BONUS MONDAY POST!
Such excellent questions were asked in my CURIOSITIES give-away contest that I am going to devote the next few posts to answering them. Some will be longer than others. Some will be very maudlin and nostalgic. This one will be about cake.
Leanne asked “Of all your cakes to date which one has been the most difficult, time consuming, but fulfilling? And has your cake decorating skills morphed over time? And how has it changed?“*
Backstory! My mother always made really awesome cakes when I was little. Pizzas and gardens and Curious George and swimming pools and, when my sister’s then boyfriend now husband professed doubt that she could, a bicycle. This was before cakes were cool, before the Food Network existed, and mum pretty much just used candy and coloured buttercream to make her cakes. They weren’t super fancy, but they were delicious and fun. Perfect for kids.
When I started working at The Book Cabal (the first time), I met my friend Rachel, and I really started to get back into cake making. Before this, my only cake was a Bowling Alley I made for my friend Jon-Michael’s 25th. I don’t have any good pictures of it, but it’s basically the Curling Cake with gumballs and Mike and Ikes instead of gummi bears and pretzels. It happened at the last minute (like, “standing in the grocery store, an hour before the party” last minute). The first cake I made on purpose was for my own birthday, and it was Indiana Jones’ Hat.
Confession: most of this cake happened by accident, and I covered the mistakes with PILES of icing, but DOESN’T IT LOOK AMAZING?
Right, answering questions.
So the hardest cake I’ve ever made is actually my third/sixteenth cake, which was in the shape of a Wii. I saw it on the internet while I was googling cake pictures. Martha Stewart had made it, and it was GORGEOUS, but it wasn’t EDIBLE which should be, like, the FIRST RULE OF CAKE MAKING. So I decided I was going to make it.
I called my cousin, who’s son was about to have a birthday, and asked if she had a cake yet. She did not, so I volunteered. I knew that chocolate cake didn’t stack as nicely as vanilla cake did, so I forwent my usual standby and baked a vanilla cake. I used long pans with unfortunately curved edges, and didn’t do much modification to the cakes that resulted. I couldn’t really make grey icing yet (because I hadn’t learned about Wilton icing dyes, which, seriously, are the BEST EVER), and it was my first “built” cake**.
It was to put it bluntly, a DISASTER. I ran out of icing, so the back isn’t even covered and neither are the sides of the control. Also, I overestimated the height and you can see the dowels. Thanks to the size of the layers, it was very un-level, and there were gaps everywhere that I didn’t have enough icing to fill. It was ugly and it didn’t look like a Wii (our internet was down when I was making it, and so I couldn’t look at pictures to model on).
I got better. I learned. A year and a half later, I asked Other Cousin if he wanted a cake, and he asked for the Wii immediately (there was a fair bit of headdesking on my part, not going to lie!). This time, though, I was ready. I used shorter dowels. I used thinner layers. I made a CRAP TONNE of icing. I looked at a picture while I was making it. And this was the result:
So that’s the Wii Cake and the Wii Cake: Redemption. Taken together, they represent the best parts of my cake making, I think. Constructed cakes are a lot of fun (I prefer them to cupcakes, even though I don’t get to make them as often). I used the ideas I learned from this cake to make the TARDIS cake last summer, for example.
And there are elements of it in the Let Them Eat Cake Cake I made for my friend Siobhan (though, really, the best part of that cake is her hair style).
Over time, I have learned to be more patient. The Indiana Jones Hat Cake was, as I said, mostly accidental. I don’t do that anymore. I have a plan and I know what sorts of candies and other things to use as props (big marshmallows, for example, are GREAT for structural things). I always make WAY too much icing.
At some point, I would love to get better at modeling chocolate, but for now I am happy to use candy as much as possible in my decorating. I have a bunch of cakes on my dream list, and hopefully some day I will get to make them. In the mean time, cupcakes are a great way to practice (not to mention they make you very popular at work).
Leanne also asked how much sleep I was going to need after answering all these question, but since I’m spreading it out, I think I’ll be okay.
You can find my other cakes here, on my livejournal.
*Leanne is allowed to ask multiple questions like that because it is thanks to her that I passed grade 12 math.
**I went to the hardware store, my favourite shop in Seaforth, for the dowels. The salesperson was VERY CONFUSED until I explained how it worked.
***The one good part of the A:tLA episode “The Great Divide” is the Redemption game. Unfortunately, even die-hard fans haven’t seen the episode enough to get it.