Several months ago, a friend asked me to do a groom’s cake for her daughter’s wedding. “You can do a 3D Bucky holding some Mike and Ikes, right? Great. Thanks!” She promised to send more info and then waved and went on her way.
And I stood there, frozen, with my mouth gaping. No, I do not know how to carve cakes. No, I’ve never had a cake at a public event. And no, I do not like to disappoint people, especially on their wedding day!
But then there’s that little spark inside that pushes me to try something new. “If she thinks I can do it, maybe I can,” the little spark told me. So with much trepidation (and a pep talk from friends), I nervously assented to her request.
So began the research necessary for a carved cake. What type of cake works the best? And frosting? Fondant? How do you transport it? Does it need to be kept cold? How do you attach the head? What’s the best material for making the head? How about my head? Will I lose it during this process?
Armed with google and a determined spirit, I created the following calendar:
- Two months before: answer the above questions
- One month before: sketch cake design and figure out dimensions
- Three weeks before: finalize cake design and purchase materials
- Two weeks before: begin working on the head
- One week before: bake and freeze the cake
- 3-5 days before: create gum paste extras
- 2 days before: make the cake board, thaw the cake
- 1 day before: assemble (and pray. Lots.)
Here’s how everything went down:
STEP 1: THE HEAD
I decided to use a styrofoam base to carve the head. (Are you supposed to do that? I have no idea!) I purchased some cake pillars from a local craft store that I think are meant to help stabilize cake layers, and I shoved one of the pillars into the head and stuck the other in a large styrofoam dummy cake as the base.
After the base was formed, I began to coat the styrofoam with modeling chocolate. I’ve used modeling chocolate twice before and, let me tell you, something went awry this time. It still made a beautiful finish and was easy to work with once it was kneaded, but I think I can safely say that I gave myself tendinitis just from this one afternoon. I “knead” to learn how to do this better. Haha. 🙂 After approximately 3 hours of kneading (I wish I were joking), most of the modeling chocolate was ready to go.
The photo below shows the modeling chocolate before and after. (The “before” is the crumbly-looking block and the “after” are warm and malleable logs:) With a pile of ready-to-use modeling chocolate by my side, I commenced Head Construction. The photos below show the progress:
STEP 2: MIKE AND IKE BOXES
For the candy boxes, I used a piece of styrofoam and covered it in fondant. That didn’t work one bit. So I coated it in frosting, then fondant, which worked a little- but the box was lumpy and weird. So I left it as is, waited a day, and then covered the fondant with a thick-ish layer of gum paste, which I managed to sort-of flatten with the rolling pin so it was a smooth surface. That seemed to work okay, but I am certainly not that happy with the result. I cut out little pieces of colored gum paste to form the fruits, candies, and words on the box (I cut the white letters out first, and then laid them on the black and carved around them) and stuck them on with some gum glue adhesive. Next step: let the whole thing dry for a few days, and voila!
(Oh- I only wanted one box for the final cake, but I made two, just in case. Believe me- make an extra copy of all your embellishments.)
STEP 3: THE BODY
I have no idea what I’m doing! I don’t even know what a badger is, really! And how do you carve arms on an animal- it’s not like cake can just withstand the powers of gravity without something supporting it, right?! So I decided to just make his arms close to his body and hope for the best. What follows is a series of in-progress photos. My badger ended up short and morbidly obese.
When carving the body, repeat after me: “Little cuts. Little cuts. Little cuts.” Once you cut out the cake, it cannot be put back. Carving this body took me two hours, but I’m not sorry! The result was a coffee table that looks like this:
STEP 5: ADD THE HEAD
Self explanatory! 🙂
(The only thing I would suggest is this: see how Bucky wears a turtleneck? You’ll want to make sure that you carve a little dip into the top layer of cake- where the neck is- otherwise he’ll end up looking more like a giraffe than anything else.)
STEP 6: SIT BACK AND ENJOY!
I have to tell you a true story. I almost sliced off his arm. No joke! I was catching up on Season 3 of Downton Abbey and had just finished (or so I thought!) the last episode, so I went back to the carving. And suddenly, out of nowhere, it happened. WHAT?!?! I won’t spoil it for any of you, but if you’ve seen it, you can appreciate how Bucky almost became an amputee.
Thanks for checking out this post. As you can see, I still have much to learn. How do you carve cakes? Do you find pound cake to be the best? Do you have a modeling chocolate recipe or technique that does not cause immediate arthritis? 🙂