Q&A with Amanda Rettke, Author of Surprise-Inside Cakes
I remember how excited I was when I first stumbled across Amanda Rettke's blog, I am Baker, over three years ago. I eagerly scrolled through her website with wide eyes, browsing through pages and pages of the most amazing cakes and sweet creations. I had never seen a cake with a design on the inside, and I'm not just talking about alternating colors and cake layers. Can you imagine cutting into a cake and seeing a giant heart right in the middle of it? What about a shamrock for St. Patrick's Day? Or even a snow globe with a snowman inside? All inside of a cake!
Today is the official release date for Amanda's new cookbook, Surprise-Inside Cakes. To celebrate, here's a Q&A with Amanda herself! There may even be a surprise for you below the Q&A as well.
When did you make your first Surprise-Inside Cake and what was the occasion?My first surprise-inside cake was in 2009 and it was a jack-o-lantern cake with a candle hidden inside. I was trying to make a cake for a church pot-luck and wanted something unique, fun, and safe for all ages. It was definitely a hit!
What gave you the idea to put a design on the inside of a cake?I started doing surprise-inside cakes simply because I didn't know you couldn't. It just made sense to me that the inside of the cake should be as fun and creative as the outside, so I set about figuring out ways to make it happen!
How many cakes are in your cookbook and where did you get the ideas and inspiration for them?There are about 50 cakes in the book and they are all inspired by life around me. Some are dedicated to the people that make me laugh or entertain (like some Real Housewives!) and some are inspired by life and Minnesota and as a homeschooling mom.
Did you have any ideas for Surprise-Inside Cakes that turned out to be flops?Oh yes!! Sooooo many! I have tried to do a spider web and a snow flake and a volcano and a Canadian flag and many more. There is even a cake in the book, The Cowboy Boot Cake, which is far from perfect but I just couldn't bring myself to cut. (It's for a special person.) While those cakes are not so easy to do with the traditional "deconstruction" method, I have now come up with ways to do those cakes with a twice-baked surprise inside method. And now, the opportunities are endless!
On your blog, you wrote that creating this cookbook was a three-year process. What was that process like?It was like being pregnant for 3 years. Sometimes frustrating, painful, stressful and tiring… but the moment I held that book in my hands it all turned magical and beautiful.
What is your favorite Surprise-Inside Cake from the book?I love the Neapolitan Hi-Hat Cake. I can't wait to make versions of that cake! I really hope people will make it and see not only how delicious it is, but how easy and fun the process is! When you cut into that cake and see that mile high whipped cream… it's magical!
Now, how would you like to see a recipe from the actual book? Amanda was kind enough to send us one, and I personally cannot wait to make it!
Make sure to read the directions for making the whole cake before reading the directions for the individual recipes. The Strawberry Cake is usually made in three pans, but for the Neapolitan Hi-Hat Cake, it's made in one 9-inch pan. The brownies are made in one 9-inch pan as well. Bake away!
Neapolitan Hi-Hat Cake
1 recipe Decadent Brownies, recipe below1 recipe Strawberry Cake, recipe below1/2 recipe Chocolate Buttercream, recipe below2 16-ounce containers of whipped topping, such as Cool Whip, very well chilled12-ounce bag of milk chocolate chips1/2 cup canola oil
Special equipment: 9-inch round cake pans; cake leveler or long serrated knife; disposable pastry bag; small offset spatula
Baking1. Bake the brownies in a 9-inch round cake pan.2. Bake the whole strawberry cake recipe in a single 9-inch pan. You may need to add extra time for baking.3. Cool both the cake and the brownies to room temperature.4. Prepare the chocolate buttercream.5. Level the strawberry cake to the height of the brownies (see page 9). A hand-held leveler works best, but you can also use a long serrated knife.6. Place the brownie layer on a cake stand, then set the strawberry layer on top.7. Using the offset spatula, cover the sides of the cake with chocolate buttercream (see page 13).8. Place the whipped topping in a pastry bag and cut off the tip so that you have an opening about 1 inch wide. Pipe out a circle of whipped topping around the perimeter of the cake. This wall will help to keep the whipped topping in place.9. Scoop extra whipped topping onto the cake and smooth it with an offset spatula.10. Moving slightly in, pipe out another circle on top of the layer of whipped topping. Fill the center with more whipped topping. Continue this process until you have a nice point on top. If the whipped topping is not holding the layers, remove what you have and chill it until it’s sturdier. You can then start again. Smooth the sides, if necessary, when you are done.11. Freeze the cake for 30 minutes before coating it in chocolate; if you won’t be serving the cake quickly, keep it in the fridge overnight.
Frosting and Decorating12. Pour the chocolate chips and the canola into a heat-safe bowl. Heat 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat (you want a simmer, not a rolling boil). Set the bowl of chocolate over the saucepan and heat, stirring, until the chips are melted.13. Pour the chocolate into a high-sided container. Let it sit for a few minutes to cool down.14. Lay 4 pieces of parchment around the base of the cake. Pour the chocolate over the cake, coating the whole thing.15. Let the chocolate set for about 5 minutes, then remove the parchment paper. (You can remove the paper earlier if you like the look of chocolate puddles—I kind of do!)16. Keep the cake chilled in the fridge until ready to serve. Dip a knife in hot water before using it to cut the cake.
Decadent Brownies1 cup granulated sugar1/2 cup packed light brown sugar1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature2 teaspoons good-quality vanilla extract2 large eggs, at room temperature1/2 cup all-purpose flour1/4 cup cake flour1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa1/4 teaspoon salt1/2 cup milk chocolate (about 2 ounces), finely chopped
1. Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch round cake pan as directed on page 8.2. In a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended.3. Sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture with the mixer on low speed.4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate by hand, using a spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean (a crumb or two is just fine). Let the brownies cool to room temperature in pan.
Strawberry Cake4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature2 cups sugar1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract1/2 teaspoon almond extract3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour1/2 teaspoon salt2 teaspoons baking powder2⁄3 cup strawberry puree (blend 1 cup thawed frozen berries and 1 or 2 tablespoons water)2 cups fresh strawberries, diced
1. Set a rack in the center of the oven, then preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans as directed on page 8.2. In a standing mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping to maintain soft peaks. Transfer the egg white mixture into a large bowl (it will be about 5 cups in volume) and set it aside. Clean the mixer bowl.3. Change to the paddle attachment and use the mixer to cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and almond and mix to combine. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.4. Sift together 3 cups of the flour, the salt, and the baking powder into a medium bowl.5. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and mix to combine, followed by half of the strawberry puree, half the remaining flour mixture, the remaining strawberry puree, and the remaining flour mixture, mixing after each addition. The batter will be thick.6. Using a spatula, fold in the egg whites.7. In a large bowl, coat the diced strawberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Using a spatula, gently fold them into the batter.8. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (If you use two 8-inch cake pans, bake for 45 to 50 minutes.) Let pans cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes and set them on wire racks until they reach room temperature.
Chocolate Buttercream½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract4 to 5 cups confectioners’ sugar¼ cup milk
In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl, cream the butter, cocoa, and vanilla at medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, adding in milk whenever the frosting gets too stiff or the mixer starts to struggle. After 4 cups of sugar have been added, add the rest of the milk and mix until the frosting is smooth and silky (about 2 minutes). For a stiff er consistency, add more confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup at a time. If the frosting gets too stiff , add in more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.