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May 27, 2010 1:44 AM   Subscribe

I am making a cake for a Eurovision party for somewhere between 10 and 20 people, but I'm struggling for design ideas. I'm looking for crowd-pleasing, not-seven-hours-and-$50-worth-of-equipment recipes...and I have no cake decorating experience! Also: I'm in Poland.

I've got a huge sheet pan/baking dish, but it's ceramic. So far me and my cake-making partner have discussed

• Country-shaped cake pieces
• Somehow tracing out a map of Europe with icing
• Somehow getting a logo/image from the internet and, uh, transferring it to the cake
• Cupcakes with "flag" icing

The ideal cake will be easy to make, fun to reveal, and use ingredients I can find easily - fondant no, baking powder yes. Boxed cake mix exists here but is quite expensive and I'd much rather make something from scratch.

Thank you!
posted by mdonley to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh, one more thing: I don't have a Kitchenaid-style mixer, just a big bowl and a handheld blender.
posted by mdonley at 1:58 AM on May 27, 2010

There are places in poland that will print images onto cakes (fondant), but that always look seriously cheap. I would make small cakes/pastries from different countries, or maybe babeczki z budyniem (shortbread rounds with pudding) and use food coloring to make flags in the pudding? Or take advantage of fresh fruit season starting and maybe a large cold cheesecake (sernik na zimno) with strawberries on top in the shape of europe?

Generally speaking, I'd go with lighter, cooler cakes as it is starting to get warm and spring is really out in full force.
posted by jedrek at 2:18 AM on May 27, 2010

Oh, and one thing I make for the natives here that goes over like gangbusters is chewey chocolate chip cookies (I have a great recipe for polish products, if you're interested). Maybe top those with eurocentric-flag-icing?
posted by jedrek at 2:20 AM on May 27, 2010

Given your limitations, maybe you could riff off the Eurovision aesthetic? Eg by getting edible glitter and going crazy? Might work especially well with cupcakes if you douse them in glitter and those little edible silver balls, put them on a black tray decorated with silver streamers, and are artistic with the lighting.

This sponge cake (not suitable for cupcakes) is very easy. You can make two batches and sandwich them with fresh fruit: I like a mix of strawberries and mango, and fresh cream whipped with cognac and a little honey.

It's easy to scale up -- I've given the weights in oz because it's a 1:1:1 ratio. So 1 egg/ 1 oz sugar/ 1 oz flour.

4 ounces granulated sugar
4 ounces flour, sifted
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip eggs, sugar and vanilla until the peak stands when you raise the mixer. (This takes a while with a hand-held machine but it can be done). The softly fold in the flour trying to incorporate air into the mixture. Pour into a greased baking dish lined with parchment paper (optional; you can grease and dust with flour but paper is easier), about 7x11 inches. This recipe is very forgiving regarding pans; just make sure it's filled to a little more than halfway up. Put in preheated oven at 220 C. It'll start rising and browning and should be done in about 10-15 minutes. No less than 10, and by 15 you should be peering in regularly. You can tell it's done once it's a pale brown on top. Do NOT open the oven until you're ready to take it out, as it might collapse. If you take it out and feel it's a little dry due to over-baking, macerate some strawberries and use the liquid as well when making a sandwich.

Take out of tin at once, allow to cool. If using fruit and cream -- and you should, since it's a dry cake, in fact macerated fruit is especially good -- assemble and refrigerate. It'll be even better once it's chilled.

To decorate -- I'm not decorator either, but I'd cover it in whipped cream, use a spatula to make artistic whirls and disguise my ineptness at cake decoration, then sprinkle heavily with glitter.

Disclaimer: I've never baked a cake in a ceramic dish, though I've eaten this very cake cooked by someone else in a Pyrex bowl. I don't know what alteration to temperature or time it would need.

On preview: To make outlines of countries or flags, use stencils. If short on coloured edible matter, you could simply use grated chocolate to make the shape. That might work well on top of a cheesecake, as suggested above.
posted by tavegyl at 2:31 AM on May 27, 2010

Cupcakes somehow seem more appropriate for Eurovision, and they're always a big hit at parties. Do you know if your guests will have specific national affiliations that they are cheering for, or if it will be all Poland? Checking out the Eurovision website, I see that their logo consists of making the "v" into a heart, and then filling that heart with different things.

So, you could make cupcakes, in black or silver paper cups, and frost them with a fairly stiff white icing and stick them in the fridge to keep things stiff. Then you could make a stencil shaped like the heart in the logo from some thick paper. It wouldn't have to be exact, just a sort of swoopy heart shape, about the size of your cupcakes. Use the stencil for either dusting powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) on top of colored icing, cocoa powder or colored sugars onto white icing, or as a guide to make an outline with contrasting colored icing. To draw a shape with icing, load some into a plastic baggy, squeeze it all into one corner, and snip off that corner. By slowly squeezing it from the top down, you'll be able to draw a line with it.

Then, for different country affiliations, you can be kind of more abstract with decorating inside your hearts. Pick the main color or two of each country's flag that you're making a cupcake for, and just do a dusting of colored sugar in the middle of the heart. Or make them all Poland-themed! Make the frosting chocolate, and sprinkle a heart of powdered sugar. Then, cover the top half of the stencil with another piece of paper, and sprinkle the bottom half of the heart with red sugar.

Making colored sugar is very easy. Just take normal white sugar and put a few spoonfuls into a clean jar. Add a couple drops of food coloring, and shake for a few minutes. Repeat with more drops if you want the color more intense. Then, rinse and dry the jar after each color so you don't mix them by accident.
posted by Mizu at 4:46 AM on May 27, 2010

I'd definitely do cupcakes if you have easy access to the paper cups and a muffin tin to bake in. If you only have a sheet pan you can do one or more sheet cakes and cut them into smaller pieces. Decorate to match, as suggested above and eat the appropriate cake as countries are eliminated (does that happen?) or perform.

I'm pretty sure this is a recipe from The Cake Bible that I've made fantastic cupcakes from.
posted by ecurtz at 8:54 AM on May 27, 2010

glitter, tacky colours of icing, and a big 12.

Or go patriotic and decorate the cake like the Polish flag (and you're lucky -- that's an easy one!)
posted by jb at 8:31 PM on May 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! It turned out FANTASTICALLY.

Here's how we did it:

1. We printed a map of Europe and blew it up to A3 size. We kept both images.

2. We baked this cake (which generates almost three kilos of batter!) into a big sheet and a separate loaf.

3. We cut the loaf lengthwise into three layers to make material for the countries. The layers were set out on a parchment paper-covered cutting board. Theoretically we would put the map on the cake layers, trace it out with a knife, and be done. But things didn't go according to plan...

4. Because Europe is so, uh, crenelated, we had to cut the map of Europe up to make the most of the limited material and make it possible to place pieces accurately:

• All the islands and tricky peninsulas had to be separated. Denmark (later accidentally eaten), Finland, Italy, Scandinavia, the Peloponnese, Turkey, Crimea, and the Kola Peninsula. In addition to Iceland, Ireland, and Britain, we did all the big Mediterranean islands too, but it was harder: all the Balearic Islands were represented by Mallorca because it's the biggest, and Sardinia and Corsica were fused (sorry guys!). Most of the Aegean islands were cut, but Crete made it, as did Cyprus. Malta was left out - it's just too small!

• We split the remainder of the continent itself like this:
- from Venice to Szczecin
- from St. Petersburg to Odessa
- from the Sea of Azov to the northern tip of the Caspian Sea, and from the Black Sea-Turkish-Georgian border point to Aleppo

5. We kept the cake moist during the cutting with some amazing raspberry-brandy mousse (mus z malin y brandy). As we cut things out, we filled in my smaller copy of the map accordingly so we didn't waste cake and end up with two Crimeas or something.

6. Once we'd cut out the whole continent, we frosted the sheet with this frosting, placed the pieces on the cake, added more raspberry-brandy mousse, and traced out the Eurovision heart design over Poland, in the colors of the Polish flag, with silver sugar pearls. We used some raspberry jam (not the mousse, which was too brown!) to pink/red-ify some frosting.

7. Once complete, we popped it in the fridge until party time! The frosting was like glue and even the islands out on the extreme edges of the continent didn't move or fall off all night!

Tips for future cake bakers:

• make your layers uniform depth - Russia ended up being the "top" of the loaf and looks like a giant mountain range!
• cut the countries with tricky coasts from the soft, inner, less crumbly part of the cake - trying to get the east coast of Britain right was really tough because it was too firm and kept disintegrating!
• have something to keep the cake moist
• use parchment paper when you bake and frost so your cakes stay perfect and you don't have to wash as many things afterward
• let the cake chill for a few hours so things set up well and nothing moves
• don't walk to the party because you'll be afraid of things falling onto your cake and sticking onto the frosting and RUINING EVERYTHING.

Thanks again to the posters here!
posted by mdonley at 4:50 AM on May 30, 2010

Yay! That looks DELICIOUS. I'm having vicarious cake-eating pleasures just looking at the pictures. It turned out so much more exciting and impressive (and appropriately cheesy) than any of the individual suggestions would have been.
posted by Mizu at 12:10 AM on June 18, 2010

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