It’s a Bird, It’s a Pie – nope, it’s a cake!
Pie or Cake
So Mother’s Day was about to arrive and I was in charge of dessert (natch). As those of us who “cake” know, we are usually expected to bring dessert and usually expected to bring a cake. I didn’t want to bring a cake, well, I should say, I didn’t want to bring a cake in the traditional sense. My husband and daughter suggested I make a pie, but that didn’t really sit right with me either. Then a light bulb went off – what about a cake….that looks like a pie!! That really appealed to me.
So, I decided I wanted to create a realistic pie/cake and started to look around the interwebs for tutorials or images of cakes that were made like pies. I just couldn’t find any that looked truly real to me. Most were painted, others were painted and torched to give a “baked” look, but none had that rough, pastry pie crust texture I was looking for. So I called on my trusty friend Scott from Seven Ravens Bake House and we brainstormed. Certainly fondant had to be part of the mix, and a torch, but what else…a sugar of some sort and, aha! Wafer Paper.
Now that I knew what supplies I needed, it was testing time. There was no way I was going to go whole hog on this project without an inkling of what I was going to do. That’s always a recipe for disaster – at least for me.
So, I gathered wafer paper, fondant, ivory food color, my trusty culinary torch, a pastry brush and a bunch of different sugar products to test. I flattened out several different blobs of fondant and lined them up.
I tested piping gel, honey, dark corn syrup, clear corn syrup, molasses and brown sugar, with varying results.
For each blob of fondant I either brushed or coated the surface with the sugar, and then took my torch to it. Some took more than one pass for me to get any color at all, and some colored up right away.
First I tried the piping gel. I thought that because of its sugar content and stickiness it would result in a good coloring of the fondant. I was wrong (this is why we test!)
Here’s what the piping gel fondant looked like:
See anything? nope, me either.
On to the next one – the honey. I thought this one would color up nicely too, especially since it had an inherently amber color. Again, not so much. It took several passes of the torch, allowing it to cool inbetween (so as not to melt the fondant into a puddle), and even then, the color was uneven and unimpressive:
Next was the dark corn syrup. This one ended up being my 2nd favorite of all of them. The color of the syrup is already quite dark, and the fondant colored up nicely with bubbles and a nice “cooked” look:
I figured I would also try the light corn syrup, but that was as weak performing as the piping gel:
Next I tried the molasses, which turned out to be my absolute favorite of all of them. The fondant got nice color from being torched and where the molasses pooled a bit, it gave the look of melted sugar:
I also tried torching plain fondant as well – that looked nice, but didn’t really give me that flaky pie crust look, but I’m sure there are other applications for this method that could be good – like a grilled cheese sandwich perhaps?
I also tested brown sugar, but that just ignited and burned before melting, so that was just plain out of the running.
More testing – with wafer paper
Now that I knew I wanted to use the molasses, I colored some fondant with ivory food color and flattened out two pieces. I brushed one with molasses and then torched it.
This didn’t give me the effect I wanted.
So I pulled out my wafer paper, tore it into strips and placed them on top of a new piece of fondant and painted them with the molasses. This didn’t work either, the edges of the wafer paper got too brown so that the paper was too obvious. However, it did give me the bubbly, pastry look I was going for:
I then had the idea about wafer paper and water – would wetting the wafer paper keep those edges from burning? What if I was able to do both the molasses AND the water on the wafer paper?
I decided to take a pie plate, fill it with foil and cover it with a thin layer of fondant. I painted the fondant with molasses:
I noticed that it pooled up in the crevices, but I let it be. I then took a little spray bottle and sprayed my wafer paper lightly on both sides, so that it saturated, and then laid it on top of my “pie”:
Once I laid it over, I sprayed it again with water, soaking it pretty well. I then torched the whole thing. It started to brown nicely, but I had to keep alternating between brushing the excess molasses around on it, and spraying it with water and then torching it again, and again until I got the look I wanted:
I was really thrilled with the result. My husband even came home and asked if he could eat the pie on the counter! I said “Sure”, and he dug in, quite disappointed that all he got was some fondant and some aluminum foil. Oh well!
This effect was fun to work on and has many different applications – perhaps some danish? A croissant? Dinner rolls? Lots of possibilities.
I ended up using it on a lattice topped pie for Mother’s Day – that was a lot more tricky, and perhaps is a blog post for another time.
Happy Caking, and if you try this method out, please share your work with me in the comments below! I’d love to see it!