Terrarium Cakes -- Whimsical Woodland Scenes in a Jar (That You Can Eat!)
At the turn-of-the-century, fascination with science, botany and collecting was at a furor. The "Wardian Case", the precursor to today's terrarium, was devised when physician (and botany enthusiast) Nathaniel Ward observed a fern flourishing inside a sealed jar. The idea of recreating a tiny ecosystem within a glass enclosure became popular with European travelers who were anxious to bring tropical plants home across the sea. With the resurgence of the interest in "Cabinets of Curiosities", the popularity of terrariums is once again on the rise; making their appearance in interior design studios, high-end garden stores, and across the blogosphere.
Inspired by the charm of these diminutive verdant worlds, I baked up a batch of Terrarium Cakes that are as delicious to eat as they are a delight to behold.
Individual Woodland Worlds in a Jar
Chocolate Cake batter
Funnel, batter dispenser, or squeeze bottle
A baking sheet
Frosting, mousse or other cake filling of your choice
For the "Moss Tufts"
Juniper Green Gel Food Color (Wilton)
Fondant Toadstools (tutorial HERE)
A slender pair of tongs
Step 1: Prepare the moss colored sugar by placing granulated sugar in a Ziploc bag. With a toothpick, smear a small amount of gel food color on the inside of the bag. Massage sugar through the sealed bag until color has been completely distributed. Add more color if necessary, but always start out with a small amount.
Step 2: Prepare your favorite chocolate cake batter. Use a batter dispenser, funnel, or squeeze bottle to dispense batter inside your jars. Fill each jar to approx. 1 1/2 inches.
Step 3: Place jars on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until cakes have peaked and skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. My cakes took approx. 25 minutes. Cool cakes on a wire rack. While cakes are still warm, use a tea spoon to gently remove the domed top of the cake, making the "ground" more or less "flat".
Step 4: Once cakes have completely cooled, fill a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip with a filling of your choice. Insert tip into the center of the cake and squeeze bag to fill. The cakes pictured below were filled with a chocolate and peanut butter mousse.
Step 5: Prepare the "moss tufts" by using scissors to snip marshmallows in to organic shapes. Working one at a time, rinse the snipped marshmallows in cool water to remove the cornstarch. Immediately toss in the tinted sugar and set aside to dry. Reserve the remaining sugar for additional decorating at the end.
Step 8: Sprinkle some of the leftover sugar over the "ground" to simulate mossy groundcover.
Step 7: Cut a piece of tulle wide enough to cover the mouth of the jar. Screw on the lid band while holding tulle in place. Use scissors to trim off excess tulle.
If not serving immediately, the cakes can be stored overnight by simply replacing the tulle with the metal lid that came with the mason jar. Cakes will remain fresh for several days.