Let me tell you a little about my brilliant idea to agree to a cake due the day before we were scheduled to leave for vacation. Then again, the cake itself wasn't my idea. In fact, the customer wanted it for one week later, which was a complete impossibility given our planned vacation. I thought the brilliant idea was to tell the customer that I could manage either the 20th or over 4th of July weekend, but not the 27th. I assumed that she would simply go elsewhere being that her husband's birthday was the 27th, and then I wouldn't have to turn the job down. Instead, she agreed that the 20th would work. Damn! Well, the best I can say is at least it was a cake I would actually make a profit from. For a change.
But, as all my cakes have a tendency to do, as I got further along in the project, the cake became more complicated. The customer - I'm referring to her as that because this is actually the first person I've made a cake for that I did not know personally in some way: she was a co-worker of a friend of a friend...of sorts - wanted a Harley Davidson cake, since her husband owns one. I immediately asked if the cake absolutely had to be in the shape of a motorcycle, or if it could be Harley themed instead. I was a bit soured by my prior cake carving experience. Luckily, she agreed that it did not have to be a carved cake. She also said that it did not have to be Harley, it could just be motorcycle themed. So I began my search for a motorcycle cake. As it turned out, this type of cake is relatively popular, and I found plenty of ideas for great cakes. I was trying to keep things simple to cause myself the least bit of heartache and pain as possible. But the further I searched, the more awesome (and highly embellished) ideas I found. Finally, this is what the end result turned out to be:
I should note that the first pic was taken by the customer, and is used with her permission.
The top layer was strawberry with chocolate ganache filling and iced in strawberry buttercream, and the bottom was white almond sour cream cake filled and iced with almond buttercream. The studs and chain were made from gum paste, all other accents were fondant. The chain, studs and flames were painted with metallic glaze, and I used food writers on the skulls. The motorcycle was a toy. (What?? You think I'm crazy enough to try and sculpt a motorcycle out of some edible medium, including painting it, in between working, dealing with a five-year-old and preparing for my first real vacation in 10 years?? Well, I think you can fill in the blanks in that little scenario on your own, thankyouverymuch.) The motorcycle and the maroon colors used in the cake were chosen because the birthday boy's Harley is maroon. The studs were also used because his Harley has silver studs around the seat and saddle bags (assuming that is what they are called. I'm not up on motorcycle lingo!) These were the only ways I could come up with to try to personalize the cake more, since it had no writing on it.
There were a few things involved with this that were new to me. First, the gum paste. I have never used it before, so it was a completely new experience. (And based on that, I am seriously considering taking a gum paste class from Wilton.) Also new was the metallic glazes. I really liked these, though I am not used to having to allow that much time for drying. So, working with new materials always causes difficulty. My biggest difficulty? Well, you guessed it. The chain of course. As it turned out, I was able to find a mold for the studs, so they were not so hard at all. But I had the worst time trying to figure out how to make that stupid chain. I ended up molding it by hand, with each link in two pieces, allowing it to dry, then putting the pieces together and "linking" the chain. And of course, like always, I didn't plan for enough time. I ended up calling the customer to get an extension on the deadline of about an hour. She was an additional 20 minutes late picking it up, and I still only just finished it not two seconds before she rang the doorbell. Whew! We did manage to get pictures, but my husband took them, and unfortunately he didn't take them from an elevated vantage point. So I had to get the other pics from the customer. Good thing she took some! So, on to my learned list!
1. While gum paste can be used to accomplish essentially the same things as fondant, it behaves quite differently, (i.e. powdered sugar dusted on hands and work surface does not assist in the ease of molding gum paste. Instead it dries it out faster. Vegetable oil should be used instead.)
2. Dried out gum paste cracks and crumbles and absolutely DOES NOT cooperate.
3. Silver/Gold glaze prevents royal icing from sticking to gum paste. It is best to apply glaze after assembling any gum paste creation that requires royal icing to hold it together, (i.e. gum paste chains).
4. Hot glue works quite well in assembling glazed gum paste chains.
5. It is very important to point out to your customer anything on the cake that is not edible, (i.e. hot glued gum paste chains).
6. Measuring the amount of gum paste chain needed to go all the way around the bottom of a cake layer is a good idea to prevent making a gum paste that is just one link too short.
7. Maroon is a combination of red and brown. Who knew?
8. Maroon is as difficult to make from white icing as pure red and black. Must be the red involved?
9. It is extremely difficult to customize a motorcycle cake to an individual or individual motorcycle without actually carving a motorcycle cake.
10. Toy Harley Davidsons, however, are everywhere, and finding one to match an individual motorcycle is a piece of cake, as it were.