Brain Cake / Can I Make Buttercream Frosting?
Updated: Nov 2, 2019
I decided to make a Brain Cake in honor of my Mom. I saw a lot of different spooky recipes for Halloween, but Brain Cakes can be applicable all year round as the case may be.
I also wanted to see if I could make my own frosting and pipe it like I see on TV.
I used this recipe from the Food Network for the buttercream recipe and because it had a brain-shaped picture that I could look at on my iPad while cooking.
Thursday, October 31, 2019: Attempt #1:
In the recipe, they use rice krispies treats for the bulk of the brain. I used cake because I made it for my Flossin' Baking Hack experiments (see post) and I'm going to use it to experiment with cake pops (Stay tuned!).
Also, when I watch baking competitions on TV, the judges always think it's a cop-out if you use too much rice krispies treats (vs. cake) as part of your display because you can mold rice krispies treats into anything and it's light. :)
They don't call it buttercream for nothing. It has a lot of butter! :) There are lots of different types of buttercream: American, Swiss Meringue, Italian Meringue, French, German, Russian, etc. I think this is an American buttercream.
The 3 main ingredients are: powdered sugar, butter, and a little milk to thin it out (& a pinch of salt).
I made a half-recipe: 3/4 lb. (3 cups) of powdered sugar, 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) of butter, 2 tablespoons of milk and a dash of salt. They use vanilla extract in their recipe, but I didn't have any around.
The butter has to be at room temp. I mixed everything plus a little pink gel food coloring together using an electric mixer. You can add a little more milk if you want to thin it out. If it thins out too much, I think you can just add more powdered sugar.
I don't have any piping / cake decorating supplies. I used a trick I saw on TV.
To pipe the icing, I used a Ziplock bag and cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. (See pic). Cut a smaller hole than you think you might you need, even the smallest bit of the tip off when you are starting. You can always cut a bigger hole, but once a big hole is cut, you can't make it smaller. :) But it's no biggie, you can always just get another Ziploack bag.
Assembling the Brain
I took some cake I made and molded it into a brain shape. I filled in some of the gaps and spread a layer over the entire cake surface with the buttercream. Then, I put a 2nd layer of frosting on using my Ziplock bag piping tool :) and made the gyri (ridged surface of the brain). I left a central strip in the middle of the brain without gyri to distinguish between the 2 hemispheres of the brain. I had some red gel icing around (which I had used for my Eyeball Cake actually) which I piped on the central strip.
We are good at this! It looks like a brain! I texted a pic to my Mom and she thought it was a brain, but she didn't want to say that at first. :) Photos are at the bottom of the post.
What is especially creepy about this brain cake even though I used cartoon-y colors is that it's about the size of a human brain and they are on a tray like this if you are in anatomy class.
As you can see the cake I started out with was not perfectly shaped and had some rough edges. I just grabbed some pieces from the cake I made. As I mentioned above, you can use the buttercream to fill in the gaps and add to the shape to make it better (like I did on the right lower-hand side of the cake). The piping looks pretty good too. :)
Give it a try! It's easy and super fun. It took 5-10 minutes to make frosting and pipe it to look like a brain. To make it super fast, you could use a store bought cake and shave some off to make a brain shape. For the frosting, I think you could probably use store bought frosting and mix in a little milk to thin it out. Then just use the Ziploack bag trick to pipe it on the cake.
I'm going scrape the buttercream off the cake and use the cake and icing as part of my cake pops experiments (Stay tuned!). Reusing ingredients for different projects / posts like I wrote about. :)
Update: I actually may have used twice as much butter as I was supposed to (24 tablespoons), oops! Haha. :) I put 12 tablespoons above because that is the correct amount if you take 1/2 recipe. I didn't eat any yet anyways. The extra butter probably gave the frosting the extra shiny color anyways. Haha. :)
I think the reason for the debacle with the brain cake buttercream is because I got this commercial size butter at the store because it was cheap and the sticks are twice as wide as a normal stick of butter. No biggie. :)