My sweetheart works in manufacturing. The company he works for makes a little tiny thingy that routes power to different parts of a bigger thingy. Something like that.
They had this funny little cake contest a few months ago - make a cake that is a scale model of the little thingy they manufacture. Sounded fun, and there was a cash prize.
Which I won! Yay us, and everyone thought it was cool, all that. It wasn't terribly hard, but it was kind of...er...ugly. Imagine my surprise when I got an order to make three of them for the company Christmas party!
Honestly, I was a bit nervous. It's one thing to whomp up a cake, but quite another to whomp up three that are the same size, same color, same everything. Luckily, my worries were tempered by hubby's assurances that, "Honey...it's cake. We are going to eat it." Right...OK then, I can do this.
I decided that this time, I was going to really do it right - I was going to make fondant! I'll save you the drama and just say, "That didn't work out." I did, however, use fondant (which I made) for the add-ons. The remaining frosting was good ol' buttercream. Terra cotta in color, but buttercream, all the same.
I confess, I made the cakes from mixes - one chocolate, one yellow, one carrot. If there is one thing I know for certain, it's that my scratch cakes turn out perfectly, as long as they are not for any particular function, celebration or holiday. If I'm just making a cake for no good reason, it will be tasty, tender, photogenic. If I have any need for it to be any of those things, it will fall, it will stick, and it will taste weird. So, thank you, Betty Crocker!
I also have to say that I had major help with the presentation. "Pam" at my local WalMart was kind, wonderful, sweet and generous enough to give me three bases and covers for the cakes. They didn't sell anything that was going to be tall enough, so she just plain gave them to me. She even gave Little Bit a cookie. With frosting!
(Okay, she ALWAYS gives Little Bit a cookie with frosting. She's trying to spoil her rotten.)
On to the cakes!
I baked layers...
...leveled, frosted and stacked them.
This is just a thin 'skin' of buttercream. It seals in all the crumbs (and there were plenty, since I had to cut these puppies to size) so they don't mysteriously appear on the surface of the cake. This trick really works!
That is most of a triple batch (just to be sure) of buttercream.
I need for it to be terra cotta colored. Yike. I added red, more red, still more red, and some yellow. Then, to dull the pumpkin shade I'd come up with - unsweetened (baking) cocoa powder. I read somewhere that reds darken with time. I hope so, because I just blazed through about half a container of red gel food coloring. Again...yike!
Time to make this, er, pretty.
I've never really learned how to decorate cakes, but I have watched the lady do it at the store bakery. And I've read some of those Wilton books, so this should go just fine, right? My philosophy of cake frosting is to put far too much, then scrape away the excess to get a smooth cake. So, here's the top coat...
...spread past all the edges...
...then spackle the sides.
After I got the cake buried in frosting, I took my spankin' new angle spatula and troweled off all the excess, smoothing as best I could. Lucky for me, the thingy I'm replicating has rounded edges.
That is the main component. In real life, it has four chrome strips on top, a platinum ID bar on one side, and sixteen lead terminals (or is it terminations?) on top. Anyway....the ones on top lay nicely, but for the side bar I'm scoring the buttercream a little.
A little light corn syrup helped the terminations stay in place. Voila'! I present to you, one ugly cake!
(Just imagine, there were three of those. eeeep!)
But, good news? The frosting did darken a little, and the colors were just right. Not appetizing, but right in the sense that this cake looked like the thingy they manufacture. The folks at the party got a kick out of them. Best of all, the cake and the frosting tasted good! The fondant was a bit stiff (and often left on the plate) but that's kinda standard for fondant, from what I'm told.
I have a new, greater respect (OK, awe) for people who bake from their home kitchens. This little project took over my entire kitchen for two days. I had to move my famous cookie jar up on top of the upper cabinet! We had to move the cookbooks and the coffee maker too, and it was a lot of work.
One question remains - can buttercream frosting be frozen? I have about 4 cups of the stuff left over. I'm thinking I might be able to add more cocoa and get something resembling chocolate frosting...but the last thing I want to do right now is bake a cake! Still, it was fun, in a 'I'm never doing that again' sort of way.