Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Luau Cake

I was recently asked to do a cake for a friend of friends. Remember Brian? Well apparently this year was his wife Teresa's 30th birthday. He also decided to get her back with throw her a surprise party. This time there was a Luau theme. I must say, I'm oh so glad that my friends were so involved in the creation of this party, (right down to being able to send me a picture of the invitation!) because the order for this cake was phrased like so: "Luau themed, for around 30 people. Whatever price range Teresa had last year is fine. It doesn't matter what flavor." Yep, that gives me TONS of direction, there, thanks! Thankfully my friends came through and helped me with a little more direction on the way the cake was to go, and voila! There arrived a cake of such epic proportions, such elegance and taste, such obvious artistic talent.... ok, so there arrived a cake that was satisfactory to me, and impressed all involved:

I apologize for so many pictures. There were just lots of details on this cake (obviously) and it was incredibly difficult/impossible to get them all with one picture. I must admit, though, that I think this is probably the best cake I've made so far. Ouch!! Ok, ok, I said it, you can stop twisting my arm now!!! And let me just say that, due to the amount of time and work that went into this, in no way did I charge even CLOSE to enough for this cake, so I guess Teresa got an extra little present from me! :-)

Anyway, the details. This is a three tiered cake. The bottom is a single-layer white almond sour cream cake, iced (under the 'water') with almond butter cream. The middle tier is a double-layer pina colada cake with coconut butter cream filling. The top tier is a double-layer strawberry cake with milk chocolate ganache filling. The tiki hut is also cake, the same flavor as the top tier. The top two tiers are fondant covered, the bottom is fondant wrapped. All details are fondant. (Don't worry cake connoisseurs, I didn't use Wilton's boxed catastrophe. I used Satin Ice fondant. YUMMY!) The 'water' is piping gel colored blue over white icing. All the coral, fish, ice bucket, surfboard and boat were painted with pearl dust in varying shades. Everything on this cake is edible, except the 'poles' of the tiki torches and beach umbrella, and the seashells and fishing net on the cake board. I used blue cellophane to cover the already silver foiled cake board. I wanted to use something to make an actual sand-looking substance around the sign and on the beach, but ultimately decided it would be too difficult to attach any of the details to loose material. Despite a sunglasses collapse, and a mishap with top-heavy palm trees (a little too much in the coconuts, hehehe) which delayed pick-up by about 12 hours or so, most of this cake was not overly difficult, just time-consuming. And most of the consumed time was used determining a game plan for construction, rather than in execution of those plans.

Before I get too carried away, I promised to give credit where credit is due. My wonderful hubby made the surf board (though I painted it) and the majority of the bamboo. He also helped greatly with the construction of the cake - note the hack saw and dowel remnants on the table behind the cake! In addition, he acted as my creative consultant through the entire process. It was, in fact, his idea to name the boat after Teresa, and to place the shark's fin in pursuit of the snorkeler. (I'm told the latter was the birthday girl's favorite part.) Thank you, honey!! Love you!

Anyway, on to the fun part, where you all get to laugh hysterically at my mistakes, and say "duh" to my list of lessons:

1. When creating a cake such as this, one must be an engineer, an artist, a sculptor, a baker and possibly a candlestick maker. Ok, not a candlestick maker. But all the rest are definitely required, one or two alone will not do. If you are not these things, it is most helpful to have access to those who are. Or those who can pretend to be.

2. Pina Colada cake, while maybe one of the most delicious creations known to man, (*ahem* It's my own recipe. {cough, cough}), is too soft and moist to support a whole lot of weight stacked on top of it. It will collapse, causing the decorator to have to remove certain elements of decoration (such as unruly tiki huts that simply won't stand up straight) and reinforce the support of such elements with bamboo skewers and/or dowels. This cake flavor should only be used as a top tier, or in a single tiered cake.

3. Apparently providing a list of non-edible items included in the cake, along with the location of such items, is helpful in avoiding the skewering of the roof of a guest's mouth with a bamboo skewer. (Disclaimer: no guests were harmed in the making, or consuming as it were, of this cake. This particular scenario should be viewed as a precautionary warning using creative license. DOWN all you human rights activists, DOWN!)

4. When making fondant bottles of Coca-Cola, identification will be much aided by somehow adding the white Coca-Cola wave to the red fondant label. Otherwise, many, many people will mistake your ice bucket of Coke for Budweiser.

5. When finishing a cake with so much detail at 1:00 a.m. the morning of the (second) scheduled pick up, the last thing you will care about is whether they will know the teeny tiny brown fondant bottles with red fondant labels are meant to be bottles of Coke. Who cares?!? Let them think the stupid things are Budweiser! Let them think you are promoting drinking a bucket of beer on the beach!! LET THEM THINK IT'S MOUNDS OF RED AND BROWN GOO, FOR ALL YOU CARE!!!! *ahem*

6. Piping gel, when left uncovered, eventually hardens into a consistency just a bit tougher and "chewier" than that of Jell-O. Ok, quite a bit tougher and chewier than Jell-O. Therefore, it is important to place all intended items of decoration in or on piping gel in its desired place before the gel hardens. Any attempts to do so afterward will be futile, and will result in the cracking, tearing and ultimate displacement of the gel. (Kind of like it looks with you slo-o-o-o-o-wly tear Jell-O apart.)

7. Royal icing, while FABULOUS as a cake "glue", is best used in smaller amounts in order to conceal the fact that royal icing is being used as cake "glue".

8. Royal icing does not work well in attaching non-edible items to cake boards. Real glue may be a better solution. When in cake decorating mode, it will never occur to you that you can use real glue to attach non-edible items to the cake board.

9. If you do not own a small enough ball tool (used for fondant and gum paste creations, for softening flower petal edges and making rounded flower centers) for use on your teeny tiniest flowers, the clicky part of a clicky pen works almost as well. Almost.

10. When sculpting items from fondant, (I'm sure this applies to any sculpture), it is very important to remember where the center of gravity will be. This will make a huge difference in whether pieces meant to stand up will actually do so, or not. (Generally "or not" applies more often.) Sculpted items with a poor center of gravity will not only fall over, they will also collapse in on themselves, causing breakage (or more appropriately, shattering) of the sculpted item and tearing away any fondant on the cake to which it was attached.

And, to any of you who, at the very real risk of life and limb, may have the audacity to dare to ask such a thing, replicas of this particular cake creation will NOT be available in the gift shop. EVER. This ends our lesson for today, and thank you for visiting.

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