If you’ve ever seen a Piñata cake, you’ll know they’re possibly the coolest cakes around. But this is not a “how to bake a piñata cake” kind of post. I could just as well have titled this post “how not to bake a piñata cake”, or “fudge frosting mistakes”.
But first, some background
I love to bake. When I’m not travelling and have access to all my baking tools, I bake at least once a week. That doesn’t mean I’m an expert though. Far from it!
And sometimes when I see other people’s stunning baking posts on Instagram, I wonder if all the time spent on this will ever be worth it. But I keep at it, simply because it’s fun! So this is for all of you who have ever invested a lot of time into something but remain decidedly average. You’re not alone!
Although I can whip up a mean red velvet cake, layer cakes involving other kinds of frosting are my nemesis.
Like the time I was going for this:
and ended up with a cake so bad, even the blueberries wanted no part of it.
So whenever I see a cake recipe with frosting, I’m like:
But sometimes the recipe looks just too good to pass up. And then you figure, go big or go home, right? Especially when it’s for a special occasion like a birthday.
I’ve been wanting to make a piñata cake for a while. It doesn’t look that difficult, does it?
Seriously, guys. Check out her Instagram if you want to start drooling uncontrollably.
Piñata Cake with Fudge Frosting
So I was going for this:
and ended up with this:
Maybe you’re being charitable and thinking “it doesn’t look that bad…” Wait, it looks worse from the top!
On a happier note, the butter cake itself was decent, so it wasn’t a complete failure.
Here’s the recipe and method (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction because I wanted a 3-layer cake that wasn’t too sweet).
- 323g all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 258g butter
- 250g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 14g vegetable oil
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
- 270ml buttermilk (I didn’t have any, but I used 3tsp vinegar and topped up to 270ml with milk)
- 172g butter
- 400g icing sugar
- 5tsp milk
- 49g cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 3/16 tsp salt (use your powers of estimation for this one)
Note: since my fudge frosting turned out so badly, do not follow this part wholesale! I’ll discuss some things I’d do differently below.
Filling: M&M’s, Smarties, sprinkles, whatever you want to use.
For the cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 177 degrees Celsius and line cake pans (I used 8″).
- If you’re using vinegar and milk instead of buttermilk, measure and mix them now, then let the mixture stand for at least 5 mins. It should appear curdled when you use it in step 6.
- Measure and mix the dry cake ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Beat the butter on high speed for 1 min, add the sugar and continue beating for 5 mins.
- Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating on medium-high speed after each. Add vanilla and oil and beat.
- Add 1/3 of the buttermilk (or vinegar and milk mixture), followed by 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Repeat this step (alternating between buttermilk and dry ingredients), beating on low speed after each addition, until just incorporated.
- Transfer batter into cake tins and bake for 25 mins or when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out dry.
- After cakes have cooled, cut a 3 1/2 – 4″ circular hole in two of the layers. (I used a mug).
For the fudge frosting:
- Sift the sugar and cocoa (I didn’t sift all the cocoa powder because it was taking way too long, so I just added the rest and stirred it around, but lumps of cocoa powder remained. Not sure if this contributed to the overall frosting failure!)
- Beat the butter on high speed until it’s pale (about 5 mins).
- Add sugar and cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 1 min, then on medium-high for 3 mins.
- Add milk 1 tsp at a time, beating on medium, until consistency looks about right. (I stopped at 5tsp because I was afraid it would get too watery and end up like my blueberry cake failure above. In a less hot and humid climate than Singapore, you could probably use lots more milk. Sally’s recipe calls for 1/2 cup.)
- Frost the first layer, including the inside of the hole.
- Repeat for second layer (the other layer with the hole).
- Fill the hole with assorted candies.
- Put final layer on top and frost top and sides.
- Decorate the top as you please!
What fudge frosting mistakes did I make?
In other words, why was my frosting neither smooth nor creamy?
Googling this question didn’t really yield any direct answers, so I looked at different fudge frosting recipes. Based on those, I think my mistakes were:
- Not beating long enough. Many recipes (like this) tell you to beat until “light, fluffy and of spreading consistency” (or something to that effect). I beat until the ingredients were combined, but I should have been more patient and continued beating longer. This is where having a stand mixer comes in super useful! (I’m now using a hand mixer as I killed my old stand mixer with a very tough cookie dough.) Using a hand mixer is like:
- Adding too much sugar at once. Some recipes, like this, tell you to add it one spoon at a time and mix well. It’s supposed to get lighter in colour and bigger in volume as you do this – which I didn’t see. It’s probably related to under-mixing (above) as well.
- Not adding corn syrup. Sally’s recipe calls for 1 tbsp of light corn syrup which she says makes the frosting “uniquely glossy and shiny”. I didn’t have any on hand, but next time I’d invest in some. Sure could’ve used some glossiness!
- Not enough milk. Maybe, scarred from my blueberry cake experience, I added too little milk and the frosting was too dry and couldn’t “fluff up” as a result? It basically had the texture of butter.
If I were to attempt this again, one other frosting option would be to use a boiled fudge recipe instead. Many fudge recipes call for melting the butter and sugar over low heat, adding the dry ingredients, and letting it harden as it cools. It’s a completely different method, but worth a shot I guess!
And hopefully one day my frosting will look like this:
Have you tried making fudge frosting? Which method did you use, and did it work for you?
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I’ve seen your twitter tweets with your cake, and so have now really enjoyed reading the whole story. I laughed that your blueberry didn’t want anything to do with your cake and your comparison of the pinata cakes. I think you do well to even give them a go! Annette
So glad you enjoyed reading it, Annette! Thanks for your kind comment, it means a lot to me – there are so many picture-perfect baking blogs out there, I wasn’t sure if I had anything of value to add!
Your versions of these cakes actually look quite amazing and delicious! I feel like cakes that are not “perfect” always tend to taste the best! 🙂
Thanks so much for your kind comment! I find it’s pretty easy to make a cake that tastes nice – it’s getting it to look amazing that’s hard. But I’m always glad for people who feel like you do – otherwise, no one would want to eat my cakes! haha