First, let me point out that I am in no way a professional baker. The fact that this worked in any way makes me very happy, even if, compared to other Death Star cakes on image search, it’s a bit crummy 😉 But, I’ll try anything. This was fun.
The Jupiter cake also introduced me to two new concepts: Cake pops and Spherical cake moulds.
Cake pops are these little things: spherical blobs of cake on lollipop sticks. They’re a nice little mouthful of cake, decorated however you like, and darling beloved of well-to-do brides everywhere.
The traditional way to make these is to make a cake, then crumble it, mix it with something sticky (chocolate, icing) to roll it into balls, freeze then and then decorate. This is a bit boring. However, it’s necessary to be able to make these things in order to be able to make the Jupiter cake’s core, so, like in the video, you can cheat by buying a cake pop mould.
These are equally tricksy buggers – you have to be very careful about how much cake batter you put in: a firm-ish 2-egg Victoria Sponge mix is just dense enough, filled to the top of the base mould, but a more liquidy batter needs to only be used to fill about 3/4 of the same mould or it overflows and you end up with lozenges instead of ‘pops’. However, even with the flimsy silicone moulds like the one above, you can make pretty substantial cake pops, ready for icing in any way you choose. Here’s my (rather terrible) first attempt:
The spherical cake moulds are way more fun though. I bought mine from Lakeland (the one I used was the Medium, just about big enough for a first-timer), and followed Cakecrumb’s instructions, putting a cake pop into the larger cake mould’s batter and covering it in batter to make sure it didn’t overcook the already-cooked pop. This resulted in a much, much longer baking time – about 40 mins instead of 18-25 – to ensure the surrounding cake was baked through.
EPISODE 1: This is not gonna work
I didn’t manage like Cakecrumbs to make three concentric layers, but I did end up make three different hemispherical cakes whilst trying to work out the best depth to ‘bury’ the cake pop in the middle. They mostly ended up wrong, or rude, but, as ever, third time’s a (slightly undercooked) charm:
1) I used three-quarters of a batch of 3-egg Victoria Sponge for the first hemisphere. The chocolate cake pop I included rose out of the mix (not ‘buried’ deep enough) and ended up being cut off when I trimmed the cake after baking.
2) The second one was an interesting mix of the rest of that batter and the chocolate sponge batter I had left over from the chocolate batch of cake pops. Again, the sponge cake pop I put in, deeper this time, popped out in a kind of volcano on top and didn’t get included when the cake was trimmed, although the rest of the cake had a nice marbling effect.
3) Another 3-egg Victoria, this time the whole batter put into the mould and the cake pop pushed down as far as it would go before being covered over. This cake bubbled right over the edge of the mould, had to be trimmed whilst in the over repeatedly to avoid being burned, took nearly an hour to cook all the way through, and appeared to be a complete disaster with no apparent pop in the middle once trimmed…until, used as the half of the main cake, when cut into it proved decidedly fluffy and delicious with a WHOLE chocolate cake pop included (the ideal was half, but there you go.)
The rule is then, don’t over-fill your mould (halfway is plenty), bury the cake pop with at least an inch – if you can – of batter over it, and make sure you make an indentation in the middle of the batter before you put it in the oven to stop the whole thing from looking like a volcano when you take it out.
EPISODE II: Until this battle station is fully operational, we are vulnerable.
Now, here’s the fun bit. Having been sent the original io9 link by my other half, I immediately decided this would be his birthday cake. But, if I wasn’t going to make Jupiter, what else could I make with my three-and-a-bit hemispheres? The answer was obvious. The Death Star.
– Buttercream (170g butter, 100g icing sugar, beaten til light and ‘fluffy’)
– Apricot jam, put in a saucepan and boiled for a couple of minutes (stir it to avoid it burning to the pan)
– Read-to-roll icing in white and black (I think I used Dr. Oetker’s Regal-Ice) as I’m not great at making Royal Icing.
– A rolling-pin
– a small palette knife
– a sharp knife for cutting shapes
– Greaseproof paper – for rolling out the icing and making templates
– a round, flat cake tin (I didn’t have a cake base.)
1) A (rebel) base: using the reject ‘volcano’ bit of hemisphere no.2, I hollowed out the top and buttercreamed it to the overturned cake tin as a base for my death star. I filled the hollow with buttercream, then covered the rest of it with boiled apricot jam to make a sticky surface for the royal icing to stick to. I then rolled out oval sections of the black icing and used them to cover the tin and the ‘volcano’, leaving the buttercream hollow ready to receive the Death Star itself.
2) That’s no moon…: Choosing the best two hemispheres, nos.2 and 3, I put one on top of the other and trimmed them a little so that they formed a proper sphere. I then pasted apricot jam over one base and buttercream on the other before sticking them together, and perching the sphere on top of the icing-covered volcano base where I then made sure the join was smooth with a further application of buttercream.
3) …It’s a space station: The body of the cake in place, I covered the whole thing in a layer of apricot, to keep in and add moisture – I was worried the lengthy cooking process may have dried it out a bit. Then, deciding to go the whole hog, I covered the whole thing in more buttercream. I really, really like buttercream. It would have been a shame to waste it.
4) I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time: rolling out blobs of royal icing into flat ovals, I cut them into petal shapes to paste onto the sphere as if it was a globe:
This made sure there was an even-ish coverage of icing on the cake. It was then easy to blend the edges with fingers and the palette knife dipped in boiling water.
Had I been a mathematician, I would have worked out actual sizes and widths of my petals. Instead, because I do not care for numbers, I guessed the first one’s dimensions, then made a loose template for the rest of the petals, cutting them out with a sharp knife and overlapping them to make the joins easier to smooth over. I find your lack of faith disturbing. It looked fine. Ok?
5) The target is only two (milli)meters wide: rolling a palm-sized blob of the black with double the size of the white to blend them into one grey blob, I cut off a bit, rolled it into a ball and squished it flat to make the Superlaser Focus Lens. Rolling out a flat section, I cut it into thin strips to make the Polar and Equatorial Trenches. Finally, cutting out the petal shape again, I cut that into different-width strips and blocks to represent the …city sprawls? They were pocked with the tines of a fork pressed gently into them in a repeated pattern. (These pieces all stuck onto the previous layer of icing because I had wet it with slightly when smoothing out the joins. if it needed more stickiness, I wet the back of each piece, but in general that was unnecessary.)
I only chose to do a front-side section of the detail because it added a lot of weight to the base layer of icing. It was enough to look awesome. I actually made some of the detail a shade lighter to give it depth. Not because I was running out of dark grey and couldn’t be bothered trying to match the same shade again. Not at all.
6) Look at the size of that thing! Because, after all that work, it needed a decent introduction.
Using black teatowels as a backdrop, a TIE Interceptor hung from some fishing gut, and the little home planetarium I got the other half for his birthday (it’s so damncool),I invited him into the kitchen and played the Darth Vader theme. He loved it. Then we ‘blew it up’ with some indoor sparklers. I’m very proud of the results.
And, it tasted delicious. TIP: you really do need the jam, and the buttercream. Yum.