Friday, October 3, 2008

Cake Mountain

And now the post you've all been waiting for...maybe.

Way back in February Smunch's school had an auction. I don't have much I could offer to an auction, but I figured I could make someone a birthday cake. So I auctioned my services as a cake decorator, saying that I would work with the winner to create the cake they wanted. The winning bid was $60, but I hadn't heard from the family. I admit I secretly hoped they'd forgotten.

A few weeks ago the mom finally called. She told me they were planning to surprise their soon-to-be 10-year-old with a trip to Disneyland and they wanted to tell him about the surprise with a cake. She asked me to make a cake resembling the famed Space Mountain ride at the park.It was a little daunting. Not only had I been asked to make something relatively complicated, but I've never actually made a cake for anyone but family before. Sure, lots of people have seen the cakes I've made, but if I blew it, it wouldn't have been that big a deal...although I have a way of stressing out about these things, so it probably would have been a big deal regardless.

I consulted a few people about this cake, trying to figure out just how to make such a thing. I got some good ideas, but in the end, I mostly winged it. I started out slowly. I made a circular cake for the bottom and tried making the "cone" using a cake baked in a mixing bowl. It didn't seem big enough. I doubled the recipe and tried again. I had to carve the curvy pieces off to make an effective cone, but it turned out O.K. Here are the two pieces I started with, with their "crumb coating" (which serves just to hold the cake crumbs in) of icing. Yes. There's a hole in the middle of the cone cake. I put a jam jar in the middle to act as a heat rod and cook the center. Still, I wasn't convinced that it really cooked properly. It was a lot of cake. But it looked O.K., so I went with it.

I left them like this for a day and started back in the next day with icing the rest of the bottom piece, then putting a circular support and "rim" around the top of it, using fondant-covered cardboard supported by dowels.I was pretty happy with how this was looking, but the next step was a lot dicier. I somehow had to get the questionably baked cone centered on top of the fondant disc. I slid a couple of spatulas under it. Fortunately, I was so happy with the bottom, that I didn't actually dissolve into tears with this result.Instead, I went to the store and bought more cake mix. I made another round cake with the idea that I could use it in combination with the too-small cake I'd originally cooked in the bowl to make a similar cone. Of course, I hadn't counted on the round cake being the exact same diameter as the bottom of my small bowl cake. So, it was essentially useless and I decided (thankfully) to just go with my original, smaller bowl cake. Only this time, because the one that fell apart had also been sort of lopsided, I cut the cake in quarters, bought myself a protractor (yes, really) and made sure each quadrant was cut at the same angle. Then I filled the hole with cake from my unnecessary cake round, put it on top and frosted it over.It looked like a weird mushroom, but at least I had hope for it this time around.

I also used my "extra" cake to make the angled top layer to the building. It was just a tiny little layer, but oh-so-important for the look of the thing. I had to do this part twice too because I blew it the first time an cut it out wrong. The kids didn't mind when they got to eat it as a treat the next day.

Next, I had to do something to create the distinguishing "ribs" around the outside of the top two layers. So, I cut long pieces of fondant that I could stick in the icing to get just the right look. And I cut a donut-shaped piece for the top so that it would look properly slanted.Not too bad, but still mushroomy.

The next morning, I somehow convinced Mam to play Play-Doh with me. I gave her the purple stuff and got to work on the spires with my fondant. She caught onto this, of course, but once I got out the toothpicks, she sat happily making spiky purple creatures for about an hour while I perfected my Space Mountain spires.Taking a little artistic license, because you can't actually see the doors to Space Mountain, I copied the door design which I'd decided to display more prominently on the outside, in fondant-covered cardboard with some colored icing for writing and outlining.I know. The writing isn't very well centered. I decided the "client" would forgive me based on the sheer beauty of the rest of the cake...or something.

I had all of this done by Thursday afternoon and I struggled and struggled to make something that would work for the spire on the top of the building. I wasn't happy with my final creation, but it worked and it stood up. From a distance, it doesn't even look too bad.

In the grand finale of decorating this thing, I brushed the whole thing with silver decorating "dust". I liked how it made the whole thing sparkle just a little, but it also made it look a little like I'd gotten it dirty. If I had to do it over, I'd probably leave it white.I piped on a border to each layer, which improved the look a lot. My final decision came with how to get the writing on this cake. It seemed wrong to write a big "Happy Birthday" right on the building itself when I'd worked so hard on it. So I settled for writing on the cake board. It looked nice. I'm never going to think one of my creations is perfect, but I was pretty happy with first attempt at making a great birthday cake for someone else!The family I made this for lives only a few blocks away, but I was sweaty and nervous for the entire way there. It was a huge, huge relief to drop the thing off and leave it there in one piece...knowing that within hours my sugary little masterpiece would be nothing but crumbs and a few bits of icing...


Anonymous said...

Congrats Momma! As always, I'm VERY impressed. I'm sure the family is, as well. I was so curious as to how you were going to pull this one off. Not the easiest thing to create...Flying colors, Hon.

MamaB said...

AWESOME CAKE!! It looks great. I am very impressed.

mommieN. said...

Only $60? I'll take one! Ah, the wonders of fondant. I think I'm more impressed with the process than the result -- it's an engineering project! Wow. Fabulous! I sure hope Mack's mom is a scrapbooker!

Barrett, Mindy, and Angel Trinity Adams said...

Now that's one amazing cake! I love it!