Autumn Leaves

Mom’s Autumn Birthday Cake

A special birthday this year. Not one of the big ones normally celebrated, but an important one for Mom and the rest of us. She had just had a knee replacement (three weeks prior) and her goal was to make it to a lunchtime barbecue at the golf course, which coincidentally was being held on her birthday. Dad had the idea that I should make a cake, as a surprise, for mom and we could share with the golf group.

I loved the idea, but the fact was I was staying with them and wasn’t sure how I could make and decorate a cake without Mom knowing. For those out there that don’t know it…a knee replacement does not keep you down! The fact that it was unseasonably hot for October, in the high 90’s or 100Ëš, made things harder too.

Since the invitations said it was a fall barbecue I thought colorful autumn leaves and acorns would make for a pretty cake. The area of the Sierra foothills where my parents live have oak trees so I went out and collected some acorns and toppers.

As soon as my sister came over, bringing some tangerine curd she’d made for me, I took off to my son’s house, about 45 minutes away. (Telling my mom I hated to be so close to my family and not see them; I would take the opportunity  to do so while my sister was there.) I would use my son’s kitchen to make the cake. This was going to be a fast one! I would only be gone for 24 hrs. But it is one of the more involved cakes I bake. An orange and white swirled creamsicle-flavored cake with tangerine curd filling, served with orange whipped cream.

fall leaves and acorns

Colorful oak and maple leaves with acorns on autumn themed birthday cake.

Using some fast molding putty I made 4 molds of acorn toppers. That made the creating of the acorns go much faster. As soon as dinner was over and my little granddaughters went to bed, I started on the making of the cake. Knowing I would have to wait up for the cake to set for awhile before taking it out of the pan, and then cool completely before wrapping and freezing, I was in for a long night.

While the cake was baking I started with making gum paste maple and oak leaves. I had found some leaf cookie cutters at Michael’s. They weren’t exactly what I wanted, but a good start. I was also lucky in that I had fondant left from a cake I made a few days before. I decided to choose a final fondant color after I finished the leaves. The cookie cutters worked for quick cut outs, then I used my tools and refined the edges and added veining, placed them on crinkled foil for shaping and at that point blessed the hot weather for the quick drying time! Time for the cake to come out of the oven and for me to set my alarm so I could remove the cake from the pan. Then again for 2:00 am so I could wrap it when cool and freeze it.

Closeup of gum paste autumn leaves and acorns.

The next morning I started by adding color to the leaves and acorns with petal dust. As much as I hate that summer is over the leaves truly are pretty. I think the cake helped me switch seasonal gears.

Luckily, I had some fondant left from the shower cake I made a few days earlier! I really liked the soft orange that some of the leaves had on them so decided to go with that color for the fondant. The hot weather was really affecting the fondant. It just wanted to be sticky. I kept kneading in powdered sugar as I colored it and had no choice but to go with it. I set it aside for a few minutes to rest some.

I piped some orange flavored frosting around the edge of the first layer of cake and then spread the tangerine curd within the frosting. I added the other layer and crumb frosted the whole cake.

The fondant actually went on pretty good… I added a fondant rope trim around the bottom of the cake then set the leaves and acorns in place.

autumn leaves and acorn fall birthday cake

Orange and vanilla creamsicle flavored cake covered with light orange fondant and filled with tangerine curd.

I had to refrigerate the cake after putting the fondant on. I don’t like to do that, but since I had to drive for 45 minutes, during the hot part of the day, I figured getting it cold first and then placing it in a cold sack would give me a chance of it surviving the heat.

My goal was to get it to my parents’ neighbor’s refrigerator. Since I turned up the AC in the car all went well. Safe and sound for the night. The guys took the cake to the golf course refrigerator in the morning when they went golfing. We would meet them later for the barbecue.

The trick now was to get the orange flavored whipped cream made. In my mom’s kitchen. Without her knowing! I waited until she went to get ready for the barbecue and immediately rushed to get the ingredients out and the mixer set up. I figured I had as long as her shower would last. I got it whipped up, put in a tub and stuffed in the back of the fridge. Then I went on to clean up the mess I made, including stuffing the whipping cream cartons way down in the garbage. Whew! This keeping it secret stuff gets tricky.

I gave my sister the whipped cream and a spoon to take with her in her car, while I drove Mom in her car. My sister got there first and was able to get the whipped cream in the fridge before we came in.

The weather had cooled down by 20-25 degrees; it was a perfectly lovely day for a barbecue. We had a great lunch and then surprised Mom with the cake and everyone singing Happy Birthday to her! Leaving the cake in the refrigerator had done the job and since we were cutting it immediately it didn’t have a chance to get too gummy. Although cutting it was not as easy as usual. One guest wanted to know why the frosting looked like plastic! Okay… it was a bit shiny.

All-in-all it tasted great. This one I’m writing down for sure.



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