A Tale of Two Cakes
Two cakes and many ideas
Have you ever spent time just looking at the shapes of cakes? I mean, not thinking ahead of time what the cake is going to be, but allowing the cake’s shape to determine its future? I recently had extra cake around in very specific shapes – and I decided to let the cake speak to me. It’ not often that you end up with a toadstool cake and a screw-head cake on your workbench!
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Because I made too much cake for a recent order (really a backup set of cakes because I thought something might go wrong, but don’t tell anyone – or maybe, do – I mean, I was prepared, right?) I had two 4″ rounds and 2 half spheres of my favorite chocolate cake recipe.
At first, I was just thinking inside the box – you know, putting like-shaped cakes together. Then, I thought differently – I stacked one half sphere on top of the 4″ round. Poof – totally looked like a mushroom – aha! So, I made a cute little toadstool cake – and I’ll show you below how I did it
Now I had two more cakes left – another 4″ round and a half sphere. What to do, what to do…. I didn’t think I should just do another mushroom, that’s just silly (and I also tend to move on quickly from one thing to another…ooh, shiny!)
I was somewhat stymied when I started thinking about it, so I took out my trusty sketchbook and started drawing the shapes.
After a few weird ones (the fishlips one is probably the strangest) I had my epiphany – it looked like a screw! I personally had never seen a screw cake, so why not make it happen, right?
Here’s how I made that one – Skip ahead to the Screw Cake
Besides now being surrounded by luscious chocolate cakes (with Nutella buttercream, natch) I felt a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t go the easy way, I played with shapes until I got something new out of them and I had fun doing it.
I encourage you to do the same – try allowing the cakes to determine their future. Take out a piece of paper or a sketch book and draw the shape of the cake. Now, what does that shape make you think of? What does it remind you of? Even it if is a simple round cake, what else could it be? A tire? a crown? a frisbee? a birdseye view of the collesseum? (ok, that one is a stretch, but you’re only limited by your imagination).
Please share your own cake adventures with me in the comments below – I love to see new stuff!
The very first thing I do when I’m trying to recreate something from nature is to look at pictures of the item. I look at more than one photograph, to see the different angles, different possibilities and really get a sense for the object. Once I have a picture either in my head or printed out (that way is always better) I get started.
I’m going to describe how I put these cakes together, with the assumption that you know how to prepare a cake for fondant – crumbcoating, final coating with buttercream, etc.
First I stuck a bubble tea straw in the cake to make sure that the top would not make it collapse. Always remember – cake cannot support cake. Even in this small cake scenario – the support was important. If I had been going to transport this cake, I probably would have put more than one straw in the bottom and I definitely would have put a center dowel through both cakes.
I covered the bottom 4″ round with a thin layer of white fondant (I used Wilton Fondant for this cake – it’s easily accessible at either Michael’s or JoAnns if you don’t order it online).
I then rolled out another strip of fondant, about an inch wide and long enough to go around the top edge of the toadstool stem and adhered it with water.
For the toadstool cap, I took some red fondant (also from Wilton) and rolled it out pretty thin (1/8″) and covered the half sphere cake. I left a little bit of fondant around the edge so that I could tuck it under for a more rounded effect. I already knew I wasn’t going to do the traditional “gills” of the mushroom, so I wanted a little bit of overhang to hide the cardboard underneath.
To make the dots on the cap, I took little pieces of white fondant and made shapes that were almost like chocolate chips – by rolling a small ball, flattening one side and pinching the top to give it a slight peak.
As I had been looking at the pictures of toadstools I noticed that the dots were raised, not flat against the toadstool, so I thought this would be a good way to get that same look. I varied the sizes and distribution and as I got closer to the base of the cap, I made the dots smaller, somewhat more elongated and closer together.
Now I needed to put some color to the stem, so I use some ivory gel color mixed with everclear alcohol to make a color wash and give the stem some depth. I also used a very gentle ivory wash on the undersides of the toadstool spots for definition.
To finish out the cake board (you always want the wow factor of a little more stuff on your board) I made some simple fondant grass with strips of fondant and my exacto knife, and adhered it to the cakeboard with water. I added a few extra tiny mushrooms and some fondant butterflies using a martha stewart clay mold that I had found.
There are basic similarities to both of these cakes’ construction – both top and bottom need to be covered in fondant, and a bubble tea straw needs to be added for support.
But first, I need to call out the elephant on the blog – notice something different about the next set of pictures? Yup… you caught me. What a difference natural light makes, right? You can clearly see that I worked on the screw cake in the day time and the toadstool under artificial light (at night, in the wee hours!). This is a topic for another blog post, but take a note – which do you prefer? (I’m leaning to the light…the natural one!)
For the threads of the screw, I rolled a long rope of modeling chocolate (I used candy melts), pinched the edge of one long side and then adhered it to the refrigerated buttercream with a little water. I simply started at the top of the cake and spiraled it around the cake. Because my cake is pretty short, I wanted to make sure I got around twice, so I had to adjust the spacing between the threads to ensure I could see two threads at least on one side of the cake, for full effect. I then put the cake back in the fridge so that the chocolate would harden.
For the head of the screw, I just cut out a slot in the top of my cake to mimic a screw. I think it would be cool to do a phillips head screw sometime too, but I was already committed with my first cut. And, of course, because this was kind of a fly-by-night event, I didn’t have any extra buttercream lying around to coat the new cake cut with – so I lined it with some modeling chocolate. This actually worked out well because it allowed me to keep some more distinctly sharper edges of the slot – since the chocolate would harden in the fridge, so in it went!
Meanwhile, I took out the bottom tier and rolled out some white fondant rather thin (again, about 1/8″ inch) in to a circle. Next, I lightly sprayed the cake and the modeling chocolate threads with water and draped the fondant over. I smoothed the top of the cake right away and then gently pressed the fondant onto the sides and onto the modeling chocolate threads.
I was mostly successful, but you can see in the picture that I had to cut a hole in the top of my fondant because I somehow ended up with excess at the top. A very Tim Gunn “Make it work” moment. But, times like these, you just do what you have to do, especially if it is in a place no one will ever see. Using my fingers and my sugar shaper tools (I LOVE THEM), I ensured clear definition of the threads around the screw body.
While that went back into the fridge, I took out the top and did the same thing with fondant – rolling it out thin and spraying the cake lightly with water before draping the fondant over. Again, using care to bring out the sharp-ish edges of the slot in the screw – remember, this is supposed to look like metal! For this top, I also used my exacto blade around the edge right to where the cardboard was so that I would have that sharp edge.
The next part to tackle was the board. I knew I wanted this screw to look like it was in the midst of being screwed into some wood, so I needed the board to look like wood and some shavings around. I covered the cake card with fondant and used my sugar shapers to mark up the fondant like it was wood grain.
I then took some ivory gel color and painted it straight onto the fondant; then, using Everclear, I washed out the color so that there were some dark areas and some light. I also used a little black to give a bit more depth and dimension. It is fun to play with this technique, I urge you to try out different ways of making fondant into wood grain – it’s a lot easier than the end product makes it look like!
To make the wood shavings, I took some dried coconut flakes, almond flour and some ivory color and mixed them together – it came out pretty good for a first time experiment!
Now I had to figure out how to paint this white cake to look like a screw. I wanted something that would shine a little bit, but I wasn’t looking for a chrome screw. I also didn’t have any silver edible paint, so that made it tricky. I ended up making a concoction that included Wilton white icing color, black airbrush color and some pearl airbrush colors.
I can’t tell you the exact ratio, you have to play with it, but I can tell you from my mistakes that you should go easy on the black to start if you want it to be more grey. I really liked this paint because it was VERY opaque – almost looked like a gun metal color – and went on smooth and easy, and with one coat. I was a bit concerned that the paint wouldn’t dry (I have had a bad experience with the wilton white in the past with things not drying), but it did eventually dry… mostly. I painted the entire thing and then did a little spritz with a glitter spray for a little fun.
I then put both pieces together and poof, fait accompli!
I hope you enjoyed this “tale of two cakes” and please don’t forget to subscribe and to show me what YOU make!
Here’s to a sweet 2019!