I learned a few things in the process of making this cake, some of which should have been obvious.
1. I should have made the fondant pieces days ahead of time rather than the night before to give them time to dry. The humidity of the day made the wall/green monster droop.
2. I should not freeze my yellow cake - I forgot this lesson from Jack's 4th birthday. The chocolate cake was in perfect condition, but whether it's the beaten egg whites or the pudding in the yellow cake, it deflates in the freezer.
3. Hershey's Black Magic Cake is fabulous! It's almost the same as the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake that I make with my changes, but it does use buttermilk instead of milk. Delicious, and comes out of the pan like a dream.
4. Homemade cake release rocks! Mix equal parts of vegetable oil, Crisco, and flour and keep in the pantry. I like to spray the cake pan first with Pam, then cover thoroughly with the cake release.
5. Here is my latest favorite buttercream. It's remarkably good, and it comes from the Magnolia Bakery:
Makes enough for one 2-layer 9-inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup milk (whole is best; cream is fine but will thicken the frosting)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.