Pretty in Pink

paris eiffel tower bridal showerWhen my sister asked for treats for a Parisian-themed bridal shower, I just knew what would happen. And, exactly like usual, it happened.

My sister threw the most beautiful, coordinated shower ever. She has such an eye for design, color, and beauty, and so as with all her events, it was perfect.

She asked for a ruffle cake so I gave it a go- I’ve never tried one before- and I’ve decided that I can’t get enough of these ruffles! It’s a fairly easy process, as well. I used the method demonstrated here. black white pink ruffle cake

Look at this gorgeous table setting!!

black white pink bridal shower

black white stripe cake shower

A Parisian party wouldn’t be complete without some Eiffel Tower cookies, right? I purchased this stencil on Etsy, only to realize my airbrush machine wasn’t working properly. I had to go to plan C (plan B didn’t work, either) which was to brush luster dust over the stencil and onto the hardened pink icing. Much less labor-intensive than drawing each Eiffel Tower, but not as clean a result as an airbrush would have made. Next on my list, fix the airbrush…eiffel tower party favor cookies

pink fondant ruffle cake

Here are some other photos of the shower, in case you need some inspiration from the next generation’s Martha Stewart!

IMG_8400IMG_8401

Advertisements

A Willy Wonka Cake Made of Pure Imagination

Last fall, I entered a cake in the America’s Baking and Sweets competition. The theme was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” After wracking my brain trying to think of an interesting design that showcased multiple materials and skills, I settled on what I hoped to be an award-winning sketch:

willy wonka cake sketch I wanted the cake to seem as if this magical, chocolatey world was literally gushing to life, straight from the book’s text. As if the reader were imagining it true.

A metal support screwed into a wooden base, with a wooden circle on top of which the two circular tiers would balance.

In the end, the cake looked pretty close to the sketch. And it turned out to be an award-winning sketch, after all- my fondant Wonka took home the top prize in the Theme Cake division. Yahoo!!

The first thing I needed to do was find the appropriate passage in the book- the part where he describes the rivers of cascading sweetness. (Ok, I’m getting hungry writing this post!) I typed the passage, printed it out, and cut each word out so I could place them on the cake evenly. I used a food-dye marker to hand-write the words, and then drew the illustrations and painted them with food coloring mixed with extract. Ta-da! My favorite part of this cake, the book! ❤

charlie chocolate factory willy wonka book cake Next came Wonka’s face. While looking at a cartoon of him, I hand-drew the face and then cut out the various shades. Then, using fondant I had already mixed those colors, I rolled it out, placed the “puzzle piece” on top, and cut out the fondant piece. One by one, I cut out the pieces and placed them together until it looked like the devious chocolatier.

step by step willy wonka face made of fondantNext it was time for the goose that lays the golden eggs. I made wings and a body out of gum paste and let them dry for several days. Once they were completely hardened, I stuck the wings inside the body and began layering wafer paper feathers. I cut out tiny triangles, and, beginning from the tail section, laid them on, leaving the end of each feather un-glued. Once the feathers were complete, I ran a damp paintbrush over the feathers so they would curl up a little bit.

wafer paper swan goose cake Layering on the green-dyed wafer paper:

willy wonka cake wafer paper grass willy wonka cakeAnd the final product! Wonka in all his glory!

willy wonka cake close up willy wonka cake goose egg mushrooms willy wonka cake What movie can you think of that would make an interesting cake? Let me know in the comments below!

A Very Merry Grinchy Cake

grinch cake modeling chocolate“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:

  1. 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.

how to make a grinch cake modeling chocolate

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).

how to make a brick chimney cake fondant 3. That’s it! Just take a cute photo by your tree and serve him up! 🙂

grinch cake chimney christmas lights

grinch cake modeling chocolate close up

What other Christmas characters would you like to see made into a cake?

Exchanging Paint for Fondant: Picasso’s “Three Musicians” in Cake Form

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:
Picasso cake man on right
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.
picasso cake face 1 close up        picasso cake face 2 close up        picasso cake face 3 close up

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.starting picasso cake blank fondantHere’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!)

The most important tool: an exacto knife. I don’t always use one for cakes, but this cake required very fine slices.picasso three musicians cake exacto knife to cut fondantFor a few portions of the cake, I used a food coloring marker to draw the designs.

picasso cake three musicians Here’s my cake with the print of Picasso’s for comparison. (The painting is on top and the cake’s on bottom. Obviously. 🙂 ) Picasso three musicians painting made with fondant cake 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!

picasso three musicians cake fondant in frame

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

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: https://www.facebook.com/SweetAmbsCookies/videos/1072039919490079/?pnref=story

Fondant, Farm Animals, and Far-Out Fun!

laying fondant on cake stripes punk farm book Recently, our school librarian asked me to make a cake inspired by the “Punk Farm” books, written and illustrated by Jarrett Krosoczka. The author would be making a trip to our school, and several students had won the opportunity to share some cake with him during their lunch break! So I got to work with step 1: research. Armed with both “Punk Farm” and “Punk Farm Goes on Tour,” I sat down to read. And read. And read. I’m happy (and somewhat embarrassed) to admit that I read each book several times, my mind going a mile a minute thinking about both the cake, as well as how I plan to incorporate this book into my elementary music classroom. I chuckled aloud at the chicken who says, “I’m scared!” and the pig who’s afraid to get dirty, for nothing escapes me when it comes to jokes intended for small children. Luckily I have the sense of humor of a small child, so I enjoyed myself immensely. (It must also be said that his presentation to our students was not only a heartwarming explanation of the background of a few stories, but a kid-friendly lesson in perseverance and following one’s dreams.)

So after I finished my very serious “research,” I set about brainstorming a way to recreate these funky little dudes. I finally settled on trying to capture their personalities with fondant. Here is the method I followed:

1. I drew each animal on a cardboard cake board and then cut it out. They are each about 4-5 inches tall. I made photocopies of the cardboard cutouts:

sketch of punk farm animals for fondant cake2. I covered the front of each animal with the base color of fondant and wrapped it around the edges, gluing the edges on with a bit of gum glue adhesive (gum paste mixed with water). You can see below that I had already wrapped the white base color around, and had just cut out the red feathers and was about to wrap them around, as well.

punk farm animals fondant and cardboard3. Once the base color of fondant was attached to the cardboard, I flipped the face over and added all the features, like sunglasses, hair, mouths, etc. Since I had a photocopy of the drawings I had made, I knew how big to cut these features. Here is a photo of each fondant-covered animal:

punk farm book cake animals made of fondantOnce the faces were done, I taped a stick to the back of them and stuck them in the cake. I also used scrapbook paper and stickers to make the “Punk Farm” banner.

punk farm book cake

If you enjoyed learning a bit about “Punk Farm,” you can find Jarrett on all the usual social media places (@StudioJJK). And here’s some inside information: he’s a cake-decorator as well. Check it out on his Pinterest wall!

Which other children’s books would look good as a cake? I’ve done only one before (a “Five Little Monkeys” cake, complete with jumping monkeys!), and am counting down the days until December so that I can complete the “Polar Express” idea one of my good friends suggested. (I’ve worked out how to make it have smoke, I think!) I’m always looking for more project ideas, so comment below if you have thoughts!

It’s a Pumpkin! No, it’s a Cake! Wait, it’s a Pumpkin Cake!

painting gum paste fall leaves with food coloringBeing a Pinterest/ Facebook/ Twitter fan, I have been seeing many Thanksgiving treats in my news feed recently. Adorable “gobble gobble” cookies, cakes in the shape of turkeys ready to carve, cupcakes with pilgrim hats… but I had yet to come up with an idea of my own. I saw a post with a pumpkin bundt cake recipe that looked heavenly, and it occurred to me: a bundt cake has ridges. A pumpkin has ridges. What if I covered a bundt cake with fondant? It would actually look like a pumpkin, right?

I’m sure there are about a million people that have figured this out already, but I’m a little slow to the party! So here is my attempt at a pumpkin cake!

STEP 1: Create the Leaves
1. Color your gum paste/fondant mixture a light yellow or orange. (I did a bit of each.)
2. Roll out very thinly and use a leaf cookie cutter to cut shapes.
3. Drape the leaves over crinkled wax paper so they do not dry flat.
4. Wait for leaves to dry. (best to wait at least a day or two, though I did mine only about three hours later. They were still a little soft but, ever the procrastinator, I was out of time.)
5. Scoop out a bit of brown, red, and orange food coloring and put them in separate parts of a plate. Dump a bit of lemon extract in the center of the plate. (The extract dries really quickly so you’ll need to keep getting more!)
6. Using a paintbrush, paint your leaf! Save the darkest bits for the highlights at the end.
gum paste leaf painted with food coloringSTEP 2: Make the Cake Look Like a Pumpkin
1. Cook two separate cakes in a bundt pan. When the cake cooks, it will end up with a domed top- you’ll want to slice that part off. (And eat the scraps while it’s warm….believe me, you’ll want to, because as you cook this recipe, your kitchen will be smelling more and more like heaven!)
2. Wait for cake to cool. Use this time to eat all the scraps. And also paint more leaves if you’re feeling ambitious.
3. Place one cake with the cut side facing up, and cover the top with frosting. Place other cake on top, making sure to match the ridges on the sides.
4. Cover the entire thing with frosting.
5. Drape an orange piece of fondant over the cake.
6. Press fondant into the ridges. If you had coated it liberally with buttercream, this is helpful, because you’ll have deeper and more prominent ridges.
7. Paint highlights onto your pumpkin. I used a light orange fondant as a base, because I wanted some light orange highlights on the ridges. If I had used a darker orange, I would have needed to paint a light orange highlight- and food coloring doesn’t cover that way. Imagine taking a dark orange crayon and coloring on white paper. Then, imagine picking up a yellow crayon and trying to make a yellow part on top of that orange. Doesn’t work, right? Food coloring is the same. Your “base” needs to be the lightest color, and you have to paint on the rest.  how to cover pumpkin cake fondantSTEP 3: Create the Stem
1. Take a brown lump of fondant and make it look like a stem… I really don’t know what else to say. 🙂
2. Take a toothpick and make little points in the top of the stem, because pumpkin stems really do have that prickly sort of top!
3. Paint with green and brown food coloring.

pumpkin cake covered in fondant thanksgivingSTEP 4: Place as Centerpiece!
See how long it takes your family to realize that it’s a cake!

thanksgiving table with pumpkin cake centerpieceSTEP 5: Cut open and enjoy! 🙂
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! pumpkin cake being cut open fondant

Fondant and Chocolate and Icing, Oh My! Creating a Wizard of Oz Cake

Last November, I attended the “America’s Baking and Sweets” show here in Illinois. It was an amazing show with vendors galore, beautifully-made competition cakes, and of course Duff, their keynote speaker. (This is also where I first heard of Icing Smiles, and amazing organization you can read about here.) I told myself that someday I would enter a cake in that competition, and so when this year’s show rolled around, I decided to make good on that promise.

The theme of the show was, “Wizard of Oz.” Naturally, during the entire process of creating this cake, the lyrics to the many songs were floating around my head. As much of this cake construction took place during the wee hours of the night, I naturally began to adjust the lyrics to fit my sleep-deprived circumstance. I offer below my favorite selections:

At the beginning of the process:
“I’m Off to Make the Cake Now” (We’re Off to See the Wizard)
I’m off to make the cake now, a cake of the Wizard of Oz.
It’s time to try and show what I’ve got, if ever a time there was.
If ever a time, it’s now, oh heck- No matter I’m busy and swamped and a wreck,
A wreck, a wreck, a wreck, a wreck, a wwwrrrreeeecccckkkkkk….
I hope I can finish this long, long trek!

Partway in, beginning to feel apprehensive about next week’s deadlines:
“Somewhere In the Near Future”
Somewhere in the near future, next Thurs-day.
There’s a deadline I’m dreading, my least favorite day.
Somewhere in the near future, grades are due.
I sure hope I can finish, I’ve only done a few.
Someday I won’t procrastinate, despite the projects on my plate, oh, maybe!
I’ll finish with some extra time, and then relax and feel sublime, oh, won’t I feel free…
Somewhere in the near future, next Thurs-day.
There’s a deadline I’m dreading, my least favorite day.
If happy teachers finish first, it can’t be too hard!
Why, oh, why, can’t I?!!?!

Midnight the night before the deadline:
“If I Only Had a Brain”
I don’t know what I was thinking, eyes now tired and unblinking,
If I only had a brain. (do do, do do do do do.)
I signed up to make this cake, but it sure takes so long to make-
If I only had a brain.

Three a.m. before the deadline:
“Ding Dong the Cake is Done”
Ding dong the cake is done, it weighs a ton, I hope I’ve won.
Ding dong the wicked cake is done!
Wake up you sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed! ( <– that line is applicable so I’ve left it)
Ding dong the wicked cake is done!

The cake was completed in multiple stages, beginning with the modeling chocolate faces. Modeling chocolate is one of my favorite mediums to work with- so pliable! Each face took a few hours to make.

modeling chocolate face of scarecrow wizard of ozmodeling chocolate face of lion wizard of ozmodeling chocolate face of dorothy wizard of oz

The faces were each finished with a little highlighting with luster dust. Check out the difference here in the lion’s face- the left side has no dust, but the right side does. It just highlights the shadows and makes it come alive, doesn’t it?lion with and without luster dust

After the fagum paste poppies cake how to makeces were done, I went to work on the flowers. I had to improvise on making poppies- each flower petal has an attached wire, which was taped around the black center. Each petal had to dry in the white flower formers (pictured on left). The center of each petal was painted black.

The stamens were made of black thread that was taped around the black gum paste bud. Poppies were then inserted into the cake with straws. Voila!

Once the faces were set on the cake, I used white modeling chocolate to make a rainbow going around the entire cake. The modelingfondant rainbow in stages chocolate was covered in frosting and then a piece of white fondant was laid atop so it was smooth. I then used gel food coloring to paint the fondant rainbow. You can see the progression here on the right:

 

 

 

The final step was to cut out letters using gum paste. I cut out two of each letter, and then used gum glue adhesive (gum paste mixed with water) to stick them together, with a toothpick in between. That way I could stick them into the fondant rainbow and they would stand up. The letters were then painted with silver pearl dust so they had a nice sheen.

gum paste letters for cakeHere is a close up of each face:
wizard of oz cake character faces made of modeling chocolateThe final result:

wizard of oz cake dorothy scarecrow lion tin manI’m sorry to say that I lost the competition, but there were a lot of really cool cakes there! And there’s always next year! 🙂

Here Come the Hawks: How to Create A Chicago Blackhawks Cake

I’ve been trying to decide why I love hockey, and I think it’s because my mother is a nurse. I spent many of my elementary years attempting to fake sick so that I could stay home and watch “Little House on the Prairie,” but alas! To have a mother as a nurse is to never, ever, ever miss a day of school. Her insistence that we muscle through any dribbly noses or rumbly stomachs has created within me an immune system so strong that in 8 years of teaching, I have only succumbed to illness once. (Which reminds me: always get that flu shot. Trust me.) Her no-nonsense attitude has completely rubbed off on me and I’m both ashamed and proud to say that, should someone complain that they have a cold, I might outwardly exhibit signs of compassion, but you can be sure that on the inside, I’m thinking, “Take some Dimetapp and move on with your life already- geez!”

It is commonly known that hockey players are the absolute best when it comes to muscling through pain. And I think my mother would approve. I’ll never forget the sight of Andrew Shaw, a gaping gash across his face, hoisting that cup last year! Now there’s a trooper! Or Keith taking a puck to the mouth, losing teeth, and then finishing the game? I can’t even come up with a sport where they’d do anything like that.

Strangely enough, I have baseball to thank for this hockey cake I made. How richly ironic is that? Baseball: the sport where time stands still and the biggest threat to players are grass stains. Any readers who are baseball fans, please enlighten me as to how I can better enjoy the game. Until then, consider this an open invitation to the high-speed world of hockey, where the players move fast, hard, and even win once in a while.

Several weeks ago, The Cake Boss brought a cake in to Wrigley Field to celebrate their 100th Anniversary. The cake was left out all day for the enjoyment of the fans at the ballpark, and by the end, was deemed not safe to eat (or something like that). It found its way into a dumpster, where someone took a photo, which went viral, naturally. The Cubs just can’t catch a break. Many of my friends sent me the photo, and I jokingly commented to them that I wanted to build a hockey cake, instead! Later that evening, I heard a discussion on WGN radio where the hosts were going on and on about the cake, and about how Wrigley should have eaten it, and aren’t there any bakers in Chicago, anyways? I fired off an email to the station offering to bring in a Blackhawks cake, and- wonder of wonders!- the producer was in touch with me within minutes. And then, a deep gulp: what had I gotten myself into?!

With a ten-day deadline, a regular job to do, and absolutely no knowledge of large cake construction, the project seemed doomed for failure. Luckily, my family is awesome and, as usual, served as my minions. There is absolutely no way I could have done this without them.

STEP 1: CREATE THE RINKcreating the fondant hockey rink

Supplies: foam board, rotary cutter, and fondant

1. Cut out foam board to a “rink” shape.
2. Lay fondant on the board and smooth it out (it was easier to roll it directly on the board than to try and transfer it after rolling).
3. Using a very thinly-rolled fondant, cut out various rink decorations.
4. Create center logo. Keep all these pieces like a puzzle, rather than layers. Make it as flat as possible.
5. Use a black food-safe marker to create highlights on the face and feathers.

piecing the blackhawks logo

 STEP 2: CREATE THE “ICE” making a hockey ice rink with sugar(Disclaimer: There may be, and likely is, an easier way to do this. I have no idea what it is though and would welcome suggestions because this was hard. 🙂 )

Mission: Create a clear piece of “ice” that was in the shape of a rink that can lay atop the fondant rink pictured above. I was dead-set on creating this and required it as the “wow” factor.
Difficulty level: Almost off the charts
Success rate: 8 experiments later, we came somewhat close. Result still slightly yellow-ish and bumpy, but seriously, eight tries! Enough already!

1. Bottom surface: Granite (don’t have granite, like I don’t? Buy some garden thingies from Menards!)
2. Lay foil across stone tiles
3. Lay nonstick mat atop foil (that’s me, always food-safe!)
4. Create a barrier that will hold in the boiling sugar and allow it to harden into the shape of the hockey rink (For my barrier, we improvised and took a trip to Menards. We found black metal pieces with a gentle curve (somewhere in the fencing department) and then had a gentleman cut a piece of wooden molding down to the required size (2 feet). We wrapped the wood pieces in foil, coated the foil in crisco (so that the hardened sugar wouldn’t stick to it), and laid them carefully on the mat.)

Method: Cook sugar according to recipe (I used this one). Make sure you have a good candy thermometer- the temperatures listed on the device are extremely important and even a few degrees’ difference is enough to throw off the entire batch (I repeat: we did this EIGHT times). Here are three of the failed attempts. The first we cooked to the marking for “Hard Crack” (310°F). It was clear as we poured it but it turned brown about halfway through- apparently it continued cooking even when off the flame. Attempt 2 we cooked to “Hard Ball” (250°F). As you can see, it was too droopy. Attempt 3: cooked without corn syrup in an attempt to get rid of yellow tinge. Didn’t work- the corn syrup is important in getting rid of all the granules of sugar. This photo shows how cloudy it was, even after half an hour of cooking!

burnt poured sugar     poured sugar fail 2     poured sugar without corn syrup

The final result that we used was “Hard Ball” (285°F). We poured it out and then let it sit for an entire day. Then we gently removed the side pieces, and luckily, it stayed in place! This one was the winner! Here’s a photo of the sugar right after it was poured:

poured sugar ice rinkSTEP 3: CREATE PLAYERS gum paste hockey players

I created body pieces out of red gum paste, and allowed them to harden for several days. Then, using red modeling chocolate, I added another layer to create the uniform. Once the pieces were mostly covered in modeling chocolate, I stuck a little bit of white gum paste in between to hold the leg (or arm) to the torso. Then, I covered the entire joint area with modeling chocolate and allowed it to harden for several days. (My lineup of players lived in this pan while drying. I checked on them frequently to make sure they were behaving and not falling over.)

blackhawks players modeling chocolate fondant cake

gum paste hockey player

Each player had an individual stance and therefore, his own personality. The Toews figure turned out to be the most reliable one, which amused me greatly. (It’s the little things in life.) Every time I had to pick up one of the others, I looked over at #19 and thought, “Well isn’t that just like him. Always the responsible one, getting it done.”

modeling chocolate fondant hockey playersI was so utterly lost for time that I even packed up a little kit to work on while attending my dad’s spring band concert! My last guy came to the concert as a lump of modeling chocolate, and left a player. Not easy to do by the flickering candlelight, but the deadline loomed and I was motivated by the thought of them showing an incomplete cake.

creating player by candlelight
       blackhawks players from the back
STEP 4: CREATE NETShockey nets wire and fondant

Using a heavy gauge floral wire, I sculpted two hockey nets. They were then covered in white fondant. My mom, a whiz with fabrics, created the net with a bit of string. Then she covered the remaining portion of the nets with red modeling chocolate.

STEP 5: PUT THE RINK TOGETHER placing sugar rink on fondant rink

Once the white fondant was dry, and the sugar-ice was hardened, it was time to lay it on top and see if it worked! This picture pretty clearly shows the yellow cast of the ice. :/

Once the ice was down, it was time to create the walls of the rink. These were foam board covered in fondant and stuck into the rink using toothpicks. Unfortunately there are no photos of this part! WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!!


STEP 6: MAKE THE CAKE

Here’s the most awful part about cake decorating: there are certain things that you have to do last minute. Like putting the cake together. Sure, I can make the parts in advance, but one doesn’t quite know how it will work until the actual cake is there! Luckily, my mother is an absolute angel and she baked twelve cakes while I was at work. Twelve!

Once the cakes were carved and frosted, it was time to cover with fondant. I decided to cover the top with one piece, and the sides with separate pieces. If I had the luxury of hiring someone, this would be their #1 job because I am absolutely awful.

Don’t forget to put supports in the cake so the rink doesn’t come crashing through! 🙂

sheet cake 1    sheet cake layer 2     sheet cake layer 1  finished blackhawks cake base
STEP 7: PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!

Here’s a handy dandy photo that shows the many layers of the cake:

blackhawks cake construction

STEP 8: TRANSPORT DOWNTOWN

transporting cake            transporting players on soft towel

STEP 9: SET UP CAKE IN WGN SHOWCASE STUDIO

setting up in green room        Kathryn and Garry

Check back for my next post that will describe my experiences at WGN! I was able to bring the cake into the studio, talk on the air with Garry Meier and Tom Skilling, and leave the cake in the Showcase Studio window for passersby to see! I am so grateful to WGN for this awesome opportunity- it was a lot of fun and something that I’ll never forget! In the meantime, tune in to the podcast, available here: http://wgnradio.com/2014/05/07/garry-meier-full-05062014/ (beginning around the 3rd minute).

Oh yeah: GO HAWKS!

blackhawks cake 

Like the Blackhawks? Check out some other goodies I’ve made here:
Blackhawks/ hockey-themed iced cut-out cookies
Blackhawks logo cake
Life-sized puppy cake for player Bryan Bickell’s foundation
Blackhawks jersey cookies