My daughter just turned 3 and she is obsessed with Paw Patrol. Originally for her birthday cake I wanted to play with a mash up between chocolate chip cookies and cake where it would have been the perfect combo of milk and cookies in one cake. My older daughter saw my plan, looked at me carefully and thoughtfully and said, 'Mom, that cake is super cool, but it is for an older kid, like a teenager, not for a 3 year old.' So wise and she was right. My cookies and milk cake would have to wait.
Can I admit, I really don't love fondant. It is a lot of work, sculpting/rolling out and making sure you smooth out all the fingerprints. Most importantly, I find that lots of bakeries and cake decorators sacrifice flavor and texture to make a fondant cake. They settle on a very sturdy overly sweet buttercream just so they can get clean lines when layering fondant on top of a frosted cake. If you do your internet research most will say to use a sturdy American style buttercream when doing your crumb coat. Let that set and then lay your fondant on top of your cake. Have I mentioned before that I really detest American Buttercream? It is SO simple and one dimensional. In the past before I started to do all my own baking and decorating, I am fairly certain that the people I hired to make my daughter's cakes and cupcakes for parties put vegetable shortening into the frosting to make it even more sturdy and pipable. It was disgusting. It looked amazing but tasted oily and gritty. Even the kids said they didn't like the taste. I told myself that if I am to do a cake with fondant I WILL NOT SACRIFICE FLAVOR! I will find a way!
And I did. It wasn't easy but I made it work. With all of the holidays and extra baking that I have lined up for myself I settled on a simple but flavor packed cake for my daughter's 3rd birthday. A gluten-free two layer moist fudgy chocolate cake filled and topped with a homemade nutella cream cheese whipped cream. Here is the link to the original recipe. I did modify it a little to make sure it would bake with gluten free flour and to guarantee a fudgy oh so chocolatey cake.
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Recipe:
I did use a teaspoon less of baking soda as well as add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum. Additionally I bloomed the cocoa powder in boiling water before adding it to my mixture as well as add 2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder with the cocoa powder during the blooming stage. (These steps are not in the original recipe)
Using espresso or coffee mixed in with the cocoa powder does NOT produce a coffee flavored cake nor does it add so much caffeine that will harm children. What it does is actually enhance and elevate the flavor of chocolate within a chocolate cake. Whenever I make chocolate cakes or cupcakes I ALWAYS use instant espresso to pack that extra chocolate punch. No one has ever said, I wish this cake was less chocolatey.
Also here in Germany I have only found one type of baking cocoa powder. I can get it at any grocery store and it is cheap, less than 3 US dollars a box. I remember being at my parent's house (suburb of Chicago) and wanting to bake a cake. I went to a local store, similar but smaller than Whole Foods and a canister of cocoa powder cost $16. WHAT!!! I almost had a heart attack!
Needless to say our grocery items in Germany are MUCH cheaper and the quality is outstanding.
Back to my cake. This cake came out SO moist I wanted to eat it as soon as it came out of the oven.
Look how dark and full of moisture that cake is once I peeled off the parchment paper!
They also rose quite nicely and were not dense at all! It did take me longer to bake these than the recipe said. Almost 40 full minutes instead of the 30 minutes that was stated.
After they fully cooled I started on my filling. I used my secret weapon when making whip cream- Sahnesteif. Germans sell this powder in little packets and you add it to your heavy whipping cream before you start to whip. It helps make a sturdy pipable whipping cream. It has no flavor and can be bought at any local German grocery store.
Every time a perfect sturdy whipped cream.
Now it was time to stack and frost the outside of my cake.
When covering with fondant the frosting does not have to be perfect. It will be fully covered anyways. I put the frosted cake back into the fridge to set. I also lowered the temperature of my fridge to 1 degree celsius. (We usually keep it at 4 degrees).
I will say covering this cake with fondant was tricky! A good amount of the whipped cream slid off the cake when I tried to cover it as well when I tried to smooth out the sides. Was this the perfectly covered fondant cake with smooth edges? No. Definitely not. But in my opinion, it was worth it because this whipped was so creamy, silky, and light! It had a hint of nutella and the tartness from the cream cheese cut the sweetness to make this filling pair perfectly with the intense chocolate flavor of the cake.
To do fondant designs I needed some help. I am not an artist. I am fairly certain my 7 year old can draw and sculpt better than me. I bought some Paw Patrol cutouts on Amazon.de as well as some paw print cookie stamps.
Pro Tip: When using fondant keep some corn starch nearby. This will help with it sticking. Also you can use a dab of vegetable shortening to moisten the fondant and to help make it more pliable before rolling it out. I also use a clean paint brush to brush on some shortening to help smooth out any fingerprints. A little goes a long way. To decorate this cake I think I took one tablespoon of shortening and put it in a bowl to have while I was working and more than half was still there once I was finished.
In addition to the cut outs, I also bought the Paw Patrol cake toppers. You might think that was a waste of money but my daughter loves Paw Patrol so much that after we ate the cake she kept the figures to play with. Plus we're in a hard lockdown here in Germany and we couldn't have a real kids party. This cake was just for us!
She was SO thrilled once she saw her cake! She danced around the kitchen singing the theme song, 'Paw Patrol, Paw Patrol, we'll be there on the double...'
And finally we all sat down, just the 4 of us, and enjoyed the most decadent chocolate cake I have ever made.
Needless to say, she loved the taste! And so did we! Happy 3rd Birthday Nathalie!