Ok, touchy subject coming. Brace yourselves. Those of you that decorate cakes, it’s confession time. Raise your hand if you have bought a pre-shaped pan and then covered the design with star tipped icing. Eh-hem, ma’am. Yes, you at your computer sipping coffee. Hand up, please. We all have. And what do we do with those pans that are only good for one design of cake? Nothing! They sit on a shelf until a garage sale takes them away. I have done it too, people. I did a Blues Clues cake for a friend ten years ago and her daughter was absolutely thrilled. But the thing is, if you like decorating cakes and want to improve your skills, try sculpting a cake! It seems daunting, I know. But really, it just takes patience and a few extra steps.
First, bake a cake that is the best suited to the shape you are after. For example, this week I made a game controller cake for my son’s birthday and started with a sheet cake. He turned 7 and we had a video game truck come to the house. This turned out to be surprisingly easy and only took a total of 2 1/2 hours of work (not including chilling time). I started with a 1/3 sheet cake. You will notice it’s two different colors in the pictures and that’s because it’s 2/3 root beer and 1/3 cherry*.
*Occupational hazard of being a cake decorator: Your children get very specific as to what they request. Refer to my 1/2 and 1/2 post to see how to have side by side flavors.
So, turn out your cake and draw with a #3 or #4 tip the general shape of your cake. Below is a picture of the cake after I had drawn it and started to cut. Use a serrated knife and it will easily glide through your cake with minimal “crumbage” (that is the technical term)
After cutting it into the general shape, then you can dirty ice it. This is also referred to as a crumb coat. After the initial crumb coat, you can build up the shape with the pieces you cut away.
In the above picture, I have built up the back corners and iced it. Then, I added little pieces to build up where the “joysticks” are. I am a child of the 80’s, and back then the lever you moved around on an Atari was called a joystick so it applies here too. Welcome to my limited knowledge of video games. Each time you add another dimension of cake, dirty ice and smooth it again. You may want to put it in your fridge in between steps until you get more comfortable with smoothing out your add ons.
When it’s completely crumb coated, put it in your freezer. That will make your icing get hard enough that when you add your color, the crumb coat won’t smear into it.
Now you can add your base color! In this case it was black. And yes, the kids’ mouths looked hilarious. Smooth this out all over your cake. Then, use a flexible scraper or I even use old credit cards to smooth it down.
There it is! You did it! (Insert your name here) made a sculpted cake! All that’s left is the details. For this one, is was mostly fondant pieces and a little piping.
If you like cake decorating, you can do this. It will take practice and patience, but you will get there. In the long run, you will save money by not buying so many pans! Also, don’t think you have to cover it in fondant! I got mine this smooth with good old fashioned butter cream.
Happy Sculpting, everyone!