Martha by Mail ~ Chicken Cake
One of my favorite cake molds from the former Martha by Mail catalog happens to be in the shape of a chicken. This two-part mold made of heavy cast-aluminum provides great detail with which to decorate & embellish a most charming cake. Although every cake mold that was offered through the catalog was supplied with a recipe & decorating card, any number of cake batters can easily be used to create a memorable dessert.
Chickens are a very popular motif for the home and are therefore appropriate all year long. One doesn't have to wait for spring or the Easter holiday to partake of a chicken cake, at least in my opinion. Why not delight a few guests for an intimate luncheon with one of these cakes? You can pipe various-sized feathers tinted in a number of hues using the lightest of buttercreams or you can use a rich ganache made from high quality chocolate to glaze the cake with great success. Making one of these cakes using a bit of imagination is half the fun.
I've had the pleasure of making this cake a few times since purchasing the mold & I must say I'm always pleased with the results; it was my birthday cake one year. The finished cake serves between four to five people, which is why it's so perfect for a small party. If, however, you want to serve more guests simply bake several of them and decorate each one differently. Whether you choose to place the sweet little chicken on top of a favorite cake stand or perhaps on an antique pie plate surrounded by a nest (use shredded phyllo dough!), make sure everyone gets to admire it because it is such a lovely cake. Enjoy!
Martha by Mail
"The tradition of molded cakes derives from the ancient Middle-Eastern custom of stamping symbolic designs on holy bread. By the seventeenth century, Western bakers used special molds to create shaped cakes for holidays. Every year, Martha decorates a lamb, bunny or chicken cake for her Easter centerpiece. This curable cast-aluminum mold will last for years. Use it with our recipes and decorating instructions to create your own annual tradition. Before using the mold, hand wash in warm soapy water and hand dry; clean the same way after using."
Martha by Mail: Orange Pound Cake (serves 5)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for mold
- 1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for mold
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
Batter may leak out during baking; place the batter-filled mold on a parchment-lined baking pan.
1. Heat oven to 350° F. Place rack in center of oven. Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the mold with butter, making sure to cover all areas. Dust mold with flour, tap out excess and place mold in freezer until ready to fill.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until lightened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the sugar has been fully incorporated and the color has lightened further, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl twice.
3. Gradually add the eggs into the bowl, beating after each addition until batter is no longer slick, but smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl twice. Beat in the vanilla.
4. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add another third of the flour mixture and the rest of the milk. Mix until combined, scraping down sides. Add the remaining flour, followed by the orange zest. Mix until combined.
5. Pour all batter into handled half of mold; tap it firmly on a counter to remove bubbles. Set other half on top, and place complete mold on a parchment-lined baking pan.
6. Bake 30 minutes. Remove mold from oven, and carefully invert it on baking pan. Continue baking 30 minutes more, until cake has browned nicely (run a paring knife around the edges of mold to separate, then check underneath the top) and a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean. Gently remove top half of mold, and set bottom half of mold with cake inside a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully turn out cake, supporting it with your hand. Stand cake right side up, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, wrap cake in plastic, and chill until ready to use.
Chicken Cake Mold
Martha by Mail: Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 4 egg whites
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
You can make this icing up to four days in advance and store it in an airtight container, refrigerated, until ready to use. Before using, bring icing to room temperature and beat again until smooth and fluffy.
1. Using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer until frothy. Place bowl over pan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water), and slowly add the sugar. Whisk continuously until the mixture is frothy and warm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove bowl from heat.
2. Beat mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form. Continue beating on medium speed until cooled to room temperature. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, beat butter until creamy and fluffy.
4. Working in four additions, add butter to egg whites with the mixer on low speed, beating after each addition until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Use immediately.
Decorating the Chicken Cake
You will need: Orange Pound Cake baked in the chicken mold; a cake round (available at baking supply stores) or a piece of clean cardboard; Swiss Meringue Buttercream; brown and red gel past food coloring; one 8" and two 12" pastry bags with couplers; #2 round, #67 leaf, and two #69 leaf tips; two 11 by 6 inch pieces of waxed paper; a pastry brush; a small offset spatula; and a serrated knife.
1. With a serrated knife, trim the bottom of the chilled cake, so it stands upright. Using a small amount of icing, adhere the cake to a cardboard base of the same size.
2. Place 1/4 cup icing in each of two medium bowls. Using food color, make one bowl of icing brown and the other bowl red. Fill a 12" pastry bag, fitted with a #69 tip, with the red icing. Fill an 8" bag, fitted with a #2 tip, with brown icing. Last, fill the other 12" bag, also fitted with a #69 tip with white icing.
3. Set waxed paper on serving platter; Overlap pieces by 1/2". Place cake over the intersection. Using a small offset spatula, cover cake and base with a thin layer of white icing. Chill cake until icing is firm, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove cake from the refrigerator. Using the red icing for the tail and the white for the body, pipe feathers overlapping each other; work from tail to head and start at the base of the cake and work up. The feathers should follow the contours of the cake to better define the shape. Once you reach the neck, switch the tip on the pastry bag with white icing to the #67 tip to make smaller feathers on and around the head. Use red icing to pipe a comb and wattle.
5. Using the brown icing, pipe an eye on either side of the head. Chill cake until icing is firm, about 1 hour. Carefully remove waxed paper. Slice cake from tail forward to serve.