When I was approached to make a cake for a bass fisherman, I knew immediately that I wanted to make a realistic fish. Follow the photos below to see the process I used:
STEP 1: Make the Fish.
I started by making modeling chocolate and then sculpting it into a fish shape. I then covered it with white fondant, pressed in scales, and painted with food coloring mixed with clear vanilla extract. I used a small tip to press in tiny circles to simulate fish scales:
Once the scales were all pressed in, I used gum paste for the fins and attached them with gum paste adhesive (water mixed with gum paste will create this “glue”):
Here are some step-by-step photographs of the entire process. The fish took approximately 4 hours from start to finish.
STEP 2: Create the “water”
Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of this part of the process!! I laid a silicone mat on top of a cake board that was the same size as the one I would be placing the fish on. Then, I used isomalt nibs (purchased on Amazon- isomalt is a sugar substitute) and melted them and then poured it on in rings, to make it look more like water. It hardens really quickly.
Once the isomalt was cool, I peeled the silicone mat off the back and set the “water” onto the blue fondant-covered cake board. Ta-da, looks a little something like water!
STEP 3: Add the “extras”
Gum paste grass, fondant sign, modeling chocolate mud… that’s about it!
What other things would you like to see made of modeling chocolate? Comment below!
(Sorry. I can’t resist lame jokes.)
I recently had the honor of making this cake for my mother’s quilt guild for their UFO-themed retreat. (To a quilter, a “UFO” is an “UnFinished Object,” and so they all brought their UFOs to the retreat and finished them up.) I really enjoyed working on this cake, and I’m guessing it’s because I had lots of help! 🙂
THE INNER STRUCTURE:
The entire structure of this UFO was engineered by my brother-in-law. He’s a realtor by day (need a new home? Check him out here: http://www.ikahngroup.com/) but he’s a creative engineer by night. (Side note: I wouldn’t recommend going to their house at Halloween. Lights/sounds/structures/props/music/moving creatures/and more will scare just about everyone.) The structure he created allowed for battery-operated lights as well as dry ice for fog. A long metal tube had a few vents cut out at the top. Water was to be poured inside the tube, the dry ice added, and the cake set on top. The dry ice would billow around the base of the spaceship, making it look more realistic. Meanwhile, on the ship, the lights were put through drilled holes and stuck in the styrofoam to resemble a “typical” UFO shape. There also was an access point for the lights battery pack. (I tell you, the guy thinks of everything!)
As I mentioned, I didn’t do a whole lot for this cake. It was dropped off and I just got to do the fun part. 🙂 So, thank you again, Dan, for being the brains and brawn behind the operation! And thanks to my dad, who researched, drove out to buy, and later chopped up the dry ice. And my mom, who patiently helped me take about a zillion photos with different lighting/smoke patterns/backgrounds. As usual, I could not do this by myself!
(There should be a Vine (video) below. Mobile users/ email subscribers, it may not show up. There are flashing lights, so if you’re seeing the short Vine video below and it’s bothering you, simply click on the video, and it will stop.)
COVERING THE BASE:
Here are some in-process photos of the UFO base: Want to know something sad? There is a tool that is like a pencil and has a roller on the end. You roll it along your fondant and it’ll punch in a perfectly straight line of little holes. I own this tool, but did not have it with me while I was decorating. So if you’re wondering how long it takes to punch those holes in, one by one, for each metal panel on the top and bottom of the UFO, the answer is: approximately nine thousand hours. And made infinitely worse knowing you already possessed the tool.I sprayed the fondant-covered base with silver Wilton color spray. A bit of a mess (so it was done outside)- but look at the difference between the unsprayed/ sprayed versions!CREATING THE DESERT:
This desert easily could have been made out of cake. Since I didn’t need that many servings, I used paper so that I could do it in advance. Also, it was lighter than cake. And less time-consuming. And cheaper. Steps here: crumple up newspaper, randomly tape chunks of it to the board, and cover with fondant. Then, paint fondant a bit at a time with piping gel, and put on cornmeal. (That was what we happened to have in the cupboards. I’m not in love with the color, but it looks alright.)
I’ve only used this once before, and that was to simply cut strips to look like grass. So with a little trepidation, I set to work trying to find what I could from the photos I found online. This is the main link I’ve modeled my flowers after: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjUFSA01cMQ
I’ve made a few changes to my flowers, but the link above is a wonderful resource if you’d like to watch the process in real time.
My initial observations after making my own flowers:
– They seem sturdy once finished
– I don’t know how to attach them to the cake. Anyone else know?
– They are very quick and cheap, compared to gum paste or fondant
– They are so light!
If you are attempting these flowers, there is a smooth and a textured side. My flowers were done with the textured side facing up. I don’t know what they’d look like the opposite way, so I can’t say which way is better! And to make the edges look more realistic, I painted a bit of water on the underside of each petal. It eventually causes the paper to shrink up a bit. (It takes a few minutes.)
Here are my step-by-step photos:
Leaving the paper stark white is quite striking, as well: What other uses for wafer paper can you think of? I have almost an entire pack left! Give me an idea and it may just be the next thing on the blog! 🙂
“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel!”
What better way to celebrate the warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling than to make a cake of the Grinch?
I know, I know, it’s not exactly a manger scene or jolly ol’ St. Nick, but the Grinch sure is a well-known and beloved part of many a Christmas celebration. So here is my attempt at this nasty- wasty skunk, the green bad banana with a greasy black peel:
- Make his Face
Starting with a styrofoam circle, layer the green modeling chocolate around the circle. Bit by bit, add on the chocolate until it looks like him! If you can get ahold of a plastic stick with a pointed end, that will help you create the “fur” on his face. You can buy a set of cake decorating tools at any crafting store or online retailer.
2. Make the Chimney Cake
I made these in advance and froze them. They’re easier to work with when they’re frozen. Stack, cover with frosting, cover with fondant, layer on red fondant rectangles to look like bricks, and then paint the red and the space between so it looks more realistic. I used gel food coloring mixed with clear vanilla extract (you could also use a clear alcohol).
3. That’s it! Just take a cute photo by your tree and serve him up! 🙂
What other Christmas characters would you like to see made into a cake?
How to Host a Blackhawks Party:
Step 1. Invite fun-loving and creative fans to the party! My amazingly crafty sister MADE this adorable wine-sleeve!
Step 2. Ask each guest to bring a dish to pass. The catch is that the dish must be somehow related to a player on the team. Allow your guests to pick their player and see how creative they can be! (Note: Our guests were VERY creative!)
Johnny Cakes .. Jonathan Toews
Oh my Darling Clementines .. Scott Darling
Cole-Shaw .. Andrew Shaw
Q and his Stache .. Coach “Q” Quenneville
Excuse me, Ar-tem pierogies? Yes, there’s potato in the center!” .. Artem Anisimov (who plays center. See how witty everyone is?)
Kane’s Buffalo Wings .. Patrick Kane (from Buffalo, NY)
Rode bedetke dessert .. TVR, or Trevor van Riemsdyk (“rode bedetke” is the Dutch translation of her brownie dessert. Dutch, like his last name.)
Apple Core-y bars .. Corey Crawford
#FruitAndCrap .. Brent Seabrook (When asked during the recent playoff run how the training staff keeps them in playing shape for so many overtime periods, he replied, “They give us a lot of fruit and crap.” And thus a hashtag was born.)
Desjardins-era Peppers .. Andrew Desjardins
Breadman’s Loaves .. Artemi Panarin (nickname: Breadman)
garButt (rump) Roast Italian Beef .. Ryan Garbutt
Marian-ated Vegetables .. Marian Hossa
5-Stará Wines .. Marian Hossa (he was born in Stará Lubovna, Czechoslovakia. These wines are from that region.)
Give us this day our Daley bread .. Trevor Daley
Bickell’s Pickles .. Bryan Bickell
Q’s Queso .. Coach Q
Duncan’s Teeth .. Duncan Keith
Kolaczki from Slo-‘HAWK’-ia .. Marian Hossa
Step 3. Next, offer prizes for winners of the squares:
Step 4. Play “Blackhawks vs. Blues Bingo!”
For more ideas of goodies to bring to your Blackhawks party, check out my how-to links to past Hawks projects below:
Life-sized dog and jersey cake for Bickell Foundation’s event (click here):
This one isn’t a cake. It’s my cute puppy all dressed up in Snapchat. I just wanted to share him with the world. 🙂
And therein lies the problem.
I’m not trying to say one sport is better and more exciting than the other, but I would like to point out that when friends and I went out so we could watch both the Cubs and the Blackhawks play at the same time, the first pitch was a full 45 minutes before puck drop. And when the hockey game ended, I glanced at the baseball TV and THEY WERE STILL IN THE 8TH INNING.
However, hundreds of thousands of rabidly loyal Chicago fans cannot all be wrong, can they? There MUST be something as interesting and exciting in this game as there is in other sports. So with a completely open mind*, I sat myself down to figure out what I was missing.
(* When I say “completely open mind,” I mean it. The first thing I learned was that baseball players have to both throw/catch AND hit. Don’t ask me why they don’t specialize the way that every other sport does- I don’t make the rules. If I made the rules, there would be a play clock, and every inning resulting in a lead would be celebrated with a round of hugs and then a musical dance number.)
So after watching with nary a scrap of prior knowledge in my brain, I feel comfortable explaining the game to any other newbies out there. May I present to you:
Baseball for Dummies, written by an Actual Dummy
In baseball, there are two opposing teams who have lots and lots of players. They only let a few of them play each night though. The backups are allowed to practice during the game in what they call a “bullpen.” (It hasn’t got anything to do with bulls.)
Play begins when one team spreads out across the field and the opposing team takes turns trying to hit the ball. The batters have to always go in the same line order. The last person in line, which in my elementary school is called the “caboose,” is called the “cleanup” person. I don’t exactly know what they clean, but as a teacher and a former Girl Scout, I’m sure I approve of it.
Once the batter has stepped up to the plate and has assumed his “bend your knees and stick your backside out” position, the pitcher is now in control. He stands on his spot (“mound”) for anywhere between 10 seconds to approximately 24 minutes. During this contemplative time, he fondles the ball over and over, visually inspects it, and will draw in the dirt with his shoe. He may repeatedly tug on his uniform or tap his glove to his chest in an interesting display of superstitious obsessive compulsion. Much of his time is spent cradling the ball to his chest while he gazes longingly in the general direction of home plate.
At some indeterminate point in time, his still body suddenly flings itself into motion, sending the ball hurdling and his muscles contorting in an inhuman manner. The goal is to throw the ball so that it lands inside the small box on the television screen. (There are discrepancies as to the accuracy of this box, especially according to angry fans on Twitter.)
Meanwhile, the catcher squats behind the batter and appears to scratch himself repeatedly. Further inspection indicates that the catcher is performing a form of sign language. This is most likely directed towards the pitcher, perhaps something like, “Make sure you throw it inside the little box on the TV this time, moron!”
Should the batter accidentally hit the ball off to the side-ish, there is no need to retrieve it. The official has a literally endless supply of baseballs stuffed somewhere inside his outfit. After every wayward hit, he hands a new ball to the catcher, who does a short inspection and then throws it to the pitcher. According to my calculations, this means the official has approximately 93,000 baseballs stashed in his pants.
The pitcher can throw the ball a variety of ways, most commonly a “fastball” or a “breaking ball.” These throws all look identical to the average human eye. Sometimes they throw it on purpose to the side in order to “intentionally walk” the batter. (Don’t ask me why, my interest in this only goes so far.) You can tell they’re throwing it to the side on purpose because the catcher hops like a froggy several feet to his right, and the ball is not even CLOSE to landing inside the TV box.
Should a batter hit the ball far enough and not have it caught out of mid-air, he is now eligible to participate in an interesting phenomenon called “stealing.” This sounds bad but it is actually legal. Basically, as soon as the pitcher turns his attention back towards home plate, sometimes the guy on first base decides to make a run for second. This is dangerous because if the pitcher turns around and sees you stealing, he can throw it to his friend on the base and then you are out. The result is that while the pitcher is engaging in his extensive pre-pitch regimen, every so often his head whips around and he glares at the other guy, his eyes threatening, “Don’t even THINK about it, mister!” I always picture a mother and child making dinner:
Mother, chopping veggies: “No, you may NOT have a cookie, it’s almost dinner.”
Child, whining: “But I’m HUUUUNgry!”
Mother furiously chopping: “I said NO cookies!”
Child, suddenly silent, creeps towards pantry.
Mother whips around angrily as child hastily retreats back to counter. She gives him the evil eye.
Mother turns back to the veggies.
Mother suddenly whips around again, “I KNOW you’re thinking about it. Don’t even.”
Now each time a player hits the ball, the announcers talk a great deal about something called “RBIs.” They literally talk about this at least once every three minutes. With this frequency, I imagine this stat to be of great importance. As I watched, I devised all sorts of possible meanings for the acronym, which I won’t list here, except for the most likely one: Really Big Innings (that’s the one I mostly think it is).
Announcer 1: “Well, Jimbo, that’s ninety seven RBIs for Petey already, and we’re only in the second inning.
Announcer 2: “Boy oh boy, is Petey good or what! He’s on pace to have a league-high fifty-seven thousand RBIs. Pretty good for a rookie, wouldn’t you say?”
During the 7th inning, they let someone come to the microphone to sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This person is generally a famous Chicagoan and is specifically chosen for his or her lack of musical ability. Anyone capable of staying in one key and maintaining the tempo set by the organist is immediately disqualified from participating. The organist automatically gets an additional $20,000 every time he accompanies someone during this song because that is how difficult, and ultimately, demeaning, it is to play with these well-meaning but unqualified dolts.
The game is usually over in 9 innings. Actually, if you’re lucky, they only have to play 8.5 innings. (It’s got a little something to do with home/away team scores and a lotta something to do with math of some kind.) However if you’re very, very unlucky, there will be a tie after 9 innings and in that case, the game could potentially go on for days. (A quick internet search just informed me that the record is 25 innings between the White Sox and the Brewers, which I can only imagine took at least a week to complete.)
Cubs fever hit the Chicago social media scene hard this fall, and in an effort to do my part, I decided to make a cake (naturally). I am not a baseball fan (is it obvious?), but I am a fan of a happy Chicago, and this team seemed to bring people together, so I devised a gravity-defying design. There is a metal pole which screws into the base. A styrofoam rectangle, then a flat piece of cardboard, then some crumpled scratch paper, then a half-circle of styrofoam on top: The metal pole had a small plate that screwed on at the top. So the actual weight of the cake was resting on this metal plate, which is how it held up really sturdily.
I then placed a cardboard cake circle on top of that metal plate and layered my cakes atop it. I shaved them so they were rounded. Then cover the whole thing in frosting, including the styrofoam bottom half of the circle, and do the same with fondant, and viola! You have a ball shape that people cannot believe is cake!
Once it’s covered in white fondant, take small strips of red fondant and lay them on like the stitch pattern. If you poke a little hole at both ends of the red strip, it looks more realistic, though of course this serves no real purpose cake-wise, as the red strips are attached with a bit of water.
Once the cake was finished, I very carefully put it in my car to take to work. Here is the snapchat evidence:
For a more beautiful photo, I carried the cake onto a local baseball diamond. I can only imagine what passersby were saying as I traipsed across the field at a rate of .05 mph, carrying the incredibly top-heavy cake across the uneven grass.
I always knew I would end up in Urgent Care because of the Blackhawks; I just always figured it would be cardiac-related. So now, older and wiser, might I suggest: Do not attempt to cake decorate while watching a Stanley Cup Final game.
This particular cake was for a pair of dear colleagues who were retiring from my school. A cake, shaped like a flowerpot, fit both their interests and so I set to work. The first step was to create the gum paste flowers, a task that is time consuming, but pays off big in the end. (Just set up your Netflix and the hours will pass by.) You’ll need to first cut the petals out of gum paste, attach a wire to the back, and drape them across wax paper to let them dry. After they’ve dried (a day or two), you can paint them with food coloring mixed with clear extract. Once they’re painted, gather the petals in an artistic fashion and wrap them with floral tape. Viola!
As these were orchids (well, they were supposed to be orchids. They morphed into something else. 🙂 ), the flowers were supposed to be clumped together at the top of a stick. I had an idea to create a little divot in the top of the stick, and then I would rest the wire in that divot, and it would ensure the flowers wouldn’t slide down the stick. (You can see the divot pictured above. It came at a price.)
It was a good idea in theory, just carried out in a really, really dumb fashion. First of all, I don’t own a saw, and was trying to cut into the wood with a big knife. (Stupid Idea #1.) Then, I was holding the wooden dowel rod between my fingers with one hand while sawing away with the other. (Stupid Idea #2.) Thirdly, I was watching a very important game on TV during which the players were playing like complete doofuses. (Stupid Idea #3.) So as I was yelling something at the TV during the second period, a thought quickly flitted through my brain, like the fleeting glint of sunlight on a butterfly’s wings… “This isn’t safe.” And then a millisecond later, the knife slipped.
To their credit, the staff at the Urgent Care was very kind and almost completely hid their sighs of resigned exasperation at the patient who enters the building at 9:58pm when they close at 10. The women were so eager to get home (probably wanted to catch the third period), that all three of them were working on me at once. I felt like I was a patient in “Grey’s Anatomy,” except I wasn’t even sick.
The most important piece of information here is addressed to my many friends who were at this party, and who oblige me and read this blog: This contraption was made several days before I made the cake, and in a different place and with different tools. So don’t worry, everything is safe and clean as always. 🙂
The last step was the actual cake. I tried a new oreo cake recipe that was pretty yummy! It had oreo frosting, with chunks of oreos inside, which made for bumpy fondant. Luckily, the squares of fondant I placed around the pot to create a “tiled” look also hid some of the bumps. Once the fondant was finished, I topped it off with some more frosting and then crumbled, dry oreos. (To look like dirt.)
Well, it’s been just about 4 months, and the pain and humiliation have dulled enough for me to tell you all this horrible story.
One day, a friend from work asked me to make a cupcake cake for her granddaughter’s first birthday. It seemed like an easy enough request. So I baked, I frosted, and I photographed:
The next day, I got up and loaded everything in the car. It promised to be a long day; after the 45 minute drive to drop off the cupcake cake, I was headed up north to Wisconsin for my college roomie’s bridal shower. Along with the cake for my coworker, I had 75 individually bagged cookies to bring to the shower. (It was a busy night of baking the evening before and I now realize I never even took a photo of the flower cookies for the shower. Some of them are pictured here in this photo I took to remind myself “Goodness I’ve baked a lot of things today:”)
As I drove, I noticed that the cake was wobbling to and fro a bit. Nothing abnormal, and to be honest, I was secure in the cake’s internal structure. Three layers of cake made up the green base. Three other layers of cake were then set on a cake board, which was then placed on top of the green layers. With five thick straws holding up the pink section, and a wooden dowel rod going through both layers, I thought it had more than enough support.
About 20 minutes into the drive, a small crack appeared in the side of the green frosting. I momentarily freaked out, but, remembering the cake was for a friend, I knew she wouldn’t mind if I popped into her kitchen and used a spatula to fix that little crack.
Ten minutes later, and the crack had grown. Hugely. I began to drive with one hand holding onto the base, trying to keep it as perfectly horizontal as possible and trying to minimize bumps.
Suddenly, I felt something on my hand, Something heavy. Something that felt like frosting. Glancing quickly at the cake, I let out a high-pitched shriek as I fumbled between driving, catching the cake, and righting my newly arrhythmic heartbeat. The top half of the cake, the pink half, was literally sliding forward. I managed to pull the car over with my left hand just as I caught the top of the cake with my right hand, stopping it just before it fell clear off the bottom part. I sat there in stunned silence, my hand halfway shoved between the two sections of cake. Slowly, I lifted up the pink half of the cake, and the disaster beneath cannot adequately be described in words:
I got out of the car, still holding the (intact) pink half of the cupcake, and had no idea what to do. So naturally, I called my mom. And though she is excellent at providing emotional support, she was unable to provide assistance to her daughter who was standing sobbing in the Mariano’s parking lot on a drizzly Sunday morning with half a cake in one hand and the other half spread across her front seat.
I tried to collect myself. I removed the cake base with the messy green bits and put it on the floor of my car, and then set the pink half into the large circular pan. I stood there in the parking lot, using approximately ninety thousand Starbucks napkins that I have amassed over the years (I KNEW they’d come in handy some day!) to wipe off the buttercream that coated my entire arm. Between sniffles, I devised a plan.
I took my tear-stained face into Mariano’s. “Can I help you?” said a concerned worker. “I just need, um, plastic cutlery, and some paper towels. And water. And a plastic bag,” I answered with a hiccup. The gentleman showed me to the aisle and then, I assumed, went back to call the authorities.
I took the supplies back to my parking space and squatted next to the car. Handful by handful, I tossed chunks of cake and green buttercream into the plastic bag. I dampened some paper towels and then attempted to wipe off the frosting around the edge of the cake base. Wetting fondant is not a good idea because it causes it to get sticky and it also leaves a sheen, but it was better than leaving the green everywhere, I thought.
Once the base was sort of presentable, I put the top of the cake on the base. I stood up then and placed the cake onto the trunk of the car. (I can’t frost in a squat.) Initially embarrassed with the glances of Sunday morning shoppers, I now stared at them haughtily, my chin up and my hand tightly gripping my plastic spoon-spatula, eyes just daring them to make a comment: “What? You looking at ME? Haven’t you ever seen someone decorate a cake on the trunk of a car with a crappy plastic spoon before? Geez. Keep shopping, folks, nothing to see here.”
Adding to the overall stress was the fact that, of course, I had promised to bring this cake over by a certain time, and not only would I now be late for that, but I was risking being late for the bridal shower. Which I had the party favors for.
When I eventually arrived at my friend’s house, she oohed and ahhed and graciously reminded me that it was “a smash cake for a one year old. Don’t even worry a bit.” And after showing her the pic of how I had helpfully pre-smashed the green layer for the kid, I went on my way.
“Technically,” the moral of the story is:
Do not taper the edge of a cake in so much. Especially if you’re using regular fluffy cake instead of firm pound cake.
However, the MUCH MORE IMPORTANT moral of the story is:
Only make cakes for kind people who are nice to you if you mess up.
Have you ever had a cake disaster? Or any disaster in the kitchen? Tell me about it in the comments below. It’ll help my self-esteem.
Well, Picasso, I used to think you were one weird dude. But after piecing together this painting shape by shape, my view of you has changed. I now see that there is beautiful overall balance and symmetry to your composition that I hadn’t really noticed before. For example, take this guy on the left:
He has a very wide white belly area, along with a white hat. Just weird, right? But as I pieced this together, I realized, hey! That’s just one big white triangle, from the sides of the belly to the tip of his hat. So Pablo, while I won’t deny that I anticipate nightmares involving the guy on the right (see below), your geometric cubist designs have won me over.
Ninth in my series of ten “Art” cakes, and I’ve just about saved the worst for last. Not because of the subject matter or artist, but because of the cake material. Fondant. Ugh. All along, I had planned to use fondant with this cake, and all along, the dread was building up. Mixing each bit of fondant to match the painting’s color exactly…rolling it out and cutting it and adhering the pieces juuuuuust so, and then cutting off the imperfections with the precision usually reserved for brain surgery. I repeat: Ugh.
I’d like to say that I was wrong, but unfortunately, I was not. Except for the bit about brain surgery: I should hope that surgeons watch a little less Netflix than I while performing their dissections.
Sighing, I decided to suck it up and get to work. I began by covering the cake in white fondant, and then put a square of black fondant on top of that.Here’s a fun Vine of the process! (This is my first Vine. I now know that embedded YouTubes do not play for those of you who receive this blog in your emails. Since I’ve never put a Vine in a post before, I don’t know if this will work in an email, either… so if nothing comes up directly below, click on the blog title at the top of the email and you’ll be taken directly to the post, and it should play there!)
Here’s my cake with the print of Picasso’s for comparison. (The painting is on top and the cake’s on bottom. Obviously. 🙂 ) If you like art, you may enjoy these other cakes in the series. Eight different artists/paintings with eight different cake mediums.
– Michelangelo’s “Pieta” in modeling chocolate
– da Vinci’s “Self Portrait” in food coloring
– Monet’s “Winter Haystack” in Nerds candy
– Monet’s “Sunset in Venice” in royal icing
– Cezanne’s “Still Life with Apples” in apples
– Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in buttercream
– Ansel Adams’ “Moon Over Half Dome” in chocolate
– Dalí’s “Meditative Rose” in gum paste
Do you have any other ideas for art you’d like to see recreated in a cake? Leave a comment below!