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

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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!

Five Little Fishies Swimming in a Cake

goldfish cake standAbout a year ago, I came across a gorgeous terrarium that just happened to be the exact size of a round cake. “I must have this,” I said resolutely, “and shall someday fill it with something important.” A few months later, when my sister’s tropical bridal shower was announced, the wheels clicked into place. “Fish! I shall fill it with exotic and beautiful fish of every color, and put a cake on top of it!”

A few notable changes later, and a plan was devised. The exotic fish of my dreams were replaced by twenty-cent feeder goldfish from the local pet store. (Apparently the “pretty” fish need warm, filtered water.) The perfect round cake needed a segment cut out of one side in order to give the fish access to air. (Also, apparently the fish need access to oxygen to breathe or something.)

Luckily for me, several relatives and friends had flown in for the shower, so I took the cake-making tools to my parents’ house and made use of the extra minions. Ellen had the (non)enviable job of tinting the gum paste, while my mom used her quilting/scrapbooking skills to measure and tape paper along the edge of the terrarium.

fish bowl cake 1

Because I wanted the illusion of fish “inside” the cake, I needed the paper to go along the top and bottom edges (where the terrarium tapered in) so that the gum paste ruffles could be adhered.

fish bowl cake 2For the ruffles, I rolled gum paste very thinly and cut out two-inch strips in a sort of football shape. I squished them around a bit and stuck them onto the cake with a little gum paste adhesive. (FYI: Do not attempt this unless you have an interesting lineup of TV to watch, as it is extremely tedious. Also, do not start the ruffles at 10pm. That is all.)

ombre ruffles 1    ombre ruffles 2

With the cake perched precariously on my lap and the goldfish nearby in a cool whip container, we drove to the venue. “How will we get them in?” we all wondered- there was only one small air-hole. But my father, always ready for a good experiment, had a plan. He said the poor chap at the hardware store was a bit confused by the request. I imagine the conversation went something like this:
“Yes, hello, I’d like a funnel.”
“Of course sir, they’re right over here.”
“I see. Now, do you have any big enough for a fish?”
“Big enough for a what, now?”
“A fish!”
“I’m sorry?”
“For a goldfish to slide through!”
(*blank stare*)
“You see, we’re putting the goldfish in a cake.”
(*more blank staring, and then a look of horror*)

In the end, I think he understood the plan. In fact, after he cut off the end of the funnel, he filed the insides so that none of the fish would cut themselves as they slid through. I can only imagine the story he told his family that night.

goldfish cake funnelgoldfish in cake       goldfish cake                   teal ombre gum paste rufflesI’m pleased to report that the fish made it through the entire shower! I was worried, as a large crumb fell into the water at one point, but it seems they like cake.

Later that night, we brought all the extra food and serving platters and everything back to my parents’ house. Ellen pulled out a container, peeked inside, and said, “Oh great! There’s some of that chicken pasta salad left over!” But my mom looked quickly at us, eyes wide, and then we all knew: “This is the container the fish came in!”  My brother walked in the room, and, taking the container, said, “Did you wash it?” – “Um, not with soap!” Dad answered. And without a pause in his steps, he strolled out of the kitchen, cool whip bowl in hand, saying, “Eh… it’ll be fine.”

No word yet on his health, but I will update as necessary. 🙂