Two Little (Chocolate) Mermaids

When one’s sister has been obsessed with The Little Mermaid since, well, forever, naturally, one throws her sister a mermaid baby shower. So I grabbed a chunk of modeling chocolate, shaped it into a tail, covered it with blue fondant, picked up a Tip #5, and settled in for the night, punching away. I realized a girl can measure her love for her sister in individually-punched mermaid tail scales. “Yes, I love my sister roughly 7,000 evenly-spaced holes’ worth.”  Then I painted it with gel food coloring and melted some isomalt and poured it on a silicone mat to harden in approximate “splash” shapes. Once they were hardened, I stuck them in the cake.Set those chocolate tails atop a buttercream cake, and voila! 

Advertisements

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 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?

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

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

A Special Puppy Cake for a Very Special Person

Perhaps you’ve heard about Haley. Maybe you’ve heard about her on the news, seen her with the Chicago Bears or read about her in a magazine. Maybe you follow her facebook page. I, myself, have never met Haley or her family. But what I have witnessed is an entire community coming together to support and encourage Haley in her battle with brain cancer. Diagnosed in the summer of 2013, the community has since rallied to envelop Haley, her family, and her caregivers with prayers and well-wishes.

This past weekend, Haley was the guest of honor at an event and I was lucky enough to be able to create a cake for her. A “French bulldog puppy” was requested so I set to work!

dog cake in processThe body of the puppy was four sheet cakes covered in modeling chocolate. Once the basic shape was created, I stood up and stepped out of the kitchen for a moment. Walking back in a minute later, I suddenly stopped in my tracks and the air was knocked out of my lungs. “Oh. My. Goodness. That’s no dog- that’s a TURKEY!” My heart sank as I stared. It literally looked exactly like a turkey. From every angle. I can just picture the conversation now: “Um… wow! We had requested a French Bulldog, but, um, a turkey is good too!”

It was at this moment that my nerves began. I usually have a pretty accurate overall vision for cakes, and while I always worry about finishing on time or running out of materials, I never worry about the design.

But this turkey/dog? Oh my!

I took a deep breath and tried to tell myself it would be okay. “It doesn’t even have a head yet, silly!” the small, rational part of my brain countered, as the rest of my being screamed “OMGIT’SATURKEYDOG!!!”

And so, with great trepidation, I quelled the swirling nerves and put my game face on. Since the bird- err, dog- was already covered in modeling chocolate, it was time to add a layer of fur. I took a little at a time, warmed it in my hands a bit, stuck it on the side, and used the burnishing tool to create little ridges that (hopefully) looked like fur.

dog cake burnishing fur

Once the modeling chocolate fur was added, I added the head. I had taken a styrofoam ball and covered it in modeling chocolate, inserting the whole thing through the cake and into a pre-made hole in the cake board. I would like to say that the head was inserted at a jaunty angle to give the dog a spunky personality… but the truth is, I didn’t trust it to sit up straight. It was covered in so much chocolate and was so extremely heavy that I needed to have the stability of an angled base, as well as the ability to rest it on the side of the body.

dog cake in progress add headAbout ten hours of Netflix and one depressing Blackhawks loss later, the turkey dog was not looking like anything fit to serve. I did a cursory glance throughout the kitchen as I imagined myself re-baking the cakes at 3am. With the bundle of nerves rising closer and closer to the surface, I continued to add fur and textures and shading, as I sent up a prayer and hoped for the best.

It wasn’t until I added the snout that I suddenly believed in the dog. (Try it- cover up the snout in the photo below. It looks like something out of Star Wars, right?) But that cute lil’ fondant nose, painted with black food coloring so it glistened? Nooooow we have a dog, instead of a gremlin. Whew!

french bulldog dog puppy cake modeling chocolatefrench bulldog puppy cake close up of faceFor some more in-depth modeling chocolate examples, check out my attempts at Bucky the Badger, Yoda, Michelangelo’s Pieta, and the Wizard of Oz characters!

To learn more about Haley and donate to her cause, check out her website here. If you’re in the Cary area, come to her event at CGHS this Saturday for a festive afternoon of cookies, hot chocolate, live music, and a silent auction chock full of great items!

No More (Modeling Chocolate) Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head!
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!

I don’t know about you, but this is probably the first nursery rhyme/ finger play that I can remember. In fact, this rhyme accounts for some of my very first memories of my parents tucking me in at night.

So when our school librarian approached me saying that the author, Eileen Christelow, would be coming to speak at our school and would I please make a cake for her?- I was beyond excited!

The monkeys each are made of modeling chocolate. I know I talk about it all the time- modeling chocolate is SO easy to make and is much more workable than fondant. Take one bag of candy melts, melt them in the microwave, then mix with 1/4 cup corn syrup, put in fridge for a few hours, and it’s ready to go! (Tint the color after you melt but before you mix with corn syrup.)

For these particular monkeys, the arms and legs are stuck in with toothpicks. I attempted to give each monkey a unique pose.

IMG_4242IMG_4243Once the bodies were firm, I used white modeling chocolate to form pajamas. Then I used a food-dye marker to draw on patterns (they match the illustrations in the book!).

IMG_4244  The bed is simply a cake made in a 9×13 pan, cut in half, frosted, with an orange piece of fondant thrown across the top like a blanket. I covered a cake board (that I had already cut into a headboard shape) with brown fondant and stuck it to the cake. Finally, I used the leftover white modeling chocolate to make pillows that I scattered around the bed.

five little monkeys jumping on the bed eileen christelow 2It was such a pleasure to meet Eileen Christelow! She was a wonderful speaker and had our students captivated for the entire assembly. Hearing her speak and watching her draw was like having a piece of my childhood come to life right before my eyes!

What other childhood books do you think would translate nicely into cake? It may be my next series!

 

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! 🙂

A Daring Leap and a Diamond Ring

skydiving cake plane header“So yeah, they got engaged while skydiving. He came down first, and when she landed, he was waiting there with a picnic and the diamond ring. Is there any way you could… maybe… recreate that scene?”

plywood pvc pipes for plane cakeAnd so began the hunt for materials. How does one make a plane suspended from the sky? Ideas were swimming around inside my brain until my Technical Director, er- I mean- my mom, and I finally went to Home Depot. We had the good fortune of running into the most creative and helpful employee in the place. “I’m making a cake, and it needs to have a plane suspended in midair. And a girl skydiving off the plane- so I want her suspended, too. The actual cake will be the hill underneath the plane.” I paused. “Do you have any ideas?”

Now, in an era of online shopping, mobile apps, and self-service checkouts, human interaction can get lost. But it’s nice to know that a person can walk into Home Depot asking for something completely ridiculous, like suspending a cake in midair, and not only does the employee not laugh, but he springs into action.

Our helpful associate paced up and down the aisle, deep in thought. In fact, for a moment, I became concerned that he had forgotten us completely, and had perhaps dozed off while staring at the PVC pipes. But just as suddenly as he had withdrawn into silence at the mesmerizing sight of neatly stacked white cylinders, he bounced to life and said, “I’ve got it! Follow me!” He led us around the store, gathering an assortment of gadgets and tubes. Since my primary knowledge of Home Depot had consisted of flowers, tomato cages, and the occasional foray towards the light bulbs, the cavernous aisles within were quite daunting. But he weaved us skillfully around, one display to another, until we had the tools we all agreed would support a plane made of chocolate.

Is there something extraordinary about an employee helping a customer? Certainly not. But genuine happiness and good humour? The giving of one’s time without impatience? Joy and pride taken in one’s work? That is extraordinary.

But I digress.

The trick with this cake was that I wanted the female skydiver to be suspended in midair. So before I could do anything else, I created her gum paste skeleton (these figures were created the same way the Blackhawks were created- gum paste torso, arms, and legs, and once hardened, covered in modeling chocolate). I tied fishing line around her torso, and the opposite end of the fishing line around the top of the PVC pipe. You can see the little gum paste figurine against the towel in the photo above.

The next step was to create the plane. I threw some modeling chocolate on the PVC pipe and smoothed it around until it began to look plane-like. And of course, as always, the female skydiver was there, hanging out below.

skydiving cake partway finishedAdd some windows to the plane… and a door:

skydiving cake plane door in stagesAnd next comes the cake! The wooden base was covered in black fondant, and then I put down a cake board. I then covered with several sheet cakes, cut up another sheet cake to make an angled side, covered with frosting and fondant, and then piped on the grass: skydiving cake in stagesAnd voila! You have a skydiving cake!

skydiving cake plane guy proposing 1    

guy proposing 2        tiny fondant roses skydiving plane cakegirl from skydiving plane cake