Super Freaking Easy Cactus Cake Tutorial
So apparently plant ladies are the new cat ladies and I am so here for this! Ready to live (and cake) my best plant lady life. Ok hear me out.
You get a little boost because you’re keeping something other than yourself alive, but it doesn’t wreck your furniture.
You can get yourself some air purifying plants and that has to be way better than litter box stench. Am I right?
They’re so pretty but the pretty doesn’t end up hawked up on the carpet as a fur ball every couple of weeks
You can forget to feed them for a week and it’s probably not gonna be a drama (some of them might even thank you for it)
Break into the Aloe Vera arena and you’ve got yourself a DIY facemask whenever the mood hits. And trust me that’s way better for the old complexion than any kitty using your face as its new butt rest
You know how much I love an homage so how could I not turn this new obsession into a cake? And, (I love when this happens) it turned out to be the perfect cake for me to make right now. Cos well, you might have noticed I had a little sabbatical recently and it wasn’t just that I wasn’t blogging I wasn’t baking either. Like pretty much at all. So, deciding to cover a whole cake in fondant shouldn’t have been the best idea for my first one back. But! And here’s the amazing part, plant pots don’t have to be flawless and actually, the little cracks that appeared near the base I really bleeding loved once they were painted. A bit of character and all that. If you’re new to fondant I would totally recommend this for your first rodeo.
Ok, before I gush anymore shall we crack on?
*Side note; I feel like I must have seen this pot somewhere, but I have no idea where and would love to have it in my house so if you know, hit me up!
**side side note; when all is said and done though, dogs are still bae.
Ingredients - serves 12-14
time - 4-6 hours work (plus 2 days waiting for fondant to dry if you don’t trust the oven)
Earl Grey sponge recipe here
500g icing sugar
1tbsp cream cheese
1kg white fondant
8 bourbon biscuits
Gel Food colouring – pink & green
PME edible Mix n Paint powder (or any alternative brand)
Edible black pen
First up we’re gonna do the toppers because they’ll need a little time to dry. I recommend at least 2 days to let them harden up but if you’re short on time, you can always speed up the process using a warm but switched off oven.
Let’s start by making the templates. On a piece of paper draw two small and one big cactus outlines like the pic below. Cut out the templates with scissors and leave to the side.
Knead 400g of fondant for at least 10 minutes until it becomes smoother and more elastic, this will make it easier to work with. Roll the fondant on a non-stick mat until its roughly the same thickness as 1½ £1 coins. Place your templates on top and carefully cut around. Remove the templates and use a clean, dry finger to gently smooth around the edges. Now place the template of the large cactus back over the fondant and use the blunt side of a knife to run over the details; the lines of your cactus and the outlines of the flowers to make them stand out. Save the leftover fondant wrapped tightly in cling film for later.
Take two of your barbecue skewers and cut each in half. Gently slide 3 of these pieces into the base of your large cactus cut out, careful not to have them poke out through the front or back. Repeat this process for the two smaller cacti, swapping out the barbecue skewers for toothpicks. Move all the cactus pieces to a tray lined with parchment paper. Leave to dry for 30-60 minutes.
Using a plate, mix up your green and pink edible paint with a little gel food colouring, lemon juice and PME Mix n Paint powder (you can try any other brand out there, I just have no idea what to call it on its own).
When the fondant has had about an hour to dry, paint the cacti all over with green paint and the flowers with pink.
Next, mix a dab of straight gel food colour and the tiniest drop of lemon juice so that it’s sticky but paintable. Paint this directly into the grooves we added to the large cactus, green in the body, pink on the flowers. Lightly dampen your paintbrush with lemon juice and then blend out the dark colours. On the smaller cacti, darken around the edges and blend inwards. Leave to dry. Over the next few days, once the paint has completely dried, gently turn the fondant over a few times so it can thoroughly dry out on both sides.
After a couple of days, it’s now time to start baking (yay!). I used this recipe because I knew I’d be using crushed up bourbon biscuits as soil and I thought I can’t have biscuits without tea! It’s a regular go to of mine and the best thing is you can switch out the tea bags for whatever flavour you’d rather, maybe some Chai or some good old English Breakfast if it takes your fancy. Follow the amazing Benjamina’s instructions for the sponge only and then split the mix evenly between two, 6-inch lined cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180°C/160°Fan or until a skewer comes out clean. After 5 minutes, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool.
When completely cool, flatten out the top of one by shaving off the domed top with a knife. For the second sponge, shave off just the point of the dome so you have roughly 2cm flat on top. This will help our plant pot have that cute lil rounded butt.
Now onto the buttercream. In a large bowl, mix 250g of room temperature butter with 500g of sieved icing sugar, 1 tbsp cream cheese and the zest of two lemons. Mix on high for 5 minutes then with a paddle attachment mix on slow for 10 minutes (this will help get rid of the air bubbles and make the icing easier to smooth out). If you’re icing feels too thick, you can thin it down with a little lemon juice from the ones we zested earlier.
Smear a tbsp of buttercream on your cake board or stand and add the slightly rounded sponge on top. Round butt facing down. Apply a generous layer of buttercream on top and then add the second sponge to build the cake. The second sponge should have the base facing upwards to get the flattest surface. Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of buttercream and smooth it over. Place the cake in the fridge for chilling.
When chilled, roll out a small piece of fondant into a long rope. It should be roughly as thick as a small pea and long enough to wrap around the cake. Remove the cake from the fridge and add the rope of fondant around the top, trimming off any excess.
Generously cover the cake in another layer of buttercream and smooth down with a bench scraper. Repeat this a few times, filling in any gaps with more buttercream until it’s completely smooth. Just at the top where it meets our fondant rope, I used a small palette knife to smooth over the joint and blend the curve. Return the cake to the fridge for another 30 minutes.
While the cake is chilling, knead all the remaining fondant for at least 10 minutes until it feels more elastic and easier to work with. Once the cake is cool, roll the fondant flat until its big enough to cover the cake all over plus about another 2cm.
Remove the cake from the fridge and mist lightly with water that has been boiled and then cooled. Cover the cake in fondant and smooth down the sides working from the top down to avoid air bubbles. Don’t worry too much about the top as we’re going to cut that centre piece out. Once the cake is smooth and covered all over trim the excess fondant from the base. With the blunt side of a knife, gently tuck the fondant under the little butt curve. Now use the sharp edge of a knife to remove the centre fondant from the top, you want to line up the cut with the inner edge of the rope. Use your finger to smooth around the join.
Leave the cake to the side to firm up a little. Try to find it somewhere cool and dry but not the fridge (fondant in the fridge tends to sweat and it ain’t pretty). Now we can head back to our cactus toppers. They should be well and truly dried out by now. Using an edible black pen sketch around the outlines to make the details really stand out. When your happy with the outlines add in your little pricks (ha! Needles? Thorns? What are they??).
Now that your cakes had a little time to relax into itself, we can start painting. Mix up a little edible pink paint and paint the bottom half of the plant pot. For the top half, use your edible black pen to add a set of three zig-zag lines. Don’t worry too much about these, I was completely over thinking it and driving myself crazy (see; rulers, templates, toothpick markings) but in the end (exhaustion) I totally free-balled it and they look great! One thing to watch for is the pressure here, be really careful not to push too hard and drag the fondant, you wanna just glide over the top. If you’re really nervous about this you can absolutely wait for the fondant to dry out a little more and I definitely recommend using some of your scrap fondant for a practice run.
To make the edible soil, throw 8 bourbon biscuits into a food processor and pulse until they crumb. Side note, this turned out to be a very nice ice cream topping! Yum! Sprinkle the soil on top of the cake, making sure to stay inside the ridge.
Finally, carefully push the cactus toppers into the plant pot. Store the cake somewhere cool and dry until the big unveil and then bask in the glorious oooohs and aaaahs cos you have definitely earned it!
Come back next time where I will be absolutely blubbering over my love for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (best TV show ever!) with some freaking adorable cupcakes telling the story of my fave moments from the show. Rachel Bloom I love you!