Saturday, April 16, 2011

Life is Piece of Cake

Today is less snark and more dabble.  One of my favorite dabblings (is that a word?) is cakes.  I love baking and decorating them.  Ok, I don't love the baking part...that's just a means to an end, but I do love it when the recipe turns out to be the best thing since...well, the last best thing.  I love it when I hear back from the party goers that it was the most delicious cake they've ever eaten.  I know some people feel like they have to say it, but it really is a nice ego petting.  Unfortunately, I can't take credit for most of the recipes. I have "borrowed" many great recipes from the greats and from the grandmas.  Some of the midwesterners' recipes call for vegetable oil or oleo.  Remember that term for margarine?  Whatever you call it, it's disgusting and I prefer good old fashioned butter.  Butter is my best friend and worst enemy, but that's another posting for another day.

I have done a few cakes in my life time, but none were so much fun (nor so much stress) to work on as the cake I made for my friend's father when he retired from serving as fire chief in his town.  She asked me to somehow incorporate his vintage helmet into the cake and I thought to myself, "AHHHHHH!"  Then I thought to myself, "this will be a really fun adventure."  I consulted with my dear friend and amazing artist over at MommaCakes.  She gave me some great ideas and even sent me some supplies to work on it.  (Aren't my friends wonderful?)  She was right when she said that it would be my biggest challenge, but probably the cake of which I would be the most proud.  I spent hours on it, meticulously sculpting and melting and shaping, but in the end, she was right.  It has been one of my favorite projects.

After making the cake for my parent's 50th Anniversary party, and then watching it get cut apart into pieces, I have decided that it's much easier to say goodbye to the cake when it is fully in tact.  I mean, really, who in their right mind wants to watch their artistic creation be cut into little pieces?  I like creating it and giving it away finished while in complete denial that it is soon to be destroyed and consumed.
Here's a little bit of the process:
Since the base of the cake was going to be a tall square building, I decided that I should reinforce it by basically making it a tiered cake.  I put dowels and cardboard between the "tiers" to make sure there was no way it would sink in the middle.  This also helped with the fact that there were two separate flavors of cake.  The bottom layer was white chocolate cake with strawberry cream filling.  The top layer was devils food cake with Oreo cookies and cream filling.  Two of my favorite flavors and I hear they went over well at the party.
After stacking the layers and tiers, I put a nice thick coat of my favorite buttercream frosting found in The Whimsical Bakehouse cookbook.  It's a dream in your mouth and is so easy to work with.

I started on the "brains" of the helmet.  I thought it actually looked like a brain - a little creepy, but it did the trick.  Ground up crispy rice cereal made into treats with marshmallows and butter - YUM!  It was about 6 inches long, smaller than I had orginally planned, but it ended up bein the perfect size when I added the rim.

Of course, to get the gumpaste to stick well and to avoid lumps and bumps, frosting it was a must.  That's a 8" pan, so there's a size reference for you.

The next process had to be done quickly as gumpaste dries pretty quickly - or at least mine did.  I rolled out a thick coat of premade black fondant made into gumpaste with tylose. (black is a color that never comes out quite right when you're mixing it yourself)  I added the detail and set it on a form to dry.  Once it was hardened enough, I painted the detail work.
I saw on Cake Boss that they steamed gumpaste to get it shiney.  I didn't have a steamer, so I just took a paint brush and painted a very light coat of water across the whole thing and it did the same thing.  Amazing transformation, I thought.

And the finished product (first photo by Olive Avenue Photography)

I found a picture of an old downtown firehouse online that was my inspiration for the building.  It looked nothing like the actual firehouse, but I was able to use information from the actual house to use on this one.

The first time I'd ever done melted sugar windows.  I accidently overcooked the sugar, but I thought the yellowed glass effect ended up being a nice touch.

The details.  It was so fun to use copper food paint for the doorknob and hinges.

This hydrant was a replica of one that actually stood outside of the firehouse where the fire chief worked.  I thought it was about the coolest thing I'd seen, so I had to do it.  It was the most fragile part of the cake even with a tiny dowel running through it to hold it together.

The helmet was my favorite part...I loved doing the detail work on it and I love how it turned out looking like real aged leather.

FUN FUN project and I'm grateful for experience of having done it.  Thank you, Shanna for your resources and vast knowledge of the craft.  Thank you, Jess for the challenge to create it.  Thank you, Mom, for watching the girls so I could work on it.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know about "vast." :) LOVE this post, Jill!! Thanks for showing and explaining the process of this fantastic cake!! Absolutely amazing!