Cake of the Day: Bunny Cake

·Assistant Food Editor

Photo: Susan Powers

Look at that face. How can you resist it?

I Am Baker’s Amanda Rettke brings us this cake with a surprise face inside from her book, appropriately titled Surprise-Inside Cakes. We’ve featured Rettke’s work before in Cake of the Day: Her rose-covered Neapolitan cake was one of January’s most popular. We have a feeling this one will rank up there for March…

Bunny Cake

This is one of my favorite cakes ever. I want to hold it close and never let it go, but I might look silly with big pink and white melted chocolate ears stuck on my shirt.

2 recipes White Cake, (see below)

Pink, black, and white gel food coloring

1 recipe Basic Buttercream, (see below)

White and pink candy melts

Special equipment: 4 6-inch cake pans; cake leveler or long serrated knife; 3-inch and 4-inch cookie cutters; paring knife; offset spatula; disposable plastic pastry bags; #74 decorating tip

Difficulty: Challenging

Baking

1. Bake 1 recipe white cake in two 6-inch pans. (You may need to extend the recommended baking time when using 6-inch pans.) Cool to room temperature.

2. Level the cakes and freeze for about 1 hour.

3. Prepare the batter for a second white cake. Divide the batter between 2 bowls. Tint the batter in one bowl pink.

4. Bake the cake in two 6-inch pans and cool to room temperature. Level the cakes to match the others and freeze for about 1 hour.

5. Place one white layer on a cake stand, off center. Place the pink layer next to it on a sheet of parchment paper. Then center a 3-inch round cookie cutter in on the white layer and press in slightly to make a guideline. Repeat on the pink layer.

6. Insert a sharp paring knife at about a 45-degree angle on the guideline on the white cake. Aim for the center, then slowly pull the knife around the cake, following the guideline.

7. Remove the white cake cone and set it in a scrap bowl—you’ll be using it for the bunny’s eyes.

8. Cut out a cone the same size in the pink layer and place the pink cone into the white layer.

9. Place the other 2 white layers on a sheet of parchment paper. Center a 4-inch round cookie cutter on each layer and press in slightly to make a guideline.

10. On one layer, dig out a channel about 1/4 inch deep on the guideline (see the cake on the left). On the other layer, dig out a channel about 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep. Add the crumbs to the cake scrap bowl.

11. Crumble the rest of the pink cake into a bowl, removing any dark or hard spots.

12. Add about 1 tablespoon buttercream and 1/4 teaspoon black gel food coloring. Mix until you have a cake mixture of your desired color. You can add more frosting or food coloring as needed.

13. Add about 1 teaspoon of buttercream to the white cake scrap bowl. (I also added a bit of white gel food coloring to make the color bright.) Mix until fully combined.

14. Roll the black cake mixture into snakes thick enough to fill the deeper cavity in the white layer.

15. Lay them in and connect them to fit evenly.

16. Roll out a smaller white snake from the white cake mixture and flatten it a little with your finger, but make sure it’s still at least 1/4 inch thick.

17. Place the white cake mixture on top of the black snake, covering it completely.

18. Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of buttercream around the white edge of the layer on the cake stand. Be careful to avoid the section of pink cake.

19. Set the layer with the black snake on top. Cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream.

20. Turn over the remaining cake layer and lay it on top of the cake. Make sure the snake fits snugly into the carved-out top layer.

21. Cover the cake in a crumb coat and chill for at least 1 hour before decorating.

Frosting and Decorating

22. Insert a #74 decorating tip into a disposable pastry bag and fill it with buttercream.

23. Applying light pressure, make small, short bursts with the pastry bag. They can be irregular in shape and size—just try to keep them about the same thickness. Do this over the whole cake.

24. To make the bunny’s tail, just pipe out a big ball of frosting. Tint 1/2 cup of the buttercream pink and place it in a pastry bag with a #74 tip. Pipe out the same pattern as that on the cake to cover the tail.

25. Now it’s time to make the bunny ears! Place 1 cup white candy melts in a clear plastic pastry bag and microwave in 30-second increments until the chocolate is mostly melted. Massage the bag with your hands until it’s fully melted.

26. Place a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper on a baking sheet. If you like, you can draw out your design on a piece of paper and slip it behind the parchment paper.

27. Cut a very small tip off the bag. Pipe out a white inner ear, making sure to extend the bottom of the ear so that you’ll be able to insert it into the cake. Repeat to make the second ear. (I made 4 ears just in case there were any breaks.)

28. Melt 1 to 2 cups pink candy melts and repeat the process to create the outside of the ears.

29. Refrigerate the ears on the baking sheet for 30 minutes or freeze them for 2 minutes.

30. Chill the cake. Just before serving, peel the parchment away from the ears and insert them into the cake, one at left center and one at right center, facing away from the tail. The ears should stay in place while serving, but they usually don’t last that long. I know my kids are always excited to see who will get them! The extra ears are handy, too, in case of sibling rivalry.

White Cake

My goal for this cake was the perfect crumb. I wanted a cake that was sturdy, moist, but easy to work with when carved and manipulated. The final result is all those things and delicious!

3 cups cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 ¼ teaspoons clear vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
5 large egg whites, at room temperature

1. Set a rack in the center of the oven, then preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans as directed on page 8.

2. Sift together the cake flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl and set it aside.

3. In a standing mixer using the paddle attachment or in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

4. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, vanilla, and almond.

5. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and blend on a low speed for about 30 seconds. Add one-half of the milk mixture and blend until just combined. Add in half of the remaining flour mixture and blend until just combined. Add the remaining milk mixture, blend for a few seconds, then the remaining flour mixture and blend at low speed until the ingredients are just incorporated.

6. Pour the batter into a large bowl and clean the stand mixer bowl. Switch in the whisk attachment.

7. Add the egg whites and beat them on medium to medium-high speed to firm peak stage. (When the whisk is held sideways, the peaks will hold and the ridges will be distinct. It’s okay if the tips of the peaks fold back on themselves.) Then gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

8. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pans. Place the cakes on the center rack of the oven and bake them for 20 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the pans cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove cakes and set them on wire racks until they reach room temperature.

Basic Buttercream

This recipe is a perfect starting point. You can modify it in so many ways … using Champagne instead of heavy cream, or all butter and no shortening. Feel free to experiment and make it your own!

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup shortening
2 teaspoons good-quality vanilla extract
Dash of salt
One 2-pound bag confectioners’ sugar (about 7 cups)
¼ to ½ cup milk or heavy cream

Combine the butter, shortening, vanilla, and salt in a standing mixer using the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer). Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk or heavy cream, and blend until you have used it all. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar.

Notes:
• To create a bright-white buttercream, use a clear vanilla extract and 1 cup of shortening—omit the butter.
• If using a microwave to achieve room-temperature butter, heat in 10-second increments and watch very closely. It is important for the butter to be at room temperature and not melted.
• I’ve found that this keeps in the fridge for at least three weeks—just be sure to let it warm up to room temperature before using.

Excerpted from Surprise-Inside Cakes by Amanda Rettke (William Morrow Cookbooks). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Susan Powers.

More cakes with an inside surprise:

Rose-Covered Neapolitan Cake

Rainbow Cake with Edible Flowers

Rainbow Cake