Shawn's 29th Birthday Cake
Little Big Planet Theme
+10 skill points -> 135/400
See gallery of finished work here.
UPDATE (11/01/09): Thank you, Kathy, for the wonderful comment. I zipped up all of the reference photos I used in making the cake and posted it here: http://shinymetalobjects.net/cake/LBP_Cake_References.zip There's some good stuff in there that never made it into cake form. I can't wait to see what your daughter makes! Good luck to her and I hope your son has a wonderful birthday!!!
UPDATE (11/20/09): Kathy's daughter did a fantastic job on her LBP cake! It's so impressive. View images here: http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-photo_1521435.html
I'm giving myself 10 points for this cake because it was tiered. What a week! "Happy Birthday" to my hubby, Shawn, and a big thank you for letting me just destroy the kitchen while I was making this. I learned so much and had fun. I couldn't exactly surprise him about it since it took so long to do, but I didn't tell him what I was making. He figured it out once I added the trees! Grab a seat, this will be a long post.
- 10" round
- 4" high
- pound cake (Paula Deen recipe)
- buttercream icing (Wilton recipe)
- covered in green fondant (marshmallow fondant)
- fondant accents
- 6" round
- 4" high
- French Vanilla Duncan Hines cake
- cream cheese frosting as filling
- buttercream icing
- fondant accents
The cake was placed on a glass candle plate that I had bought on sale. I figured that it would be 1) easier than cutting and covering a cake board, 2) reusable, and 3) pretty. It was all 3, but also very difficult to pick up once the cake was on it. The little feet were pretty short; it was hard to get my finger tips under the plate. I still like it though! It will match any cake and will never be torn up or thrown away.
The theme was Little Big Planet, a PlayStation 3 video game that my husband really likes. I wanted to carve the cake to have a sloping path so it could look like a level straight from the game. The idea came from this awesome cake I saw on www.cakecentral.com: Hiking Theme Cake
A little math is required for this part. If you have a 10" circle, the circumference is 2 x pi x radius, which I rounded to 31". The bottom tier was about 4" high. The template was made from taping 3 sheets of paper together and cutting out a rectangular strip 31" x 4". Cutting that across the diagonal gave me 2 triangles. When I was designing, I sketched out different elements from the game that I wanted to incorporate on those triangles.
The path had to be at least 1" wide, so I cut out a 7" circle from a cake board and placed that on top of the cake. The bottom triangle was attached to the bottom of the cake. Using a pumpkin carving knife (resembles a little saw), I cut into cake from the side about 1.5" deep along the hypotenuse of the triangle. After that I used a steak knife to cut downwards into the cake around the cake board on top to where it would meet the cuts for the slant. Removing the cut cake left me with a winding path up my bottom tier.
Buttercream then covered the cake, patching up any non-perpendicular areas. The batch of buttercream was made with butter flavored Crisco. Unfortunately Crisco insisted that if it were butter flavored, it must also be butter colored. If you notice, the top tier looks a little green because of that and the blue food coloring. However it did taste fabulous.
I made some green marshmallow fondant and rolled out a circle about 20" in diameter. After draping the cake with the fondant, there was a long and arduous process of maneuvering the fondant into all the creases and sides. There were several spots that had pleats. One was pretty awful because the fondant had ripped without me noticing as I was peeling off the mat. Another was unavoidable so I made it as large as I could to pick up all the slack from the surrounding areas. That fold was cut off with some kitchen sheers.
rolled out to 20"
yikes! the fondant ripped
here's where I cut the fondant off and tried to smooth it down
Various colored fondant were rolled out and cut to represent different game elements. The overall theme resembles one of the first levels in Little Big Planet. I played through it several times and took pictures for reference. During my design process I separated out which items I wanted to make and then printed them as large as I wanted them in real life to help when I began cutting. Most pieces where 2"-4" in height and width. These pieces where stuck to the sides of the cake with piping gel. I find piping gel easier to use as fondant glue than water because if your hands get wet, the fondant starts to break down and the color and goop gets all over your fingertips. I used a stiff bristle brush dabbed in gel to coat the edges of the fondant pieces.
For the top tier I baked 1 batch of French Vanilla box cake in 2 6" round pans. The pans were overfilled and batter dripped over them as there were baking, but ended up ok. I was left with 2 2" layers that were stacked with a layer of cream cheese tub frosting. That cake got put in the fridge to firm up. Little did I know that buttercream cakes will sweat when you take them out of the fridge. I tried to use a paper towel to soak up the water beads that I saw an hour after I had removed the cake from the fridge. After it had sweat itself out, it eventually re-crusted.
I used fondant cut outs to make stars. I bought some 20 gauge floral wire wrapped in white thread. My book said to use "sugar glue", which is basically fondant mixed with a little boiled water until soupy. Each wire was dipped in the glue and then carefully inserted into the star. The stars were probably rolled too thin. Some wires poked out the side or ripped the star all together. For some I just laid the end of the glue covered wire on the star and mashed a little piece of fondant on top. These dried for 3 days. My book said to insert a posey pick into the cake and then insert the wires into that. The posey picks I bought were way too long for the top tier. I trimmed one, but then realized only one wire could fit into the hole on the top. I said screw it and I stuck the wire stars directly into the cake. I goofed and arranged them nicely before I realized it wasn't facing the side of the cake I wanted them to face. I had to pull and sort them again, which made the hole in the cake bigger and allowed them to sag. Lesson learned!
"sugar glue" (bits of fondant + boiling water)
20 gauge floral wire
The fondant modeled sackboy was fun to make. I tried to copy the image that's on the video game box. He was made entirely of ivory colored fondant. An assortment of old clay modeling tools were used to shape his little fingers. Toothpicks were cut in half and inserted them into his limbs. A wooden skewer went through the body and into the head piece. After a few hours of drying, the limbs were inserted into the body with a little sugar glue to seal the deal. The little guy was supported with paper towels and left to dry for 4 days.
His zipper was made of gray fondant. His face and zipper was painted with black food coloring. Ideally the zipper would have been made with itty bitty pieces of gray fondant, but I was really running out of time and knew I wouldn't be able to manipulate a millimeter of fondant correctly. My hands where shaky at the very end because I was so hungry! I think he was one of the last things to go on the cake. We had to find a good spot for him to sit so his little legs could hang over.
Little Big Planet is a platforming game. There are tons of pieces that your sackboys can grab on to or drag in order to get from here to there. Some of those pieces were recreated using a slice of store bought Sara Lee pound cake. This cake is really firm, dense, and fine. It made the perfect sponge pieces that you find in the game. One was cut one out with a circle fondant cutter. The other was from an oval cutter, then split in half and topped with fondant. That piece hid a particularly ugly spot of pleated fondant.
The game has a lot of cardboard pieces. To recreate those, I rolled out some light brown fondant and cut out a star and free hand cut a teapot. To create those line segments, I gently rolled a chopstick on top, pressing the edges into the fondant. I saw this done on TV ... either Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss did it to simulate a bamboo wall for a tiki cake.
All of the letters and numbers were done with an alphabet fondant cut out set I had purchased earlier in the week. It was difficult to get the fondant out of some of the letters, especially 'B'. After pressing the cutter into the fondant, it would stick inside and I'd have to coax it out either by gently pressing a chopstick down into it or peeling it out. Several letters were torn. Maybe letting the fondant dry a little before cutting would help ...
I did cheat for the cake. Those spheres (recreation of score bubbles in the game) were Christmas decorations I bought. Plastic spheres were attached to each end of a wire. I trimmed the wire about 2" from the sphere and inserted it into the bottom tier. I didn't feel too bad for cheating because it looked so pretty and was so true to the game.
This was my first tiered cake. Following the instructions from my book Celebrate with a Cake, I placed 4 dowels into my cake successfully. The book suggested marking the dowel placement spots 1" from the edge of where the top tier would go. I marked a 5" circle on the top tier with my compass and a clay modeling tool.
A dowel was inserted within the circle and marked with a pencil. I figured a dremel tool would be perfect for cutting my dowels. After marking and taping 2 together, I set off to the backyard with my dremel. Cutting them didn't turn out as well as I thought. The dremel can't cut perpendicularly for very long because the tool is too thick where you hold it. My cuts became angled and couldn't even go all the way through the 1/4" diameter. I had to cut inwards from several directions and then snap it off. That left me with a jagged end that I had to sand down to make it semi-flat. I e-mailed my Wilton instructor for help and she said:
The dowels can be cut with some sharp shears, but I prefer to use a sharp knife. Once I’ve marked the line on one of them, I score all around with the sharp knife and then I slide the dowel to the end of the counter (exposed in the air) and give it a whack with my hand. If you went deep enough all around with the knife you should get a pretty clean cut and will only have to lightly sand it down. I have always used sand paper to get a smooth edge. Then I use that dowel to score the others.
My dowels where then washed off to remove any sawdust. They were inserted into the cake at four points, making a square support for the top tier.
Here's another website I found with very informative instructions for using wooden dowels on tiered cakes:
Using a cake turner, I carefully lifted the top tier and placed it on to the bottom tier. Somehow during this process I smudged the buttercream on the top tier and was never really able to smooth it back out :(
- cake batter in 6" rounds overflowed
- buttercream on top tier started to sweat
- green fondant on bottom tier tore as it was being placed
- put stars on facing the wrong way
- fondant was riddled with little indentions that couldn't be smoothed out
- color of butter flavored Crisco effected the overall blue color, making it greenish
- literally rough around the edges; fondant accents needed to be smoothed right after cutting (it's impossible once it begins to dry)
- difficult to remove fondant from alphabet cut outs; several ripped in the process
- stars were rolled too thin; several ripped in the process
- glass plate was difficult to pickup
- couldn't cut dowels well
- earned tiered cake badge
- earned modeled fondant badge
- earned carved cake badge
- glass plate looked nice and is reusable
WOW!!! Impressive . . . but not surprised. You do great work on your cakes!!!The top tier tasted soooo good that when I tried the bottom tier I was disappointed. Plus the fact that the bottom tier had been sitting out for so long, it wasn't exactly fresh. We'll probably end up throwing that part in the trash.