Boot Camp Cake for a Hero’s Send-off

Recently, I was asked to do a cake for a young man going off to boot camp. And while I always try to please customers, I especially wanted this one to be perfect. It seemed like my tiny little way to say thank you.

boot camp cake fondant modeling chocolate boots 2

I wanted to make the boots look as real as possible, so I elected to make them out of modeling chocolate rather than actual cake. (Had they been entirely cake, the cake would have gone stale before I had time to finish all the detail work. Making them out of chocolate ensured I could work on them at night after work over the span of a few days.) And seeing how they are life-size boots, I decided to have the center be styrofoam so that they were lighter, since I knew I was planning on putting the boots on top of a cake.

how to make modeling chocolate bootsTo make the camouflage fondant, I colored chunks of fondant various shades of green and brown. I rolled them into small balls and then placed them close together. (It looks like this would be a fast process, but placing them together was a bit like a puzzle. Of course, you wouldn’t want to place to of the same color directly next to each other. Otherwise you don’t get the camo effect.)

Once the balls were placed, I rolled them out with a rolling pin. Voila…. camouflage fondant!

making camouflage fondant for boot camp cake

Lastly, I added the details. An American flag draped near the boots, and “Semper Fi” written on the side. For that I cut the yellow letters with an exacto knife and then laid them on red fondant and then cut around the words. Ta-da!

semper fi fondant cake

So thank you, Christopher, and everyone else. Thank you for your sacrifices in order that the rest of us may live freely. boot camp cake fondant modeling chocolate boots

Carving a Police Car Cake

In honor of National Police Week, I decided to make a police car cake and bring it to our local station. And though it ended up looking like something out of a 1950s gangster movie, I would imagine they ate it anyways. 🙂 So after a bit of research, which involved a short-lived numbskull idea to go to the police station and take photographs of their cars (I can imagine the headlines: “Local teacher arrested for suspicious behavior in police station parking lot”), I decided on a design and set to work.

STEP 1: Begin with a ridiculously thick pound cake batter. There are FOURTEEN EGGS in these two pans. I mean….is that even legal? The comments on the recipe I used here said the cake was delicious, but I guess the yolk’s on me if this cake isn’t egg-xactly everything it’s cracked up to be.

(Sorry. I’ll stop.)
(And yes, the cake was egg-shell-ent.)

pound cake batter

STEP 2: Once the cakes are cooked, layer ’em up and start to carve! Be careful, because you can’t ever put cake back on. (Lesson learned the hard way.)

carving a police car cake STEP 3: Frost!police car cake carving with frosting STEP 4: Add the fondant details…

fondant details of police car cake STEP 5: Deliver to the police station in honor of National Police Week. Thank you for all that you do!

police car cake in parking lot police car cake

Fondant Scales and Chocolate Fish Tails

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:

putting scales in fondant fish cake

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”): putting gum paste fins on fondant fish cake

Here are some step-by-step photographs of the entire process. The fish took approximately 4 hours from start to finish. IMG_7156

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!

close up of fish scales for fondant cake

STEP 3: Add the “extras”
Gum paste grass, fondant sign, modeling chocolate mud… that’s about it!

fish cake isomalt water

close up of fish scales for fondant fish cake 1

bass fish cake fondant What other things would you like to see made of modeling chocolate? Comment below!



A UFO Cake That’s Out of This World!

inside structure of UFO cakeWhat do aliens serve their tea on?

Flying saucers!

(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 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: 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.)

Here are some in-process photos of the UFO base:UFO cake how to bottom of UFO with lights 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 to in process UFO cake fondantI 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!UFO cake with wilton silver sprayCREATING 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.)

making the base of ufo cakeMAKING THE ACTUAL CAKE PART:
This part was the easiest! I call it: “The UFO That Looks Like a Hat.”

top of UFO cake fondant  I used a small pop-top light to put on the top of the cake.

UFO cake with lights fondant UFO cake bottom with lights

UFO cake with dry ice fog and ligths UFO cake with lights and alien

Bonus: these little guys were actually purchased in Roswell. I feel like they gave some authenticity to the whole endeavor. aliens sitting on demolished UFO cake

How to Make a Giant Baseball Cake and also How to Understand Baseball

Chicago Cubs baseball hat cake fondant chocolate“Baseball is the only major team sport in America with no game clock.”

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:inside structure of cubs baseball cake 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.

inside structure of cubs baseball cake 2 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!

how to make a baseball cake Cubs 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.

putting red stitching into giant fondant baseball cake The baseball hat is made entirely of modeling chocolate (just the “C” logo is fondant). I used a napkin to texturize the chocolate so it looked more like fabric.

texture a chocolate baseball hat Cubs

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.

Chicago Cubs baseball cake Do you have a different idea for a sports-themed cake? I have never done a football or basketball cake before because I haven’t thought of a creative idea! Please help! 🙂

Abraham Lincoln: The Modeling Chocolate Man

*** If you are viewing this via an email you received as a subscriber, the videos are not linking properly. Click on the title, where you will be directed to the blog, and the page will display properly with all the videos included! I apologize! ***

The world is full of thoughtful and witty Abraham Lincoln quotes. Here is my favorite one:

I can quote that movie forwards and backwards. Please don’t judge me. It’s just that it’s so useful! For example: Are you feeling chilly, and then you realize you left the door open? Just say,

Ok sorry, I’m stopping! Back to Abe! After participating in the Lake County Fair last year (with a Nerds cake and a modeling chocolate bust), I decided to go whole hog, as it were, and head down to the State Fair this summer. I couldn’t think of an idea- all I knew was that I wanted something Illinois-themed– and then a friend suggested Lincoln! As you’ll see below, the cake is made of styrofoam. This was a requirement of the competition.

Here are some photos of the process:

STEP 1: Create the Cake Base
I covered the base in white fondant, layered red and white strips, and then used a heart cookie cutter, cutting off the top portion, and layered those around the cake. I used a star cutter to add embellishments.patriotic red white blue flag cake fondantSTEP 2: Create Abe’s face
Check out this time-lapse video showing a 10-hour project condensed into 4 minutes.

Here are some still shots taken during the process. I like to call them, in order, “Captain Picard,” “The Beardless Wonder,” and “Hugh the Wolverine.”

Abe abraham lincoln cake modeling chocolate step by stepSTEP 3: Add color dust to face
Once the face is completed, take a little paintbrush and lightly brush on some brown color dust. Adding the dust in the creases and shadowy areas helps bring the face to life. The photo below illustrates the difference: the right side has the dust and left side does not. abraham abe lincoln made of modeling chocolate with dustSTEP 4: Create plaque
As I said earlier, Abe is full of great quotes. It was hard to choose just one to put on this cake. In the end, I chose the following quote because it seems to sum up his life, mission, and legacy perfectly:

lincoln quote be sure you put your feet in the right place then stand firm painted on fondant STEP 5: Carefully drive to the Illinois State Fair
While he may look sturdy, Abe is very sensitive to the sun. And unlike a regular human, he doesn’t just suffer sunburn, he instead suffers “My Face Literally Melts Off If Sun Hits It Directly.” I placed him on the front seat inside a rubbermaid, put a towel around the sides to block the sun, and then opened an umbrella across the top. I forgot to take a regular photo, but I managed to screenshot my snapchat of the set-up:
IMG_6049STEP 6: Take a short field trip back home
Before we went to the fair, I took Abe to see his old house!

abraham abe lincoln comes home to springfield

STEP 7: Drop off at fair!
Here he sits! Good luck, Abe! I hope you win!

abraham abe lincoln cake entered in illinois state fair 2015 made of modeling chocolate close up of abraham abe lincoln modeling chocolate face Do you have a favorite Abe Lincoln quote or memory? Or a favorite Robin Hood quote? I love those, too. Please share in the comments below! 🙂 abe abraham lincoln face made of modeling chocolate

A Chocolate Lady Liberty Atop a Wobbly Flag Cake

A silence fell over the kitchen as I set the cake down on the counter. The candle, so unceremoniously shoved last week into her raised chocolate hand, was lit by my mother with a reverence usually reserved for old family photos and high-thread count fabrics. It flickered an eerie greenish glow as we all stared. “Well, we should sing!” someone piped up.
“What, just because there’s a cake with a candle on it, we have to sing?”
“But it’s not a birthday!”
“It’s sort of America’s birthday, I guess…”
A quiet pause. The guests shifted uneasily on their feet.
And then, from the back, in an octave known only to prehistoric reptiles and James Earl Jones, a voice began, “O beautiful, for spacious skies.” My eyes snapped away from the cake and I looked about for the rumbling initiator. Slowly, one by one, more voices added in. Not wanting to appear an ungrateful host, I attempted to join in as well, only to find that my singing voice stops approximately five octaves higher than their chosen range. My gaze drifted from guest to guest, all of whom were intently staring at the green lady and her wimpy torch. And as the final sounds of “From sea to shining seeeeeeeaaaaa” melted away, the Fourth of July guests, tank-top-clad and red-faced from the heat and yet sounding like a Russian Men’s Glee Club, looked expectantly at me for direction.

My dad broke the silence, “Well, that has to be the weirdest thing this family has ever done.”
“We’re being patriotic!”
“Yeah, we’re just celebrating the 4th!” a few people countered.
“No, you’re all staring at a cake. And singing to it,” he pointed out.

Well, as usual, he was right. It WAS weird. But “weird” is why I love my family and friends. I can confidently say that no other family was singing to a green chocolate statue that day. And I can confidently say this is why I love them so dearly!

STEP 1: Make modeling chocolate
Easy recipe! Melt a 12-oz bag of candy melts in the microwave. (Half power, 30 seconds at a time.) Once it’s melted, stir in 1/4 cup of corn syrup. The consistency will immediately change and it’s AWESOME! Wrap the blob in saran wrap and put in the fridge for a few hours. Ta-da! modeling chocolate how to step by stepSTEP 2: Create Lady Liberty (a week or so in advance)
This portion took approximately two days of non-stop work. I set myself up with Netflix on the left and the photos of the Statue of Liberty on the right, and I began! My version has a styrofoam cone to begin with, and then I coated it with a layer of green chocolate. I then started at the bottom and added the folds. If you compare it to a real photo of the statue, the folds are pretty close. I didn’t embellish anything! Which reminds me- I’m glad I wasn’t the model for this statue, because she is wearing a LOT of fabric. 🙂

step by step modeling chocolate statue of liberty Here is the final version, front and back:

statue of liberty modeling chocolate back and front Here are some up-close detail pics:

close up of lady liberty statue of liberty modeling chocolate cake STEP 3: Make the cake
Ugh that CAKE! The thought of it raises my blood pressure! Making the colored layers was easy enough- but stacking thirteen layers was literally a recipe for disaster. More on that in a moment… Here is what the inside eventually looked like! inside of statue of liberty cake flag cake STEP 4: Add the details
Once the cake was covered in its base layer of fondant, I cut fondant bricks and began to lay them on. I could have used a brick imprint mat (a piece of plastic you press into the fondant) but I think this looked better. Then I covered a small cake board in brown fondant, and using a very tiny paintbrush and food coloring, painted on the quote of Emma Lazarus’ that is inside at the base of the actual statue. I just love this quote. Having also worked in genealogy, and having found the names, dates, and photos of the ships in which my ancestors arrived from Ireland, Sweden, Norway, and Hungary- I’m just happy to know that they were coming to a country that welcomed them.

emma lazarus poem base of statue of liberty cake flag cake As you can see, I didn’t have a plan or anything drawn out. I was really really hoping that the words would all fit on this circle. Luckily, they fit just perfectly. WHEW!painting words on fondant with food coloring STEP 5: FIX THE CAKE BECAUSE IT IS FALLLLLLING
Ok. So I covered the cake in fondant on Friday afternoon, went to dinner, and when I returned, everything was fine. As I sat there that night, gluing bricks to the sides, I noticed a tiny crack at the top. Bit by bit, the crack grew, until suddenly it was a gaping hole!!! It turns out that the blue cake section and the striped cake section next to it would NOT stay together. They were coming apart faster than a Hollywood marriage. I grabbed boxes and put them flush against the sides of the cake, squeezing it back together, until I could work out a solution.

And by “I,” I mean my mom. She is my cake engineer. She texted me a brilliant idea: “Why don’t we sew it?” Ladies and gents, this is actually true. This cake was literally sewn together. Here is a small sketch:sewn fourth of july cake

Once the string was pulled taut, the foamboard pieces held the cake together. It really worked. My mom, a quilter of much renown, sewed a cake. Here she is “un”-sewing it so we could eat it:

statue of liberty with lit torchstatue of liberty cakestatue of liberty cake modeling chocolate

The (Blackhawks’) Road to the (Stanley) Cup (Cake)

Let me begin with my deepest apologies to all you fine readers who privately roll your eyes whenever you see yet another Blackhawks post. You can rejoice and be glad, for this is the last hockey-related post for many months!*

*Last ANTICIPATED post… mwah ha ha!!

For those of you like me, though- let us revel together and enjoy this Cup-filled summer, waiting in anticipation for the preseason in September.

So, let me present to you my final Blackhawks cake, “The Road to the Cup.” Brought to WGN TV on June 15, 2015. How did it end up on TV? I sent an email asking if I could. They said yes. That is all.

STEP 1: Devise Theme (1 week before)
I used a drawing app on my ipad to sketch out a rough theme. Four mini-scenes, each one representing a stop on the Blackhawks’ “Road” to reaching the final trophy. The first stop was the Nashville series, and had Seabrook scoring the triple-overtime goal at 1:16am. The next scene was Patrick Kane during his “goal celebration” pose, since that’s the series he started to come alive! The third scene was Duncan Keith, or, as he was renamed, DunConn (for the Conn Smythe Award, the playoff MVP). The final scene was Captain Toews as he skated towards the Cup.
IMG_0140STEP 2: Create the Gum Paste/ Modeling Chocolate Characters (1 week before)
For an in-depth explanation of how to create these players, click here.miniature blackhawks hockey players gum paste cake decoratingSTEP 3: Make the Cake (The structure pictured below: 2 days before. The actual cake under that: 1 day before.)
Surely there’s a better way… but I don’t know about it. So I used a bunch of pieces of styrofoam, glued them onto the base, and then pushed rice krispie treats in between the spaces to make a smooth surface. I covered the whole thing with modeling chocolate, leaving four empty places where I would place the mini rinks later. (Again, for a detailed explanation on how I created those poured sugar rinks, click here, same link as above.) Why so much styrofoam? Three reasons: it was lighter, it was faster, and I knew that part wouldn’t be eaten anyways so what did it matter?

step by step blackhawks cake constructionFinally, the day arrived: Monday, June 15. Not only the day of the TV segments, but also the day of Game Six- what *could be* the Stanley Cup Clincher!!!

STEP 4: Take the Cake to Stop #1- The Blackhawks Rally at the Palace Grill on Madison (46 miles away, left at 5:30am and arrived at 7:34am. Rush hour, how I loathe thee… Oh, who am I kidding, I slept in the car, ha! My poor mom or sister drove- I don’t even know which one!)

That reminds me. My family is amazing. They do all this work and then I’m the one that gets to be on TV. These two drove me around all day while I slept in the car. I even fell asleep on a couch in the store as they looked at new couches for my parents’ family room. Trust me, there is a post coming in the near future that will provide photographic evidence of the awesomeness of my family. Until that point, please enjoy this, their television debut: 1422341_10101562218633507_2268947201515790099_nAfter arriving at the Palace Grill, a very kind producer helped us set up the cake right there in the restaurant. WGN news had two reporters on location, and there was tons going on! A face painter, a bouncy house, Blackhawks giveaways, signed memorabilia to purchase, a live band, and more!

I was also able to meet some local legends! Steve Konroyd (former Blackhawk player and current TV co-host of game intermissions and post-game shows), Pat Tomasulo and Ana Belaval (WGN morning news team), Troy Murray (another former Blackhawk player and current color analyst for the broadcasts on WGN radio), and of course, Tommy Hawk, the team mascot! IMG_5715Tommy Hawk seemed to enjoy the cake too! DSCN0078 STEP 5: Get Interviewed on Live Television! (8:50am)
Though short and sweet, I got to say a few words about my cake on the morning news! And my website scrolled across the screen, so… yay!IMG_0147

STEP 6: Eat Breakfast (9:00am)
As Pippin would say, it was “Second Breakfast,” right, guys? After the funtivities were closing up around 9:30, guess who came in?! Many of the players’ dads!

STEP 5: Take Cake to WGN TV Studio (10:30am)
We then drove to the TV studio where a very kind stagehand took the cake inside and promised to put a sign on it so none of the news reporters would eat it. And then it was time for a little relaxing!

STEP 6: Eat Lunch and Go Shopping! (11:00am)

STEP 7: Come Back to TV Studio (3:15pm)
This was my second favorite thing that happened that day (other than, you know, what happened at 10:15pm-ish!!!!). The producer had warned us to put a sign on the cake labeling it, because apparently the staff would eat it otherwise. So we kindly asked the stagehand to put a sign by the cake. With a completely straight face, he said he would take care of it.

We then walked into the studio, he turned the fancy lights on, and OH MY GOODNESS HOW BIG IS THAT SIGN! Keep in mind, that cake is three feet long!

DSCN0108STEP 8: Get the Cake Prepped for Evening News (3:15pm)
It was a pretty easy set-up, but man, am I jealous of all their lights! It was so easy to photograph the cake! Anyone want to set me up with a camera studio at home? Anyone?? While I readied the cake, my mom and sister took photos and the stagehands exchanged the background art for some awesome Hawks stuff.

DSCN0114 DSCN0140 Mom even managed to take a pic of my Kane and Toews figures, with their respective posters in the background! She’s so artsy! 🙂

mini gum paste hockey playersDSCN0134STEP 9: Wait for Interview (3:45pm- 6:10pm)
I was told that my segment would be on at 5:15pm. We waited patiently (Elizabeth organized the Green Room– you’re welcome, WGN–) and then, just at 5:00pm, they announced there was a tornado warning! A tornado was right above Cook County! And so began the weather coverage. Obviously, I knew the segment wouldn’t be on at 5:15, right as the warning expired, but I had hopes that there might be time for it at some point before six o’clock. Unfortunately, though the tornado dissipated, there was still quite a storm over the city, in particular right over all the people waiting outside the United Center to watch the Blackhawks game- and so the station had to keep going with weather coverage. Of course I understand, but it was an unfortunate amount of time and money spent to not get that evening news segment!

STEP 10: Try to Watch Blackhawks Game! (the rest of the night!)
Of course, I did all this since I’m a Hawks fan. So when the 4-6pm news ended, I wasn’t so much sad about the canceled segment, as I was antsy to get out of there so we could find a place to watch the game. So we get in the car, and I’m thinking, hey, we’re traveling out of the city- going the opposite way of everyone else presumably- so we should probably get to, like, Schaumburg, before puck drop at 7:15.


According to the GPS, we made it 0.6 mile in ONE HOUR! Let me repeat- just over a half mile in an HOUR! (If you want a good laugh, I just googled it- Schaumburg is 30 miles from the studio.) So, cake packed in the trunk and all but forgotten, I start having a spaz attack. It’s now 7ish, and we were still in the car. How could I NOT watch potentially the last game of the year?! We looked around the gridlocked traffic, and what did we spot, but an… Olive Garden.

Perhaps not the normal place to head to watch a Stanley Cup Final Cup-clinching game. But there was no option. After I called from the car to ensure they actually had a bar, we dodged the raindrops and flew inside, backsides in the seats just in the nick of time. The kind management team allowed us to turn the TV sound on. (Whew.)

IMG_0157 STEP 10: Move to an Actual Bar Since Olive Garden Closed
As the second period drew to a close, we readied ourselves, paid the tab, and opened the umbrellas. As soon as the horn sounded, we bounded out to the car and moved along to the next bar. We parked, ran inside, and secured a spot juuuuust as the third period started.

IMG_0156 The rest, as they say, is history. 🙂 It was a splendid evening celebrating with people we didn’t know, but with who we shared one very important passion. And since that day, I’ve created a different treat to recognize that accomplishment: Stanley Cup-cakes. Click here to see more. stanley cup cake hockey melodiaFor more Blackhawks goodies, check out my other cakes/cookies:
– Full-sized dog with giant hockey puck and jersey
– Blackhawks jersey cookies
– More Blackhawks cookies
– Blackhawks logo cake

Are there other hockey treats I haven’t made yet? Please let me know in the comments! I have a long summer to prepare for the next season. 🙂 Oh, and I learned an interesting tidbit today: Next year will be their 88th season. I think that’s a good omen, don’t you?
#Showtime 🙂

Introducing: Vegetarian Ribs

carving a ribs cake step by stepAs a 99% vegetarian person, these are some ribs I can really get behind! It’s not that I have any moral problems with meat- I just don’t like it- but these “ribs,” I have no problems with. Vanilla cake, buttercream, fondant, royal icing, and sprinkles. Yummy!

STEP 1: Carve and cover the cake.
This is SO MUCH EASIER if the cake is frozen. I used a 16″ circle and then cut off the top and bottom parts of the circle. Then I cut some divots for the ribs.

After the cake is carved, cover it with buttercream.

Lay fondant across the cake and carefully press it into the divots and around the base. I used a really light color of fondant, but remember, you can’t put a light color of food coloring on top of a darker color. So if I wanted any “highlights” of this light color, it needed to be the base color.

STEP 2: Make rib bones.
I actually made these a few nights in advance so they were quite hard. Using a mixture of gum paste and fondant, I shaped the bones and put them on a long stick. Lay them out to dry. Flip them over every few hours so both sides dry.

STEP 3: Paint away!!!
This was the super fun part!! Mix up a batch of royal icing, and then color it a few different shades. As you can see here on the left, I began with a reddish brown. Of course, don’t cover it completely- let a little of that light brown show through. I then added some black, and then some grill marks. Finish it off with black sprinkles, and then pour on some red royal icing to simulate barbeque sauce! A feast for all- vegetarians included!


bbq ribs cake close upcookie french friesI also made some cookie fries. Very simple- regular cookie dough just cut into strips, with a little brown dust added to the tips. With a little cup of royal icing barbeque sauce, you could just dip your cookie into the icing!  bbq rib bones made out of fondant  bbq ribs cake cut open  bbq ribs cake fondant icing cookie french fries  grill cookies hamburger kabobs royal icingI also brought these cookies to the party. They were designed by SweetAmbs- check it out on facebook here:

A Cake with a Big Dog and a Really Big Hockey Puck

dog cake with toews“You made this? Whoa, good job!” he said. I stared back, eyes wide, and attempted to process those words. Unfortunately, after what was probably far too long a pause, all my addled brain could come up with as a response was, “Um…well…good job playing hockey!” The last words came tumbling out. A very small corner of my brain screamed a warning, “Lame! Lame! Lame!” but the words slid out unimpeded.

An inward sigh. Alright, so perhaps my meeting with Chicago Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews didn’t go quite according to plan. But he was kind enough to sign a photo of the other Blackhawks cake I made for WGN last spring. In fact, I was able to meet many of the players that night and all were incredibly kind and gracious. Their reputation for being accessible, fun, and “normal” was certainly evident.

This event, “A Fetching Affair,” was at the Drake Hotel and sponsored by the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Foundation. A few months ago, I had seen an advertisement for this event, right around the time that I completed a different cake in the shape of a French Bulldog puppy. That puppy cake made me wonder if the Bickell’s foundation would like a similar cake for their fundraiser. I asked, they said yes, I made the cake, and next thing I know, I’m standing in the Drake shaking hands with the Bickells themselves. (Who couldn’t have been nicer, might I add.)

The cake was done in multiple steps. As I work full-time and have responsibilities on week-nights, I was really only able to work on this on the weekends. I will list the steps below, along with some photos of the process:

dog face made of modeling chocolate in stepsSTEP 1: Create Dog’s Head (two weeks before event)
1. Carve styrofoam ball in general shape of dog head.
2. Cover in modeling chocolate
3. Add modeling chocolate until it has the proper shape and color of your dog.
4. Add fondant eyes, tongue, and nose (fondant accepts gel colors and modeling chocolate does not. I don’t know why.)
5. Using a paintbrush, dab on black, brown, and pink luster dusts to add dimension and shading.

close up of dog faceSTEP 2: Make the Dog’s Body (1 week before event)
1. Go to the hardware store and bother the workers with this question: “We are trying to make a life-size dog cake. Can you help us make a skeleton?
2. After they laugh at you, walk around until your parents find the appropriate wood, dowel rods, shims, screws, and general doo-hickies to make it happen. Then, have them put it together for you.
3. Make a batch of rice krispies and pile it on the bottom. (Remember to line your base with wax paper, otherwise the rice krispies will be stuck to it!)
4. Keep piling on the krispies! You have to really push them in together, squeezing from all sides. If it’s not compact, it will not be secure. This dog was 11 whole batches- and there was very little waste that I had to carve off at the end.
5. Any areas where gravity is pulling the krispies down, just shove in some modeling chocolate. It will hold it together.
6. Allow to cool completely.
7. Carve structure until it has the shape you want.
8. Cover with modeling chocolate. Try to make as smooth and even as possible.
9. A few inches at a time, apply another thin layer of modeling chocolate. Using a burnishing tool, press it in using parallel strokes so that it looks like fur. The direction of the fur should be consistent and should follow the contours of the dog’s body.
10. Once the body is finished, add the front legs with modeling chocolate.
11. Using a dry paintbrush, dab loose black and brown luster dusts where appropriate to enhance coloring.

internal structure of dog cake step by stepSTEP 3: Make Dog Toys, Bones, and Pucks (1 week before)
1. Rawhide bone: Roll out white modeling chocolate and then wrap it until it looks bone-like.
2. Dog’s toy ball: The only other non-edible portion of this cake. Because I wanted a perfectly smooth appearance, I used a styrofoam ball. Notice the ball is completely smooth… how did I do that, you may wonder? A brilliant idea! It is no mistake that there is a black/white stripe down the center of the ball. I measured and then cut a circle of red fondant and then stuck it onto the ball. Do the same for the opposite side. Then, take a white stripe and wrap it around to hide the seams. I added a black stripe on top of the white (to model the uniforms’ stripes). But since my black stripe looked uneven, I then added black circles. (They were cut out with the base of an icing tip.) This not only hid the ugliness of the uneven black stripe, but it made it look more playful, like something a dog would have.
3. Hockey pucks: Roll out black fondant so it’s the same thickness as a real puck (1 inch, thank you wikipedia). Use a 3-inch circle cookie cutter to cut the puck out. Once it’s dried, use fondant to add the team logo on top. I cut each color individually and then put them together like a puzzle. I used a black food-coloring marker to draw around the edges, like the real logo is outlined. Forgive me that  it doesn’t look perfect, but seriously, these are some teeny little feathers we are talking about here!dog bone toy and pucks made of fondant

 STEP 4: Make Hockey Puck Cake (1 day before)
1. Make two separate 16-inch cakes. They are GIGANTIC, fyi.
2. Cut off the domed top while it’s still in the pan. You’re more or less assured to get a straight cut that way.
3. Frost and then cover cake with black fondant.
4. Cut out approximately four thousand squares. (Kidding… sort of. I did get two blisters from using this teeny square cutter, so what does that tell you?)
5. Using gum-glue adhesive (a pinch of gum paste mixed with a tbsp of water to create an edible glue), stick the squares onto the side of the puck. (If you look at the side of a real hockey puck, it has these little scored indentations. I’ve placed a real hockey puck on top of the cake below.)
6. Add the words “OFFICIAL, MADE IN SLOVAKIA” out of fondant, if you want. (I had cutters for the smaller letters but free-handed the larger ones.) I decided to add the words because to be honest, the whole thing looked like a tire instead of a puck. (It actually stills looks like a tire, just a Slovakian one.)
7. Optional: greet Marian Hossa at the event by proclaiming that you, too, were “made in Slovakia.” I did NOT do this, although both my dad and brother separately suggested it.

how to make a hockey puck cakeblackhawks cake with hockey puck and crumpled jersey6. Create Fondant Jersey (1 day before)
1. Roll out several strips of red fondant.
2. Roll up some wax paper and tape it so it makes a little ball. I used several of these so the red fondant would stay “up,” instead of collapsing like a deflated balloon. You can see one on top of the cake in the photo below.
3. Lay a strip of red fondant, crumpled a bit here or there to look like an actual jersey. Then place a wax paper ball on it. Drape another piece of fondant on top of the ball. Keep going until it looks like an actual jersey. I actually crumpled my real jersey on the table and then copied the folds.
4. As you go, you’ll need to add the appropriate colors/logos/etc. This tomahawk logo pictured was fun but difficult to do: cut out yellow “C,” then cut out green sticks and white stones. Lay green sticks across the “C.” Cut and remove the yellow area under the green. Lay entire puzzle atop black fondant. Attach with gum glue adhesive. Cut around logo. Lay entire thing atop piece of red fondant. Then drape the red fondant on the rest of the jersey appropriately. Do ALL this before the fondant dries (about 5ish minutes), otherwise the logo won’t drape nicely and will be hard and flat. In this case, you WANT droopy fondant, since it’s supposed to simulate clothing.
5. Put several plastic tube supports into the cake. I had more than what is pictured below. That dog is heavy!

life sized dog cake with blackhawks gear and gigantic puck

STEP 7: Transport Dog to Event! dog cake in car
1. Pray.
No, seriously, driving in downtown Chicago traffic is unpleasant at all times, but especially unpleasant when you’re trying to protect a chocolate dog from moving about. We definitely had the dog with me in the backseat, and the rest of the cake in the trunk. Luckily there were no sudden movements and she made it safely!

We pulled up to the loading dock and a kind man came down with a cart. He was as careful as I wanted him to be wheeling Bailey around on that cart. And he stopped each person we passed, exclaiming, “Do you guys believe this is a CAKE?”

STEP 8: Set up Cake
The cart driver wheeled right into the ballroom, and there stood Bryan and Amanda Bickell. I paused in the entryway, because even though I was coming to their event, I was taken aback to see them there. They definitely recognized their (chocolate) puppy! Bryan doesn’t have his “nice-guy” reputation for nothing- he was as personable and genuine as they come. Aren’t hockey players the best??

Now that that is over, I am looking for another project. Any ideas? I’m thinking about a rotating tornado. Leave me a comment below if you have another idea! 🙂

kathryn with dog cakeLike the Chicago Blackhawks? Check out some other goodies I’ve made here:
Rink cake with gum-paste players
Blackhawks/ hockey-themed iced cut-out cookies
Blackhawks jersey cookiesFondant logo cake
Blackhawks logo cake