of the cakes. To make the snow blower I procured some mini funnels (1.5” across at the top.) I connected a piece of flexible tubing (I happened to have the exact correct size and length from my beer making equipment.)

A squeeze bottle served as the air pump and a small sugar pearl blocked the sugar from pouring down the tubing. A firm squeeze on the bottle and voilà, a mini snowstorm. This is my test set up.

The cake was put on a 5” cake board which I had cut in its center, then it was crumb coated and covered in fondant. The flexible tubing was fed up through the cake board, cake and fondant and the funnel attached. The other end was fed through the checkerboard ‘tablecloth’ and two 5.25” styrofoam disks with holes cut in the center. The bottom disk had a channel cut from the bottom center to the edge to have a place for the tubing to run to the outside.

Everything was stacked, filled and covered with the sugar dome. Imagine my surprise when the girls and I tried it all together the first time, and it worked!

Slow Motion – IMHO Awesome!

Now, back to those braided fruit tarts.

Holiday Sweets

As the holidays approach, the baker often changes his spots from baker to chocolatier. Everyone seems to like my chocolate coated soft caramels dusted with some Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.

I ran out of my favorite Barry 64% cacao chocolate. This chocolate is both delicious and has a 4 out of 5 liquidity which makes a nice thin coating. I found some re-packaged bulk Barry Callebaut 70% dark chocolate which did not have a liquidity rating. After using it I would guess it is in the 2-3 range of 5. By not flowing as well yhis resulted in a thicker coating, but it was all that was available. Hopefully, my “go to” 64% will be back in stock soon!

Paying attention to the temperatures while tempering the chocolate really pays off. The chocolates don’t melt in your fingers and have an attractive, shiny appearance.

I hit the maximum temperature of the caramel perfectly. (238 deg) To cut it I put in in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, then cut into about 1” squared. I still had to coat the knife with some baking spray to make cleanish cuts.