Mars Cake

Janet Vertesi is an awesome researcher who does lots of cool work focused on space. One of her big projects was focused on the scientific teams who run the Mars Rover mission. This to me was a great excuse to make her a goodbye cake that looked like the planet Mars, complete with little rovers.

By far the hardest thing about making a giant round cake is making sure the bottom doesn’t get squished under the weight of the cake. I, of course, made my life even harder by insisting the cake be red velvet (its Mars… the red planet… duh!). Red velvet is very heavy, being made of buttermilk and all. So, in the end, I wound up making the bottom half of the cake of red died rice krispie treats (thank you Food Network Challenge for teaching me that trick!), and only the top half is red velvet. I baked part of the cake in a round mixing bowl and part in a regular cake pan, so I could limit the amount of carving I had to do. In retrospect, it would have baked better if I had just done three pans and carved away, but the bowl was a nice experiment.

After cooling on the counter, I froze my cake layers to make them easier to frost. My red velvet is always crazy crumbly.

I made a cream cheese frosting to put the layers together and for my crumb coating.

Then I mixed a combination of vanilla fondant and marzipan (I had a lot leftover in the freezer from Irina’s Danish Wedding cake). The marzipan had the nice effect of making the surface of my planet look rocky, while of course adding the awesome amaretto flavor.

Steve had to help me roll out the fondant, because my weak arms couldn’t quite handle it all. That was a LOT of fondant!

And here is the final product, complete with swirls painted on with food coloring and gel frosting.