February 15, 2009: Happy 5th Birthday Azusa!
I don't usually make figural or sculptural cakes. Novelty isn't really my thing. The cake type that works best for sculpture is dry and usually not very tasty. It has to be - if it is too moist and amazing, cantilevered engineering is demanded of it, there's a good chance of collapse. Cardboard can be used for structure and support, as can wood dowels, plastic pieces, and sometimes styrofoam. I wanted to avoid all of that and just make a simple cake that wouldn't fall apart between my mom's house in the 'burbs and the party in Cambridge but would taste great. I ended up using the recipe for Grandma's Chocolate Cake, which is a moist and tender cake that can be difficult to work with in this kind of application.
Though I've never made a sculptural cake before, I've seen enough of them being made to know how to do it. Sorta. I'm not a professional and I don't pretend to be a decorator, but I enjoy a project and this was one that meant something to me.
Azusa, the soon-to-be-five year old, requested a chocolate cake with chocolate icing on the outside, vanilla icing on the inside, and marzipan. She gave me the design for the cake - she had drawn it out on a piece of paper and proudly handed it to me two weeks before her party when her parents, old friends of mine, had me over for dinner. I have known Azusa since she was born, and even before - I spent several months living in Azusa's parent's house while her mom was pregnant with her. So of course whatever Azusa wanted I was happy to provide, even the marzipan, which I made the day before I assembled the cake. I made it soft and pliable, so I could lay it over the cake in a thin layer.
Of course the battery in my camera died as I was assembling the cake. I didn't use a pattern or a mold - I baked two 8" round cakes, conventionally cut and iced them (a la a layer cake), and used those two rounds to cut the piece size I needed. I placed the pieces in the shape of the dragon and used icing as glue. With two different knives I sculpted shapes and smoothed jagged lines. I then covered the entire cake in chocolate icing, which I used like a protective coating for the cake. I froze the entire cake and then moved it on to a new cake board. I then covered the cake with a thin skin of marzipan. Eventually I was able to snap a picture when the cake was almost fully assembled. At this point it looked like a cow:
Since I don't have any of my cake equipment here (it is all in storage somewhere in the midwest while I try and get a job), I used various objects to shape and smooth the cake. A knife handle. A spoon. My fingers.
I painted the dragon pink - Azusa loves pink. I also tried to make the dragon look as benevolent as possible, kinda sleepy and dopey.
It took a few steps to get there. First step: make the dragon look a little freaked out. Second step, add those things that makes the dragon look less freaky.
I added a few more details - glitter, eyelids, lips, irises (allspice), buck teeth and whiskers (licorice rope). I forgot an important detail - marzipan cracks (and that, my friends, is why you should exercise caution when using a thin layer of marzipan to cover a cake). I used cocoa to make the pink and red a little darker. I then covered the board with marzipan and coated it with a layer of very (unpleasantly) smelly "tortuga island" sprinkles (they look like aquarium gravel and stink like burnt caramel) from Wilton:
Here's how the cake looked the next day, the day of the party:
Azusa managed to blow out the candles with no help at all:
Azusa asked for the head, so I gave it to her. It was a huge piece that her parents later quartered and shared with other guests at the party.
We fed 10 girls and their parents and had a little left over for dessert that night.
I just finished eating the trimmings today. Mmmmm!