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I’m so glad this story ends happily with an amazing delicious and awesome looking cake, but it was quite the trial and error to get there! Click here if you want to go straight to the recipe. If you want to hear about my ridiculous and hilarious learning curve and the behind the scenes version of the story – continue reading!
Let me start by saying – I thought I was going to break the internet. I seriously thought I did. I had the idea of making a solar eclipse themed cake that not only would glow-in-the-dark but also one that was spicy hot. As far as I could tell – no cake had ever combined these three elements – it was mine to create! I was so excited!
I did a bit of research online and found that mixing tonic water into the frosting would make it glow. Yay! Next, I really wanted a yellow cake to represent the sun and the only non-chocolate/non-cinnamon (I hate red cinnamon candy) cake recipe I could find that had a spiciness kick to it was for “Pineapple Habanero Cupcakes” from the Bravado Spice Co. It was an easy recipe as it mentioned “follow the directions on the back of the box” – I was so happy. Yay!
I reached out to Bravado Spice Co. to let them know of my idea and to ask permission to use the photos of their product since I was going to be using their Pineapple and Habanero Hot Sauce. They loved the idea and were so nice as they not only gave me permission, but also offered to provide me a free sample to use for my blog! I was so thrilled to receive a free sample as a new blogger! Plus, now I get to do this!
[Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.]
I ran out and bought a black light and the rest of what I needed, waited impatiently for my hot sauce to come in the mail and dreamed up the design of my masterpiece.
Now keep in mind – I’m not a baker – I bake things from scratch maybe 1-3x a year (so feel special when I make you something!). So please no harsh comments – as I’m already quite embarrassed with what I’m about to share with you. It started easy enough – just follow the directions on the box, but substitute some of the oil/water with the hot sauce in the cake mix. The trick of adding parchment paper to the bottom of your cake pans was something I recently learned to having your cakes easily pop out once finished.
Once I had the batter baking in the oven – I started creating my moon by mixing food coloring into the almond paste to make it as close to black as possible. Equal drops of red, blue and green make a fairly convincing black color and it took nearly ~15 drops of each color to get it to be black and not gray. I thought I was clever by mixing the dye in a plastic bag so as not to stain my fingers and to wrap my rolling pin with Cling n’ Seal to keep it from getting dirty and to roll it over aluminum foil so that I don’t dirty up the kitchen counter tops. That last idea – didn’t work so well – my moon stuck to the foil so badly it distorted pretty badly and gave it a dull finish. By buffering it with my fingers through a plastic bag – I was able to give it a nice shiny finish. I was so confident that this cake was going to be awesome!
Once the cakes were finished baking and had finished cooling down, I added in my own twist to the online recipe by making this a poke cake by poking holes with the end of my wooden spoon and filling these in crushed pineapple and juice (spoiler alert: this turned out to be the one positive aspect of my final cake). I added in tonic water and yellow food coloring to a small portion of frosting that was going to be the sun. I worked under the UV light to ensure it would glow, which it did for the record (but note how close the UV light is … this should have been factored in – but I was so focused in on being impressed with my glowing frosting). I also mixed in more hot sauce into the remaining white frosting for the rest of the cake.
I then frosted the cake – without edging the sides – so there were big open gaps on the side of the cake and heaping gobs of frosting were used to fill these sections in. I placed my ‘moon’ onto the center of the cake and artistically placed the yellow-glowing-tonic-water frosting onto the cake. During this last bit … I was starting to realize how ugly my cake was turning out to be and how it was looking like a FAILED attempt of a Pinterest post.
It was the ugliest cake I had ever seen (and mind you I was trying my hardest to make it look good)- I was utterly disappointed. It looked like a sad sunflower – and not the amazingly brilliant solar eclipse image I had imagined it would be. When I went to check to see if it would glow under the black light …. there was nothing – the white frosting in the background fluoresced brighter than where I had tonic water frosting. To make things worst – my black moon under the UV was the color of poop. So I had a big ole’ poop colored moon in the middle of my cake. I was devastated. I figured I should at least taste it and took a small piece to try … the frosting was horribly repulsive – the bitterness of the tonic water in that small amount of frosting was disgusting and overpowering. The cake itself was good but was too spicy to enjoy to my liking – the hot sauce had excellent flavor but a real heat-kick to it. Fail, Fail, Fail – I was ready to dump the cake, the idea … and even blogging itself (dramatic I know).
I put the cake in the fridge (I’m so glad I didn’t dump it into the garbage like I had wanted) and took a break. I decided to do a bit more research.
I started with looking at alternatives to tonic water, which is what most blogs reference. I absolutely wanted the glowing part of my cake to be edible. There were a few that mentioned vitamins A and B will glow under UV when crushed up, but certainly didn’t want to put that on my cake as I’m sure flavor and texture wise it wouldn’t be good (and for health concerns). There are products like disco dust that will fluoresce under UV light, but it’s controversial as to whether they are truly edible. I wasn’t having much luck and so I shifted my research focus – how could I get my cake to look better.
In researching how I could improve the look of my cake – I realized that I should have had the background icing be black and not white. I just overlooked this detail from the start. Chocolate frosting wouldn’t cut it and new that black fondant was likely the best option. I had never worked with fondant before and so pulled up YouTube and watched video after video on techniques of best practices. Looked easy enough. I also took note of covering the work surface with powdered sugar or corn starch so that the fondant doesn’t stick (my earlier mistake with the almond paste) … but wait… powdered sugar and corn starch are both edible, plus they are super white and just might look good under UV. I put some in a lid and ran back to my UV light…
It was so beautiful! On the left is the powdered sugar and on the right is the corn starch – I had my answer. Plus, it dawned on me that I could use the Solar Eclipse Chalk Drawing technique I have on my Gift Ideas page that is related to the solar eclipse for my cake! I went to bed feeling hopeful – that I just might be able to pull this off.
The next morning I went out and bought pre-packaged black fondant (I really liked this one!), a fondant smoother-ma-jig and a new can of frosting. That’s all I needed. I very happily took a knife to my cake and trimmed it down so that it had a smooth edge and removed all the frosting from the top of the cake. I wrapped a 10″x10″ photobook with cling n’ seal wrap to use as a cake base. With the new frosting I added a crumb coating layer and made sure to chill it before adding the fondant (I started feeling at this point like I knew what I was doing).
The guidelines for the fondant were easy to follow and placed it onto my cake without any issues. I was able to buffer out the powdered sugar with a slightly damp paper towel – it looked so promising! I decided not to cut the fondant off at the base of the cake and instead trimmed it at the base of the cake. A shot glass provided the perfect size for the moon and placed that in the middle of my cake. I then added a little bit of corn starch to the base of the shot glass and brushed it outwards using a small brush. While removing the shot glass, make the slightest impression of it into the fondant for a 3D effect. When I did this – I may have squealed with how it looked. SO much better than my earlier version.
I once again went up to where I was keeping the UV light and was hoping for two things:
1) that it would glow under UV light
2) that the black fondant didn’t look like the color of poo under UV light
I flipped on the UV light and all I can say is that it was so beautiful! I loved it and felt like a proud cake mamma. I really liked how well the black fondant on the cake board lit up in the background. I wrapped the plate in aluminum foil so that it’d mimic a solar blanket to go with the theme and that reflects off the purple color of the UV light – an excellent contrast to one another. The taste of the cake was so much better without the tonic water frosting! The heat of the hot sauce really comes through and tasted best whenever I had the crushed pineapple mixed into the bite – as they complimented one another perfectly. I modified the final recipe to ensure that the perfect blend of pineapple to hot sauce ratio.
Now what to do with the unused tonic water?
I could use it as a mixer in drinks or in my cooking. I’ll pass. Instead I made a glow-in-the-dark version of my waves in a bottle DIY from my Summertime Gift Ideas post for those who love the water! You can also look at my Glow-the-Dark Gift Ideas post as well to get more ideas!
I’ll close with this – in hindsight, I wished I took more pictures of my ugly cake. Yes, it was ugly, but now it has a special place in my heart and lives on in my memory. RIP ugly cake. RIP.