For my younger son's first birthday, I decided he should have an airplane-themed party. Even at such a young age, he is fascinated by airplanes. I knew that he must have an airplane-cake. I started searching for airplane cake molds. Apparently airplane cakes are not very popular. Wilton's website suggested using a cross. I didn't want to do that. Finally I found the perfect mold and luckily enough, it came with a free miniature airplane mold as well. Score! I could make a small cake for the birthday-boy and a large cake for everyone else. The larger of the airplane molds was not very big - not big enough to feed the 12 people invited to the party - so I placed it on top of a 12" round. The smaller airplane cake was placed on top of a 6" round.
I don't have pictures of the step-by-step, but I did learn some important things while creating these cakes. Here's what I learned:
~~I decided to use the funfetti cupcake recipe that I posted earlier, in the hopes that it would translate well into cake. This turned out to be a mistake for a couple of reasons. First, I had to make 6 batches of it by the time I was done. Second, it is a butter-based batter which is fine for smallish cupcakes. They cook fast enough to remain moist. When cooking a larger cake, though, it takes longer in the oven and this really dried out the cake. I wish I had used an oil-based batter instead.
~~I ended up having to make the airplanes twice. The first reason was because I filled the cake pans too full. I should have kept it to less than half-full. The 6" pan above was just under half-full and the cake rose to just over the top of the cake pan. In the airplane molds, I had a huge mess. The little airplane's batter spilled over the sides. I couldn't get the larger airplane's batter to cook completely. When I took it out of the oven after far too much time, it was still a soupy mess in the middle.
~~This led me to the important conclusion that when baking large rounds (bigger than 9") or deep molds, to drop the heat down to 325 and let them bake longer and slower.
~~The last, and possibly most critical thing about baking in a mold is to grease, grease, grease! The first airplanes not only had all those other problems, but they also got stuck in the molds. The first time I used Pam. I had too much faith in it. The second time I used a fairly thick layer of shortening AND then floured the pans also. Both airplanes cooked beautifully the second time around and came out of the molds perfectly.
I used regular M&Ms for the windows on the big airplane and mini M&Ms for the windows on the smaller plane. I also used some chocolate non-pareil-like-candies for the engines on the large airplane and regular M&Ms on the smaller plane. I cut graham crackers into triangles, frosted them and used them as the tails. A note on frosting: for these kind of applications, the frosting has to be fairly stiff. In order to create frosting that was not sickeningly sweet, I added 8 ounces of cream cheese to the butter to help it out a little bit. Cream cheese is also a little more firm than butter. It worked well.
In the end, the cake was a little dry and certainly I've had nicer butter cream frosting, but I feel like when baking for an occasion like this, sometimes taste must be sacrificed a bit for the more artistic final product (in other words, it's really hard to bake a gourmet cake in a cake mold). After all, the one-year-old thought it was fantastic!