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Cool Centerpiece Cakes

Make an impressive centerpiece dessert for your upcoming spring event.

Food & Lifestyle expert Tara Bench says if you can master just one “show cake”, you’ll be set for any shower party, birthday, even Mother’s Day!
Almond Flower Cake
3 cups sifted cake flour
1½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cup sugar
1 ½ cup (6 oz) slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Mini brown M&Ms
1 recipe Milk Chocolate Frosting

Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease three, 8-inch round cake pans; line bottoms of pans with parchment, grease and flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

Combine granulated sugar and almonds in a food processor until finely ground. In a mixing bowl, beat together almond mixture and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and extract and scraping down sides of bowl. Stir in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in three parts, starting and ending with flour.
Divide batter among pans and bake until cake springs back when touched in the center, about 25 min. Cool 15 min in pan. Turn cakes out of pans and cool completely.

If necessary, trim domed tops from cakes. Set one cake on serving plate and spread with ¾ cup frosting. Repeat with second cake and top with third cake. Frost entire cake with a generous layer of icing. Decorate with sliced almonds, forming flowers by using chocolate candies for the centers.

Pink Pretzel Cake
2 boxes white cake mix, batter prepared
1 recipe Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
32 large pretzel rods
2 1/2 cups white candy coating disks
1 1/2 cups pink candy coating disks

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease 3 6-by-2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment. Spread 2 cups cake batter in each pan (bake remaining batter as desired for another use). Bake until cakes spring back when touched, about 35 min. Cool completely.
Trim the domed tops of cakes. Place one cake on a serving platter and top with 2/3 cup frosting. Repeat for next two layers. Cover cake in plastic wrap and chill before frosting the entire outside.

Measure pretzel rods against the side of the cake and trim them with a serrated knife to hit just above the top of the filled cake. Melt the white candy coating disks. Dip the cut ends of the pretzels in white candy and coat almost all the way up the rod. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set.
Melt pink candy coating disks. Mix remaining white coating with half the pink coating to make some of it light pink. Drizzle both light and dark pinks over the dipped pretzels. Let set at room temperature or in the fridge.

Frost the outside of the cake, smoothing the sides and top. Place pretzels around the outside.

To make pink coating curls and shards, re-melt any remaining pink coating. Spread in a thin layer, about 1/8-inch thick, on the back of a clean baking sheet. Chill in fridge until solid, about 5 min. Using the back of a flat metal spatula or bench scraper, make shards by scraping the coating. Top cake with the curls and shards.
Lemon Lover’s Cake
1 white, 2-layer cake
3/4 cup lemon curd

Lemon Frosting
1 recipe Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
Yellow food coloring

For the cake: Slice each cake layer in half to make 4 cake layers. Place 1 layer on your cake plate or platter and top with 1/4 cup lemon curd, spread evenly. Top with a spoonful of Lemon Frosting and spread over the curd; top with second cake layer. Spread that layer with lemon curd and frosting and repeat one more time with the third layer. Top with the last layer.
Frost the entire cake with Lemon Frosting. Tint the remaining frosting with more food coloring for a darker hue if desired, and place in a piping bag. With desired piping tip, decorate the top and bottom edges of the cake to finish it.

For the frosting: Reduce the 1/2 cup lemon juice to 3 tablespoons by simmering it and letting it evaporate. This will concentrate the flavor. Cool the reduction to room temperature.
Make Fluffy Vanilla frosting but mix the lemon reduction into the butter before adding the confectioners sugar. Add the extra 3/4 cup confectioners sugar at the end. Tint to desired color with yellow food coloring. Use immediately or store airtight at room temperature for one day, chilled for a week.

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