The Mister's close friend and coworker had a birthday yesterday, so I decided to bake him a devil's food cake to celebrate his special day. This fellow, we'll call him Hawkeye, is an avid falconer. He owns two hawks and two squirrel dogs and hunts with them as frequently as he is able. Hawkeye and The Mister go way back (as is the expression around these parts). Before landing their current positions, Hawkeye and The Mister worked together for several years at a company in another city. We now live a few blocks apart. All that to say, I really wanted to do something nice for Hawkeye's birthday. Knowing his passion for hunting with birds, I decided to do a buttercream transfer of a falcon sitting on a glove.
Now for all the caveats and the lessons learned.
I have never made a buttercream transfer before. This was my first attempt. If you are making a cake for someone and have never tried the technique/recipe/etc before, practice the technique/recipe/etc first. Probably a good general rule of thumb. Oops. (Thankfully, Hawkeye loved the cake despite its many flaws.)
I attempted to level the cake with a long serrated knife. While this mostly worked, I did not get the cake perfectly level. Since the buttercream transfer stretched from one end of the cake to the other, it was important (especially in this case) to have a very flat cake top.
The black gel icing I tried to use did not stick very well to the wax paper (I am guessing that this could have been a result of using an older gel icing or thinning it too much.) So, I mixed the gel icing with some white buttercream icing to produce a slightly thicker and pipeable icing. It made the icing quite gray.
I piped the gray icing first, allowed it to harden in the freezer and then put white buttercream over the gray. The gray icing is so light in color that it is difficult to distinguish the lines on the transfer. Next time pipe with a darker or more vibrant color to allow for the details to show on the white background.
The transfer had a lot of air bubbles. Next time make the white buttercream that is going over the (in this case) gray icing thinner/flowable. Even though I spread the icing with a spatula, the icing did not fill in all of the crevices and left air pockets.
Make the buttercream transfer thicker or fill in the gaps. (In this case, it was the gap between the bird's legs. It was not sturdy enough and broke the transfer.) I am going to guess that this may be related to the observation above about needing to make the white buttercream thinner/flowable. I have seen where the buttercream transfers were quite thick mounds of frosting. I wanted to avoid this and therefore made the transfer a bit thinner. Perhaps this reason and the fact that my cake was not level, allowed the transfer to break in the middle.
The wax paper seemed to take some of the detail of the gray buttercream away. I don't know yet how to remedy this one, but will keep searching to see if there is a reason/answer.
**Disclaimer: These are my observations and thoughts to help me on future projects. I am not an expert. I am simply learning as I go, so if you have found something that works better, more smoothly, or efficiently, I would love to hear any suggestions.**