Tennis Birthday Cake

This cake was made for someone I don’t know personally, but I was told he enjoys to play tennis and was given a fair amount of leeway with the design.

This was a chocolate cake with lemon icing. The recipe is Betty Crocker’s popular devil’s food cake (can I pause for a second to say how much I love my Betty Crocker cookbook? She has never steered me wrong when it comes to cakes). I was a little torn on which recipe to use, since I know chocolate lovers tend to like their cakes very chocolatey, but the lemon pairing made me a bit cautious. This recipe is a bit less rich than some other chocolate cake recipes I considered, but I thought it would be a better accompaniment to the lemon icing (for comparison, I also tried her black devil’s food cake in a 6″ tin for some decorating practice. That was about as dark as a chocolate cake can get. This one was comparatively mild, somewhere closer to the shade I expect from milk chocolate).

For the design, since I was given some leeway, I decided to try an ombre shell pattern on the sides. You’ll see from some past cakes that I’ve taken a liking recently to the shell pattern, and I love the ombre look and haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I cleared this decision, and had a request for an ombre going from light green to yellow to white. My original plan was to start with a darker green, but the inclusion of yellow is quite nice and ties better into the tennis theme.

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As you can see, I think I hit the colour gradient pretty well! Green, it turns out, is a pretty strong food colouring, so it paid to be cautious here. Lots of yellow and just a slight touch of green (I’m talking less than a drop!) was all I needed.

On top, I used a plain white icing because I knew the design would be a little busy. The tennis racquet was piped in semi-sweet  chocolate. Having only played tennis once in my life, I had to refer back to pictures to guide me here.

For the tennis ball, I had considered just piping it in buttercream on top of the racquet, but I wanted a more 3D look. I took some leftover cake scraps and icing and formed a cake ball, which I cut in half and coloured with a bright yellow-green buttercream, then piped on detail lines in white. I let this sit in the fridge, along with the racquet, to make sure they were nice and solid before adding to the cake.

Once those elements were added on top, I piped on the birthday message, “Happy Birthday David” with the remaining chocolate, and voilà! A tennis birthday cake, complete with a 3D tennis ball.

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Now that I’ve got my first sports-themed cake out of the way, I’m excited to try another. Perhaps a hockey-themed cake could use a chocolate-covered oreo as a puck? There are so many exciting possibilities for 3D elements out there that are surprisingly simple (and, most importantly, delicious!).

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