The Nerdiest Cake I’ve Ever Made

* Mission: Recreate a famous painting using candy on top of a frosted cake.sorting nerds for cake *

When I read this description in the Lake County Fair handbook, the first idea that popped into my head was Nerds! They’re small, colorful, and would possibly create an impressionistic vibe if colored and placed correctly.

I’ve never entered a competition before, and though the timing for this was awful, I did it anyways. (Hm, let’s see: I’ve got my sister’s wedding, immediately followed by a week-long family reunion, immediately followed by a short vacation, which meant that the cake needed to be completed during the night hours- I wasn’t about to miss the reunion activities!- and dropped off at the venue by my dad- thanks a million, Dad!)

STEP 1: Choose painting.
I chose a Monet “Haystack”- he made many, and in all different seasons. I tried to pick one that had lots of contrasting colors.

STEP 2: Buy Nerds.
I literally had to go to five stores to find Nerds. Are they, like, not cool or something? Are Nerds nerdy?

STEP 3: Sort the Nerds.
That took forever. That is all.

STEP 4: Airbrush the Nerds a variety of colors.
Airbrushing them on a plate didn’t work because they scattered with the force of the compressed air. The best method I discovered was to put a handful into a plastic disposable cup, airbrush them while shaking the cup many times, and then dumping them to dry on a paper plate.

airbrush nerds for cake STEP 5: Cover cake with frosting and then airbrush it in a color similar to the lightest color on your cake.

STEP 6: With a small knife or toothpick, lightly sketch the outline into the frosting.

STEP 7: Begin laying Nerds!
This may look easy, but it was difficult, as the Nerds had dried in a variety of colors. I chose each one carefully, paying attention to the size, so that they would lay close together without large gaps.

nerds cake 2 nerds cake 3 nerds cake 4 nerds cake 5nerds cake 6  STEP 8: Enjoy your work of art! If you lay a frame around it, step back a few paces, and squint, it almost looks believable! 🙂

nerds cake in frameMissed the other pieces in my “Famous Works of Art” series? Check them out here:
* “Starry Night” (Van Gogh- painted buttercream)
* “Still Life with Apples” (Cezanne- apple peelings)
* “Pieta” (Michaelangelo- modeling chocolate)

Ten Apples and a Bit of Food Coloring

Later this summer, I plan to enter a cake in the County Fair. The assigned challenge is to recreate a famous painting using candy or jelly beans. Immediately, it occurred to me that I had already tried to create a version of a famous painting- but it wasn’t with candy! In planning for this upcoming cake in July, I thought, now, what will I do with two cakes that resemble famous paintings? One Van Gogh, and the other Monet?

Time for a cake series! It’s summer, I’ve got some free time, and… why not?

So far, I have Van Gogh in buttercream, and will (hopefully) have Monet in candy. Why not try a still life using the subject matter from the painting as the subject itself? What follows below is my attempt at creating a Cezanne still life using apple slices to create the apples that he painted.

Step 1: Cover cake board with 3

Step 2: Paint background on fondant. In order to remain entirely edible, I used food coloring for paint. Put a little gel food coloring on a plate, and mix it with a little lemon extract. Paint away!photo 4photo 7 photo 8Step 3: Create plate and metal canister from the original painting. DSCN0300
For these, I rolled out gum paste and let it harden for a few hours. And
then paint away!

Step 4: Peel those apples!
I had chosen a variety of apples in a multitude of colors. I peeled them in large chunks and then soaked the pieces in lemon juice. I tried to figure out how to keep the pieces from turning brown at the edges and curling in. In the end, the pieces retained color for several hours, but they definitely did curl. Since they had been drenched in lemon juice, it did seep into the fondant surrounding the fruit. I re-painted the fondant once everything was finished, but… pick your poison, I guess! 🙂 If you look in the photo below, you can see the way the fondant bubbled up around the yellow lemon in the foreground. Yikes!

Step 5: Layer the apple peelings.
This was a sticky job that took a few hours to complete!      DSCN0301Once the apples were layered, it was time to photograph! If you step back and squint hard enough, the apple peelings come together enough to look like the apples in the painting! 🙂

cezanne apple still life with cakeSince this was created on a cake board, all that was needed was to put the board directly on top of the cake. I decided to try out a new recipe, and, since I had so many apples sitting around, went with this German Apple Cake recipe I found online. The verdict is in: yummy, yummy, yummy!

german apple cakeWhat other work of art would you suggest that I attempt next? My goal is to recreate several famous pieces, each using a different edible technique. Check out the first in my “Art” series here: “Painting with Buttercream,” an attempt at post-impressionism.

Leave a comment below with your suggested works of art!

P.S. You may want to use a higher quality plate than I did… oops. Lemon extract + brown and black food coloring = pink and teal stained plate?? I don’t understand how, either.

stained plate

Orchids in the Snow


Like most Midwesterners, I spent the majority of the past week inside bundled in scarves and slippers. (Aside from a brief sojourn to the front lawn for photography purposes.)

I decided to make use of the time and create this cake because, well, I have to be honest: my advisor/manager, aka my brother, has informed me that my twitter page is bordering on ridiculous. ( After spending half an hour showing me “good” twitter pages, he has advised me to make a cake that incorporated the same colors as my website, and this cake would serve as the background for the twitter page.

orchid2With this in mind, I set to work creating some nice gum paste flowers to sit atop the cake. Here are the steps I used:

1. Color gum paste and cut petals to desired shape. Drape petals over things to get a shape that suggests movement and fluidity.

2. Use a knife or other straight edge to texturize the petal.

3. Use luster dust to add color to the edges of the petals. (first, use a paintbrush to dust on the dry luster dust. Then, mix a little lemon extract with some luster dust. The more lemon extract you have, the lighter the color will be. More luster dust = more color.)


Once the leaves are dry (gum paste dries quickly!), attach wires to the backsides. I let these dry overnight. In the morning, I wound all the petals together with floral tape and they evolved into pseudo-orchids!



And now, a preview of my next post: “What? You Don’t Iron Outside in -50°?”


Gum paste flowers and… straws!

Finally: gum paste flowers!

I have been waiting and waiting until I could learn how to make these! I loved the first three cake-decorating courses, but I couldn’t WAIT for the last one! I just think these  flowers look so realistic. Everything on the flowers is edible except for the wire stems and the stamens. Pretty neat!

The process of making the flowers is fairly time-consuming, but worth it, in my opinion! The more time you take on the flowers, the better they will look in the end. Spend the time to mix appropriate colors, roll the petals thin, and take care how you lay them out to dry. This will give them life and movement!

If you’re interested in learning how to make these flowers, check out a local craft store near you- they often offer beginning cake decorating classes.


Now, the cake does look kinda cool– unless, of course, you see it from the backside… yikes.

*Must… improve… cake… design…*

Once I made the flowers, I didn’t really know what to do with them! We didn’t use them in a cake during my final course, so I didn’t exactly know how to use them. My instructor said that they sell tubes that you can insert into cakes and put the flowers into (presumably because the wiring and floral tape is not food safe). But since I was in an experimental and money-conscious mood, I decided to use straws. I have no idea if this is the right technique, but it seemed to work okay at that moment!

…But then you have a cake full of straws… right?


HELPFUL HINT: Use luster dust around the edges of the petals and leaves for a realistic look!

In this photo below, I used a mixture of orange fondant and gum paste to create the rose. Once the rose was dried (at least a day or two later!), I smudged some luster dust on my finger and dusted the edges to create some dimension.What a difference!

Thanks for reading! Do you have any advice about how to use gum paste flowers in an actual cake? Please leave a comment below if you can help! What am I missing? Or do cakes with flowers also come punctuated with holes? 🙂

Lord of the Rings book

LOTR letteringI took a class from Michelle Bommarito (from “Sugar Rush” on the Food Network) on how to create a cake that looked like an antique book! She taught the book construction; the subject matter was entirely my choice. 🙂

The book is simply cake covered in buttercream and fondant. I dusted the cover with gold luster dust to give it an old-fashioned finish. The lettering was definitely the trickiest part! I used royal icing because I wanted a smooth and glossy finish. But I didn’t want it to be thick- I needed a super fine point! So, as if I were a calligrapher from the 1700s, I sat and dipped my pointed stick into the royal icing. Bit by bit, the letters came together! Here are some photos of the finished product:


Here’s a close-up of J.R.R. Tolkien’s monogram. You can see all the initials of his name. I love it!DSCN0122

I couldn’t resist adding Gollum to at least one photo. 🙂