Hello everyone!! I’ve recently been working on a top secret birthday cake for a while now, and now that the day has come and gone, I can finally reveal what I’ve been doing! This cake was very fun to make, and I learned a lot of things along the way. I thought I’d write out a post to go more into detail on my process behind making this cake.
Shirley (Charlie’s lovely wife, who ordered this cake from me) had the idea of having “Limited Edition” and “Aged to Perfection” for Charlie’s 50th birthday, which was put on the design in the middle of the cake that I originally made just for the invitations. From there, I was inspired by two of the things that describe Charlie the most — his love for wine and being a handy-man (he is the owner of Northstar Glass, so if you ever have a glass emergency in the GTA, you know who to call). This cake was made with layers of coffee vanilla cake, coffee buttercream, and covered in fondant.
I marbled a lot of fondant when creating this cake. I decided that I wanted the middle tier (the main cake supporting the wine barrel) to resemble a marble slab. In order to achieve this look I used mostly white fondant, and dyed about 10% of it dark grey, and then took a bit of that grey, and mixed it into about 30% of the white fondant to get a light grey.
I took the three colours and rolled them into sausages and folded it over and kneaded it slightly, but not too much so that the colours wouldn’t mix too much. I left most of the work up to the rolling pin to achieve the rest of the marbling and I was very happy with how it turned out. I repeated this process when making the fondant to cover the cake board.
I also decided to go with this marbling technique last minute when making the fondant for the barrel, because I realized wooden planks were far from one flat colour. I marbled in dark brown with a clay-like colour to achieve the marbled wood colour and when I laid it onto the cake, I took the back of a pairing knife, and carved little wood grains into it. As a finishing touch, I brushed a little cocoa powder on the cake, mainly in between the planks and a little on the areas where I carved a lot of grain, to help the texture stand out. Once I rolled it out into a rectangular shape and cut out the planks, I made sure to reorder them so that the wood was always different from plank to plank.
In order to make it clear that it was a wine barrel I also decided to add a few grapes on top. Originally, when I rolled out the purple fondant, I thought it looked very flat and fake. Almost cartoon-like. So in order to add depth to it, I decided to brush a mixture of bright red food colouring and water over each grape. This was enough to add enough texture and shine to make it look more realistic. The best way to keep these grapes together would be with foral wire, but unfortunately my local bulk barn had run out and I was on a time limit, so I decided to stick it onto the cake using a little cornsyrup, and I tied a strip of saran wrap around the cake overnight to let it dry into place.
To make the little vines and leaves, I freehand cut the leaves and scored them with the back of my pairing knife. For the vines, I took little bits of green fondant, and rolled them very thin in the palm of my hand and wrapped it around a straw to dry for at least an hour. Once it was able to hold its shape, I placed it onto the grapes, which again, would have ideally been held into place with floral wire, but in this case, corn syrup, gravity, and air was all I had and it worked out pretty well.
I don’t own an edible image printer myself, but I was able to buy six 3″ circles with the 1968 label and “Aged to Perfection” on one sheet for $10 from Edible Images. I was instructed to cut around the images, peel off the backing, and use a tiny amount of cornsyrup to adhere the image to the fondant. These worked out perfectly and gave the cake such a clean and professional look.
When it came time to put Charlie’s name on the cake, I printed his name out in a stencil type font on a piece of paper, and then cut it out using a xacto knife to create an actual stencil. I wanted it to look as though it had been spray painted onto the wooden barrel so I took a little black food colouring mixed with water. I didn’t want the paint to be so runny that it would drip down under the stencil and onto the cake, so I mixed in a little cocoa powder to thicken it up. I thought about using icing sugar but I didn’t want the colour to be affected. Lastly, I took my little painting sponge, brushed on some “paint” onto the sponge so it wouldn’t be overly saturated, and then I lightly dabbed it onto the stencil onto the barrel.
I free-hand shaped the little hammer, wrench, nuts, and bolts using photo references I found on google. To give them a little depth, I took the same paint I used to paint Charlie’s name on the cake on the tools, to make it look like it was shaded in a little.
Lastly I should mention that the bottom two tiers of this cake were dummy cakes, so I only had to worry about making the top cake. Since the bottom two tiers were made from styrofoam, I didn’t need to dowel the cakes. The fondant and the weight of the top cake were enough to keep all three tiers together.
I’m really happy with how this cake turned out and it was the most adventurous I’ve been with fondant so far. For tips on working with dummy cakes and fondant, check it out here If you would like to see the timelapse on how I made this cake, check it out below!