It was Miss P’s birthday recently, and on Thursday we finally had our girls night celebrations, which meant it was time to bake! Miss P loves Hello Kitty, but has enough Hello Kitty items without me buying her any more, so the extremely clever Miss J suggested a Hello Kitty cake. An excellent plan, and one I plotted over for a long time until I had it settled in my brain – I would do a round of cupcakes and a central, small cake for Miss Pig to keep all to herself. In my initial imaginings, the central cake had a 3D model of Hello Kitty, perhaps holding a flower or a present. Alas, my modelling skills are in their infancy and this turned out to be beyond me – Kitty looked like a) she needed to go on a diet and/or b) her head had been crushed almost flat in a dreadful accident. Unsurprisingly, I decided to go with a larger version of the cupcake toppers rather than struggle on any further and produce more misshapen cats in dresses.
The first thing to do, of course, was choose the flavour of cake. I had initially thought chocolate and cherry but on checking with the birthday girl, this turned out not to be in her top favourite cakes, so I was back to the drawing board. Then I stumbled across this post from Cake in the Country for devils food cake. A devils food cake cupcake, I thought, with white chocolate buttercream. White chocolate buttercream is very sweet, but then again the devils food cake is rich and moist, so I thought it would work out alright and not send anybody into a hypoglycemic coma. I also wanted a white or, at a push, pink icing to go with the Hello Kitty theme, rather than the delicious looking cocoa nib icing that Sarah (@cakeinthecountry) uses in her post. I was ready to begin.
I was really surprised to find that I had never posted a proper recipe for white chocolate buttercream, so here it is, finally put into proper measurements and such. This makes enough to do 10 cupcakes:
- 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 300g icing sugar
- 85g white chocolate, melted
Use a hand mixer to soften the butter, then add the sugar in three batches. Once it’s come together, add the melted chocolate and mix again until smooth and combined, and then for a further few minutes to make the icing more manageable. Check the icing for texture and taste; you can add more sugar if it’s not thick enough, a little (really a little though, like 1/4 tsp at a time) of milk if it’s too thick or a pinch of salt if it’s too sweet. If it’s not sweet enough that’s probably a sign that you’ve lost at least half of your sense of taste and you should see a tongue doctor.
The first thing to do, then, was bake the cake and cupcakes, which you can see above and which passed without a hitch; the cake was made in a six inch tin and the cupcakes in the extremely cute red polka-dot cases that Mr and Mrs C bought me. The cases came out of the box looking decidedly square but as soon as I had them in a muffin tray and spooned the cake batter in, they rounded out nicely. I certainly did not waste any by trying to cram them into silicone cupcake cases to make them rounder and only manage to make them crusheder, definitely not… I then made the icing and finished off the cupcakes, as you can see in the second picture above. I used a wide nozzle to give that big swirl of icing, when you use the right size of piping bag and nozzle it really is very quick to ice cupcakes like this, and the more practise you have the easier it is, too. The shallow nature of the cases meant that the icing to cake ratio was really rather high; this did not elicit any complaints from anyone, except me and I was immediately shushed. Here is a cross section of one (cross section sounds so much better than ‘one I bit into’, don’t you think?).
The cupcakes rose in the oven into funny little pointed domes, and when they came out of the oven these sank down into even funnier shapes that I’m at a loss to describe. They each had a very narrow dome in the centre, and were flat all round the edges; this photo shows it off well. I have a few ideas about why this might have happened, to do with oven temperature and length of time in the oven, but really it didn’t matter once they were iced anyway. You can see what I mean about the icing to cake ratio, though.
With the cupcakes iced and almost ready, I made another batch of icing (half as much as the recipe above) to use on the big cake. I used about half of it to apply a ‘sealing’ coat to catch all the crumbs, and put the cake in the fridge while I got on with making the decoration. You got a wee peek there at the extremely successful cupcake toppers in the shape of Hello Kitty’s face – now follows a series of step by step photos of the creation process. I made the toppers from shop-bought ready to roll white icing (some dyed red for the bows), a spot of yellow writing icing for the nose and the black icing pen I bought myself not so long ago for just this kind of thing. Here are the snaps with a bit of extra detail where I thought it was needed.
First, I rolled out the icing on a board rubbed with coconut oil, to stop sticking. I also had a sprinkler of icing sugar to hand to further help avoid sticking and to sprinkle over the top of the finished face shapes to give a better surface for putting in the details. I had a reference picture on the screen of my laptop and I used my scribing tool to draw a kitty shape on the icing, then cut it out with the knife side of the tool. It did need some fine detail work, using the flat edge of the knife to smooth the surface and edges, the scribing tool to add little tucks around the ears and my hands to flatten the shape where it needed to be wider and pinch it where it needed to be fatter. It took a while to get the shape right. Once I had one finished, I used it as a rough template to cut out nine other shapes, knowing that the original would probably be too squashed and maimed from repeated lifting and laying to actually use. I smoothed off the edges of the nine new faces and rubbed in a fine coat of icing sugar. It’s worth mentioning here that the faces dried out as I was working with them, which meant that they were difficult to fine tune, as they were more likely to crack than to mould into the shape I wanted. I really should have had them wrapped in a damp tea towel while I worked on them, but I solved the problem by rubbing a little coconut oil into them with my fingers until they were soft again.
I thought a good place to start would be with the noses, then I’d have a central point to work around. Hello Kitty’s nose is very low on her face. I never expected to be so au fait with the dimensions of Hello Kitty’s face but there we are. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.
I put in the eyes and whiskers next, using the thick end of my black icing pen. It was tricky, and the surface of the fondant wasn’t smooth enough to stop the pen catching a little, and sinking in at some points. You can see that some of the whiskers are a bit raggedy because of this. I’m not sure what I would have done about this – maybe rubbing more icing sugar over the top would have helped, or maybe keeping them under that hypothetical damp towel I was talking about earlier would have been a better plan.
It’s amazing how much the little bows change the whole look of these, turning them from your bog-standard surprised cats into recognisable Hello Kitties. I wish I’d taken a couple of progress photos of the bows, but really they came together very quickly. I dyed a lump of icing red by rubbing some colour into the icing with a toothpick, then kneading it through until all the marbling had disappeared and the icing was a block red. Then I made a little ball of icing, which first made into a small sausage shape then flattened with my thumb. I used the scribing tool to push in on the middle of either side, making a sort of 8 shape. Then I used the side of the knife to flatten the top and bottom, and went back to the scribing tool to make little hollows on either side of what would be the centre of the bow. Again, there was some trial and error, but once I was happy with the shape I lifted them from the board, placed them on the toppers and pressed down gently to secure, then added a final, small ball of icing for the middle. Once they were positioned I could make the final touches of pushing in the middle of each side to give a bow shape, and redefining the hollows in the bow.
Once I’d made all these, the main cake topper was a breeze – just repeat all the above steps, but bigger and less fiddly. I had got the hang of it by this time. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a break in between where I tried and failed to make the 3D Kitty, of course.
With these complete, I took the big cake back out of the fridge, and used the remaining buttercream to give it a final coat of icing, using my turntable and an icing scraper to get it fairly even and flat. Then I went ahead and gave both the cake and cupcakes a dusting of white hologram disco dust glitter, and applied the toppers to them. There was absolutely zero drama here; nothing broke, I didn’t drop any of them face down on the floor, the little noses didn’t turn out to be still wet and run right off the faces. They went straight on the top of the cakes and even let me press them down gently to make sure they stuck. Perfect.
I added a row of heart sprinkles round the edge of the main cake, as a finishing touch. I did not make these. Why, even after all the other work, does that feel a tiny bit like cheating?
That is the tale of the Hello Kitty cakes; it hasn’t taken me as long to write it as it did to make them, but somehow it feels like longer; as always, the time flew by while I was making and decorating. I hope you like, or will at least forgive, all the photos – this was a new experience for me, and I wanted to document it extensively, which I think you’ll agree I’ve succeeded in. I was so pleased with the end result – those little Kitties were almost too cute to eat…