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! 

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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

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

“Best Cake Ever” Contest

Brush embroidery: a cake decorating technique that is so elegant, and so easy! You’ll simply an already-covered cake, a paintbrush, and some thinned buttercream icing in an icing bag (the smaller the tip, the more delicate your flowers).

Using the piping bag, pipe shape using slightly jagged lines. (Hint: You can lightly press a flower cookie cutter into the fondant/buttercream base, so that you simply trace the lines with your piping bag!)

Brush inwards. If flower is large enough, draw another, smaller, flower in the center. Here are my steps:

And the finished product:

I’ve found the technique to really “pop” with contrasting colors. And yet, it also looks very beautiful and delicate as white-on-white.  Brush embroidery also works great with royal icing!

What other ways have you found to use brush embroidery?

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.

HA!

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 🙂

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! 🙂