"Hey, I can do that!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dragon Age: Completed

Dragon Age inspired cakes!
(+10 skill points -> 110/400)
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Here are the finished Dragon Age inspired cakes. Dragon Age is due in stores later this year, and I wanted to make cakes for those hardworking individuals that are going to make that happen. The cake designs resemble the loading screen in the game. There is a cool emblem that spins while hint text displays up top. The cake on the left is french vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream filling and icing. The cake on the right is red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting filling and buttercream icing.

I'm really proud of the work I did here. Not only did it turn out pretty cool, it brightened up the day for my wonderful coworkers. Everyone had a good laugh and a yummy treat.

Now for the play by play.

On Thursday I worked on the lettering by copying some printed text with royal icing (see previous post). This was a WIN. The letters turned out great, and I was able to pop them off the paper and glue them on to the cakes without an ordeal. At the end, I changed the wording from "The other is poison." to "The other is vanilla." because I thought it'd be funnier. The cakes were intentionally misleading.

Friday was spent trying to create the emblems with that same royal icing but watered down. It was hard to get a good consistency because I needed something that could flow but not be too runny. In the end, it was a FAIL. The icing was too thin to come off the wax paper without breaking.

I did have a Friday WIN. The marshmallow fondant turned out great. It was super easy to make and working with it was just like the store-bought stuff. The taste wasn't awesome, but it was significantly better. It really just tasted like stiff marshmallows.

Saturday was reserved for baking and decorating the fondant. Some day I'd really like to try a pound cake from scratch. Though box cake tastes great, it's very moist and difficult to work with. It's very soft and fluffy, you lose a lot of definition with these kind of cakes. Some of my corners got ripped right off while icing.

I had to buy another 10" square pan so I could bake 2 cake batches at once. Another FAIL. I didn't use the baking strips because I figured the pans were shallow enough for the cake to bake evenly. Wrong! The lowest point of the cake was about 1 inch thick. I trimmed off so much, I had enough for a third cake!

After covering each layer with plastic wrap, they were put aside.

I took the fondant out of the fridge and let it sit for a while to loosen up. It was hard as a rock after being cold overnight. For the parchment square (that's what I'm calling the part that resembles the loading screen), I tinted the fondant with copper and brown. It got to be an eerie fleshy color. I cut out a square and got to work on the edges. To make it look like torn paper, I took the flat side of my tracing wheel (a sewing instrument that I use as a fondant cutter) and scraped away the edge, pressing downward and away.

Next was to paint the water stains. I diluted brown food coloring in gin and dabbed some on my finger tips. I lightly patted the fondant in several areas. This looked more organic than using a paper towel (which just left a uniform imprint). If I had a natural sponge I would have used that instead. For the blood drops, I diluted red and brown food coloring in gin. A loaded paintbrush of that stuff helped drip and splash some gore. If you haven't seen anything about Dragon Age ... well ... there's a ridiculous amount of blood in it. And here was an incidental FAIL. I spilled some of the "blood" on to my table and it instantly stained it. Be very careful, folks. My husband would've killed me if I got it on the new kitchen tile! Now our table has a light pink blob forever commemorating these cakes.

Next up was attaching the letters to the fondant. Here I used a paintbrush and some piping gel. This went ... okay ... it was pretty sticky so it took a good while to get everything in place. It was nice to paint the gel over the letters to give it some shine. I didn't know royal icing dried so dull. Some people say they add glycerin or corn syrup to it to prevent this. I also tried attaching the emblem but that turned out to be one massive FAIL. They crumbled, and it was too complicated to reconstruct the image. I ended up tracing it on to the fondant with wax paper and a toothpick so I could redraw it with royal icing later.

Next came the icing. Making chocolate buttercream was a great WIN. It was easy to work with and super yummy. I made one batch of that as well as a batch of regular buttercream. Both went into Tupperware and were refrigerated.

Sunday was busy busy. I leveled, torted, and filled the cakes.

That picture shows how much air was in those cakes. Next time I want to try something much denser. I trimmed the sides by laying a ruler on top and cutting along the edge with a serrated knife.

After letting the buttercreams get to room temperature, I put on a coat of chocolate on to the vanilla cake and a coat of regular on the red velvet cake. The chocolate went on nice and thick so I didn't need a second coat.

I love my steel scraper. It looks like a spackling tool. It's heavy and sharp ... it got the sides of my cake pretty smooth. If I were so inclined, the sides could have been absolutely smooth (but I got lazy). I highly recommend purchasing a quality version of this instrument.

The red velvet cake had so many crumbs showing, it was almost pretty! I let the first coat firm up in the refrigerator before adding a final coat. WIN! The final coat covered it very well. My husband couldn't see any red crumbs. Unfortunately that ate up most of the icing, so there wasn't as much left to decorate with. There was plenty of chocolate to get 2 borders of shells and some swirly thingies on the side. The regular buttercream had to settle for 1 border of shells and some swirlies on top and the sides.

In an earlier post I complained about not having a tilting lazy Susan. To compensate, I rolled a towel and shoved it under one side of my cake board. Good enough for a WIN!

By Sunday evening my cakes were happily resting in 12" x 12" boxes in my refrigerator. The next day my husband and I carefully delivered them into the fridge at work (luckily they were just cleaned out last Friday, otherwise they'd never fit). I waited until 4:00 to unveil them so everyone could take a break from fixing bugs.

I set out the cakes and took a picture (above) so I could send it out with an email. Once I got the email out and walked back to the break room, there was already a crowd of people with plates, forks, and pastry servers. BUT it did take a while for someone to gain the nerve to cut into one of the cakes! People were surprised that I had decorated it myself. I got several questions on what icing I used. It was funny because people were taking such itty bitty pieces so it could be shared by everyone. By the end of the day, all that was left was a scrap of fondant that said "betray"!!!

The cakes were well received. I'm especially pleased because I'm proud of the work I did. Let's recap the highlights, shall we?

  • the royal icing for the emblems was way too thin to be taken off of wax paper
  • baking strips are a necessity; all of that extra cake could have been eaten by starving programmers
  • pink blob on dining table, courtesy of my clumsiness
  • marshmallow fondant: easy and tasty
  • royal icing lettering can be made well and far in advance; try tracing your favorite font!
  • chocolate buttercream was very stable to decorate with (perhaps it was all the cocoa butter)

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