Balloon Cake

Maybe the *cutest* balloon cake I've ever made! 

I was asked for a birthday cake for a girl who loves animals and balloons – this cake was the perfect fit! Full disclosure – I got the gist of this decoration idea from Pinterest, though I couldn't find the original pin when I looked for it! (Ping me for credit if it's yours!) The bunny was really easy to make out of gum paste, and the balloons were SO fun to make out of gelatin!

Fair warning – the gelatin bubbles need about 24 hours to dry before you can remove the water balloons and use them to decorate!

All involved recipes below!

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Balloon Cake Layers

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup  granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon  salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
5 eggs 
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
¼ cup rainbow jimmy sprinkles (not non-pareils; they’ll dissolve and turn the cake grayish-brown!)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray.
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. 
Mix bits of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly. 
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.

Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.

Once the layers have fully cooled, the browned bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble and break.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
Few small drops teal food coloring – I used Americolor gel!
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined. Reserve a bit of white frosting to pipe the balloon strings, and color the rest light teal.

Additional Supplies/Equipment: 

- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) or an 8” acrylic cake disc (I started using these so I wouldn’t waste so many cake circles!)
- Small piping bag & tip – this set has been one of my favorites for 3+ years now!
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use
- Small offset spatula
- Sprinkle mix of your choice – I used a seasonal mix, but this one is pretty similar!
- For gelatin balloons – 4 packages (.25 oz each) powdered unflavored gelatin (about 4 Tablespoons) + 2-3 drops liquid food colors (I used red, yellow, and green) + ½ cup cold water & lustre dust if you want to add a bit of sparkle!

Decorations:

I used the gelatin bubble recipe from SprinkleBakes.com – here’s a link to the recipe and instructions!
- white gum paste or fondant – I used Satin Ice gum paste, but it comes in huuuge containers. :p Here’s a link to a smaller package of white fondant! I also mixed a bit of yellow gel color into a small lump of fondant to make the present next to the bunny, and a paintbrush with a bit of pink food color for the inside of the ears.

To make the bunny, I used one large and seven small lumps of fondant – the body, the head, two arms/legs. If they’d had more drying time they'd have held together on their own, but I did end up using a toothpick to hold the ears on. 

Assembly:

Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting. I added a sprinkle of rainbow jimmies in between my cake layers for more color, but this is optional!
Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.

Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer. I usually do this with my large offset spatula.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.

Once the frosting is set, transfer your white frosting to a piping bag fitted with a small tip.
Pipe the balloon strings onto the side of the cake, stopping at the top.

Arrange the gelatin balloons on top of the cake – I used a bit of corn syrup to stick the top balloons to the lower ones. Add the fondant decorations at the base of the cake. Add a few sprinkles to the top of the cake and around the base!

Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Pinterest or on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!

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