This cake! Over the past week, I worked on my largest order and most challenging cake to date. It was epic, to say the least.
A few weeks ago, I met with my client Mike, who is an old co-worker of mine. He described an (I’m gonna use that word again) epic party for 4 friends of his who have birthdays within a week of each other, including his best friend who is turning 40. He wanted a sculpted cake, and a sheet cake, enough for 150 people . . . now that’s a party!
He had a pretty elaborate vision for the cake . . . a 3-tiered cake, stacked and sculpted to look like a mountain, with two of his friends hiking, one rock climbing, and one in a yoga pose. He also described his friends and key details that he wanted represented on the cake. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me! It was definitely a challenge – but one that I wanted to take on.
Now, there were several key elements that were new to me in this project.
First, this was my second time making people out of sugar . . . but the first time posing them in action. The most intimidating part was the rock climber – how was I going to get her to stay on the cake, let alone actually look like she was climbing? I also knew I had to get the figures to stay in the cake without toppling over or falling apart (i.e. letting gravity win – especially in transport!)
Second, did I mention that I had never sculpted a cake before? The beach ball cake was my first 3D cake, but this was my first carved cake. I chose vanilla cake for the mountain cake, because I knew it would be dense enough to withstand sculpting.
Thirdly, the buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream (or SMBC) is the cadillac of buttercreams. It is made from meringue and butter, as opposed to American buttercream, which is butter and powdered sugar. It is not too sweet, silky smooth, and a dream to work with. I had been wanting to try it for at least six months, and finally took the plunge. I will say it is totally worth the time and effort, as it is the best buttercream I’ve ever tasted. I used Elizabeth Marek’s (Artisan Cake Company) recipe, found here. It is ah-may-zing.
I carved, crumb coated and covered the cakes in fondant Thursday night, then started stacking and assembling all of the details on Friday.
I worked on the figures and details throughout the week . . . using fondant and modeling chocolate, sculpting each piece, allowing it to dry, and then assembling on Friday. I used internal supports of skewers and toothpicks for the figures. Mike had also requested certain crossfit elements – a kettlebell, barbell and jump rope. I also made trees, rocks and a path from modeling chocolate.
In bringing the cake to life, my favorite part was Alison, the rock climber. I ended up gluing her to the side of the cake and essentially built her into the cake. I did this by placing her hands and feet on modeling chocolate rocks that were affixed onto the cake, as well as putting sugar glue on her torso and pants for extra security.
I loved incorporating details for the fondant friends, as I liked to call them. Dan wears an iconic plaid shirt that Mike wanted me to include, Alison had a grey streak in her hair, and Brooks had an “om” symbol on her yoga mat.
Finally – the sheet cake. I found an amazing tutorial by Elizabeth Marek on frosting a sheet cake smoothly that really helped. It was chocolate cake with raspberry filling.
And there you have it! With 26 hours in the making, I wouldn’t have survived without excessive amounts of coffee and 80’s music ;). And cake scraps!
My inspirations for this cake included (of course) Ace of Cakes, and Artisan Cake Company (with her amazing tutorials and book – Artisan Cake Company’s Visual Guide to Cake Decorating).