After I thought about it a bit, and decided to use the pans I had: a round 10x3" for a bowling ball, and a 9x13" rectangle, to be made into a set of three bowling pins. It turns out that this was a good plan, because there are supposed to be around 50 guests! The 10x3" alone serves about 38 people, so we should be fine for cake.
I baked the 9x13" first, yesterday, and I'm quite embarrassed to show you how it turned out. I honestly don't know what happened, but it had a crevasse in the entire length of the cake. I planned to "fix" it with frosting, but then this morning there was another crack in the entire width of the cake. It was like the cake had been slashed in fourths. I debated just working with it, but I decided I would just bake another cake.
Incidentally, I bought some Wilton 19-by-13-Inch Cake Boards and 12-Inch Cake Circles so I wouldn't have to worry about getting my good cake board back, and our friends can just take any leftover cake home on the boards. These are made of corrugated cardboard, and I just don't think they're thick enough. If you're going to use these, they are handy, but you should tape two boards together before you cover them with aluminum foil. That's what I ended up doing.
I made two batches of Buttercream Frosting, one regular and one chocolate. I was going to decorate the bowling ball cake like our friend's bowling ball, which is red and black swirled. I split the white batch of frosting in half, and colored one half red. I split the chocolate batch in half, and colored one half black. This theme was actually easy, color-wise, just red, black, white and I decided on a brown background for the pins. Four colors is not bad at all. (although I will admit, my red is more pink and my black is more gray. oh well)
The Bowling Ball Cake~
Surprisingly, the 10x3" round cake, which uses 8 cups of cake batter (almost two cake mixes), turned out perfectly. It's the largest cake I've ever baked, so I'm very happy it came out well. I made cupcakes with the extra batter!
Here is the 10x3" with its crumb coat. If you don't recall what a crumb coat is, it is a thin layer of frosting to "seal in" the crumbs so they don't show up in the outer frosting later on. I use an angled spatula to apply to crumb coat, it goes on fairly quickly.
I started frosting the side of the cake. I put red/pink and black/gray frosting in the same decorating bag. I simply put a spoonful of red, then a spoonful of black, etc. until it was almost full. I used a big round #12 decorating tip and applied the frosting in swirls around the side, making sure I covered all the white crumb coat. I was going to smooth the frosting using a paper towel, the way my mom told me too, but I didn't like it, so I scraped off that part of frosting, put it on a cupcake and ate it. Then I started over.
For the finger holes in the bowling ball, I used upside-down Hershey's Kisses. I think they worked quite well. I actually sort of measured where the holes would be by pretending my fingers were in a bowling ball, then pressing them slightly into the cake to make an impression. I sunk the Kisses into the cake where the impressions were, and there were the "holes."
I did more, larger swirls on the top of the cake until it was all covered.
And then I freaked out a little. I thought it looked like crap! And it really didn't help when I asked my husband what he thought, and he said, "yeah, it looks awful." He seriously said that. And then he quickly left the room.
I decided I would try the smoothing technique again, because I didn't think I could make it look any worse. Honestly.
And I'm so glad I did. I think the frosting had dried a bit more, and it wasn't so difficult to smooth it--it didn't stick to the paper towel so much. So I folded a paper towel, gently placed it against the frosting, then patted it onto the frosting and quickly removed it. Then I moved it to the next area, overlapping so there were no paper towel lines. I did this all around the side, and on the top, and I also patted the edges.
Now, I'm happy with the cake! It looks so much better! (at least in person) While it's not the original red and black swirled ball like our friend's, it doesn't look so horrible. In fact it looks sort of good. I actually like it now. WHEW.
The Bowling Pins Cake~
I started the next morning with a fresh, crevasse-free 9x13" cake. Thank goodness! I decided on a chocolate crumb coat because I didn't want to run out of white frosting and I wanted a brown background.
I put more brown frosting on all the sides, smoothing it with the angled spatula, and then I added brown frosting on top, where the background would be visible. I smoothed the brown that will show, (below, right) but didn't worry about it being perfect.
I cut out my bowling pins template (enlarged from some clip art), then traced the pins onto the cake with a toothpick. I set the paper directly on the frosting to do this. Then, as usual, I piped on the black outline of the bowling pins with a smaller round tip (#7). and forgot to take a picture!
I had quite a gap around the base of the cake, so I used a larger star tip and zigzagged some black trim around the entire bottom.
Then I used a star tip, the usual for me, to fill in the white of the pins.
Some red stripes, and the bowling pins were complete!
I debated putting a red border around the top, but I decided it looks just fine (and probably better) without one. So, there it is, the bowling pin cake! When we get to the party I will add the 9-0 candles above the pins.
And hey, when you put that crazy bowling ball in context next to the pins, it looks better, don't you think? I do.