When you pin a pin, and literally hours later an old friend send you the same pin suggesting you take on the project, you get to work. That’s just what happened with this fun fall treat. I’d been looking for a great excuse to make a spice cake, what with the weather cooling down and leaves beginning to turn, so the timing couldn’t be better. While original baker chose a rosewater cake with traditional buttercream, I decided to try a new cream cheese frosting recipe paired with my favorite fall flavored cake. I had done a similar flower-covered cakescape (did I just coin a new term? I think I like it. I digress.) atop my baby girl’s first birthday cake, but I just loved the thought of creating a similar effect without the fuss of filling and leveling a traditional layer cake. So, to the kitchen I went.
Prior to baking, I prepared my supplies to make my cream cheese frosting flowers and succulents. Gel colors, piping tips, a piping nail, and some parchment paper squares.
I began by mixing my colors to match a preselected color palette that I settled on before starting the project. Thoughtful selection of colors is so crucial to creating a beautiful finished product. I’ve found that when I wing it with color mixing my projects have about 50/50 chance of success. With a firm idea of the color palette in advance, however, I’m almost always pleased with the results.
The palette that I settled on for this project looked a bit like this:
If color theory and palette creation is not your strong suit, I might suggest doing a quick google search to get you started on the right track. Search something like “fall color palette” or “color scheme with orange” to find hundreds of palette possibilities to consider.
For a project like this one (and a relatively amateur baker like myself!), I prefer to pipe my decorations on individual parchment paper squares rather than directly on my cake. A spot of frosting on the top of the flower nail acts as the glue holding a single square of parchment in place. Twirling the nail between your fingers, a rose or succulent is piped using slow and consistent strokes.
The flowers are then frozen for at least a few hours. Once frozen, they can be easily peeled from the their papers and placed on the cake to be arranged (and rearranged) as needed.
With the cream cheese flowers complete, I moved on to baking my cake and preparing you my sauce. I baked this spice cake from a box, no shame included, filling one 7×9 dish and 4 individually portioned ramekins.
I planned on decorating the individual cakes much like larger version; four petite and delicate servings of fall spice delight. Two hungry toddlers and one hungry husband got in the way of that plan. The muffin-topped ramekins were reduced to mere crumbs before you could say Pumpkin Spiced Latte.
I cut my losses and moved on to creating a homemade walnut caramel topping sauce while the remaining cake cooled.
I’ll include the recipe for this bubbly goodness below. Believe me, you want to bookmark this one. O. M. G.
I leveled and crumb coated my cooled cake with a bit of leftover cream cheese frosting, just for good measure, prior to arranging my flowers. In a time crunch, you could probably skip this step, though I liked the nice clean and smooth palette it provided me.
While traditional buttercream flowers are a bit more forgiving when frozen, these cream cheese based treats do soften up pretty quickly. I removed them from the freezer in small batches and worked quickly to peel them off of their paper backings before they became too soft to transfer. Placing the flowers without a plan, creating some small color groupings and allowing the flowers to overlap as they might, gave the cake the more rustic look I was after.
I finished by piping some pearl colored dots in a variety of sizes directly onto the cake, filling in every gap in frosting I could find. Finito!
And now for the frosting and and caramel topping recipes in case you’d like to give this cake a go. And you should. promise.
Cream Cheese Frosting for Piping
- 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, soft
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 4+ cups confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- Beat butter (soft but still firm/not melted) in a stand mixer on medium for at least 3 minutes. Butter should lighten slightly in color and become quite creamy.
- Turn mixer to low and add cream cheese. Beat for 2 minutes more.
- Add salt and vanilla extract.
- Continuing to beat at a low speed, add in powdered sugar in about 1/4 cup increments.
- Check for consistency after all components are well mixed. Frosting should hold a fairly stiff peak. If it does not, add in more powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.
- Beat the frosting once more on high, for about 1 minute.
- Keep frosting chilled and use in small batches as you pipe
Walnut Carmel Topping (Adapted slightly from Giada!)
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- In a medium sauce pan, combine cream, brown sugar, and butter over medium-high heat.
- Allow mixture to come to a boil while stirring continuously
- Once you reach a boil, reduce heat and allow mixture to simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Stir in walnuts and sea salt, prior to transferring to a sauce pitcher for serving, or transfer to the refrigerator in an air tight container to save.