Friday, May 23, 2008

You know you've watched too much "Ace of Cakes" when... start thinking, "I could do that!"

Cake #3 for me last week was the 39th birthday cake for my fiance. He's in the "best" branch of the military, and it just so happens that his nickname from his time spent overseas is "Old Spice". As in, the cologne. He even has the Old Spice clipper ship tattooed on his arm. So when I was thinking about what to make for a cake, I fist settled on some cupcakes with letters to spell out Old Spice and maybe a couple small ship decorations.

Then I had a stroke of ... genius? Insanity? Maybe a bit of both. I have a confession to make. I am an Ace of Cakes addict. I absolutely love that show. If I had it to do all over again, I would go to pastry school, move to Baltimore, and try to get a job with Duff and the crew. What a fun group of talented, creative people! If you have never watched Ace of Cakes, the show is about a business called Charm City Cakes that makes the most wacky, off the wall, amazing cakes for pretty much any occasion. The thing is, just like all professionals, they make even the most difficult techniques look really easy. So after you watch a few dozen episodes in a row (thanks to your DVR) and down a few Jack and Diets, you begin thinking that maybe carving a shape out of layers of cake isn't that big a deal.

I was about to find otherwise. So my stroke of genius told me I should make a cake in the shape of an Old Spice cologne bottle, cover it with fondant, and complete the look with a silver top and the ship design and Old Spice logo. I'd do the bottle laying on it's side, not standing upright. (Even on my bravest day, I wouldn't attempt that!) How hard could it be?

I started with 3 9x13 yellow cakes, cooled, leveled and the edges cut off to make perfect rectangles. Layer 2 went fine on top of the first layer, with a generous helping of chocolate buttercream to cement the 2 together. However, layer 3 had a mind of it's own. The cake cracked when I flipped it over to lay on to layer 2, and by the time I had it resting on top of the second layer, it was in about 7 completely irreparable pieces. There was no way in the world that I cold stick the pieces together with enough frosting to make it work.

A few cuss words later, layer 3 was resting in my garbage can, and I decided to sculpt the bottle out of 2 layers instead. The cake with 2 layers was about 4 inches thick, big enough for me to sculpt into the dome shape I wanted. The next challenge was carving the cake to resemble the Old Spice bottle. Compounding the challenge was the fact that I had already frosted the top of the second layer to prepare it for layer 3, so I was carving into a chocolate buttercream MESS.

A few more cuss words, however, and I had the shape I wanted. The sides of the bottle sloped in a semi circle down to the cake board, and the top of the bottle sloped down to the cap. Not too shabby! I gave the whole thing a dirty look, a generous coating of chocolate buttercream, and set the monster in the fridge to let the frosting harden for the fondant layer.

Meanwhile, I realized that the shape I had carved had really shrunk the size of the cake, and I was afraid there wouldn't be enough cake to go around at the birthday party. This called for cupcakes! While the cake was chilling out, I made 24 yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream swirls on the top, then experimented with molding letters and numbers (39!) out of candy melts in blue and red to match the Old Spice logo colors. The cupcakes came out great! Here they are:

Holy Ship... get it? HAHAHAHA

Ok. Back to business. After pulling the cake out of the fridge, I used an offset spatula to smooth out any big ridges in the buttercream, and prepared myself for my first EVER attempt at covering an entire cake in fondant.

I rolled out a large circle of fondant super super thin, then draped it carefully over the cake. Then I realized it wasn't quite large enough to cover the entire thing. A few more cuss words... and a bit more rolling, and it was finally the size I needed. I used a fondant smoother to get rid of any wrinkles and bubbles. The covering wasn't perfect, as you can see below, partially because the frosting job wasn't as smooth as I thought it looked, and partially because of the weird angles of the bottle shape itself. After cutting off the excess fondant, I decided I could disguise some of the imperfections on the edges with a decorative icing border later on.

I laid on the Old Spice logo, ship, and bottle cap that I had created earlier, and... taa-daaah!
Here's what I had:

I used those Wilton FoodWriters to draw the ship and write "cologne" on the bottom of the bottle. The Old Spice logo, gray cap, borders, and "tacks" on the edge of the ship are all fondant.

Next , I used silver luster dust and water to paint the bottle cap and tacks to resemble metal, and piped a border of red icing around the base of the cake to hide the flaws in the fondant. The finished cake looked like this:

My fiance loved it! And frankly, I was surprised that it turned out at all. Although there were some visible flaws, I was actually really proud of the finished product.

I had to laugh - a bunch of the people at the party said they thought I should do this for a living... I told them it would involve far too many cuss words for me to retain my self respect! It wasn't even close to being a professional-grade product. I think I'll stick to the smaller canvas of cupcakes for now!

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend! Next week, I'll fill you in on our Phoenix Cupcake Safari. Until then, let me leave you with a picture of the cake carnage...



evil cake lady said...

WOW...I'll just stick to cussing about regular ol' 9 inch round cake layers; this stuff looks hard! But you pulled it off and it looks great--congrats!

I don't have cable so when I do get to watch Ace of Cakes I am amazed by what they pull off. Them kids is crazy.

CaraCakes said...

Thanks so much for the kudos and compliments!