Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Visit of Sungara, the Easter Bunny's Kenyan Cousin

A few days ago, I was asked the question "Have you ever had bunny cake?" Not having been a huge fan of coconut, I responded with "No." It is from that point forward the bunny cake challenge was proposed. And so it happened; after baking, sculpting, frosting, coating, and shaping, Sungara was born. As I explained to some of my colleagues, in celebration of the first day of sun in what has seemed like ages, Sungara (Swahili for "rabbit") (or roughly translated in "Erik"-speak, "Pete") came to visit our office. In actuality, Sungara is made of a white butter cake and coated with buttercream frosting and coconut, with jelly bean eyes and a nose.

After checking out a variety of culinary websites, as I seem to do quite often, I settled on adapting my white butter cake on two recipes (SCOTTOSMAN's and Joy of Baking's).

In addition, I utilised the 'one bowl' or 'quick bowl' method of cake preparation, as described (again) via Joy of Baking. Using a strong whisk, combine 1 c white granulated sugar, 1.5 c cake flour, and 1.5 tsp baking powder, and then incorporate 1/2 stick room temp and softened unsalted butter into the dry mix, as shown in the photo above left. Eventually, the flour will be coated by the butter and the consistency of the mix should resemble that of sand. As the cake flour itself will add the airy texture you are looking for in the cake, the cake does need some support (especially since it will be carved eventually) and so 2 eggs should then be beaten into the (now) batter. The alternative to this would to separate the eggs and beat the whites to add to the height and fluff of the cake which I do not think is incredibly necessary here. Next up is the 1/2 c milk which adds structural support by the gluten formed with the liquid to the flour (having first covered the flour in butter will aid in making sure too much gluten isn't formed; this would definitely yield a denser cake). Finally, as the above right photo shows, 1 tsp vanilla should be whisked into the batter. Once well combined, get the (now) batter into a pre-heated 350 °F oven for about 20-25 min.

Not quite knowing what the final shape of the bunny would look like, I prepped more baking dishes than necessary and eventually made the bunny out of the three cakes shown in the photo above. Do take note the cake tester and wire apparatus did pull out some uncooked batter from the left baking dish. After cooling the cakes in the containers, the residual heat finished cooking the cakes.

Again, not quite knowing what to expect in terms of space, I positioned pieces of the cake in strategic places to estimate that location of each component, as seen above.

With the general skeleton now complete, I made a full batch of buttercream frosting, based on the Wilton's recipe I had used for my Harry Potter cake. Into an impromptu Ziploc piping bag, I used some of the buttercream frosting, as well as cut bamboo sticks, to "adhere" the pieces to each other.

Having safely transported the cake and my bag of remaining buttercream to my office space, it was time to assemble the cake and its setting. Into a clean Ziploc bag, I transferred one bag of shredded coconut and after about 1 tbsp of water and 18 drops of green food colouring (and shaking it all up, with the bag zipped closed of course), I achieved the right shade of green I was looking for for the grass that would (soon) surround the bunny cake.

After piping and spreading a thick layer of buttercream on the bunny's back, take a handful of coconut and gently press it into the frosting. For a fluffy-looking tail, be sure to pipe on a lot of buttercream and press in a lot of coconut. Do not be afraid of shaping the cake as you go along; as you add more coconut, the cake becomes easier to shape without worry of getting frosting all over your hands (but then again, what's wrong with that?).

Finally it is time to work on the bunny's head. After piping on thick layers of frosting to help emphasize the bunny's face, coconut and the addition of jellybeans eyes and nose bring life to our bunny, Sungara. As I did not have enough cake for cake ears, I was fortunate to still have leftover marshmallow fondant that was still workable, and which was shaped and positioned (with the aid of cut up bamboo skewers) to look a bit floppy.

After some final piping to cover up the fondant work, and with the shredded coconut grass surrounding the bunny cake, Sungara is officially welcomed to our office. For additional photos of this challenge, click here.

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