Sunday, June 14, 2009

B.C. High or Bust!

My latest adventure in cake started when my cousin Regina asked me to make "the cake" for her son Andrew's high school graduation party. Since she was expecting about 100 people, the cake had to be big and beautiful. I wanted a certain percentage of the "Wow" factor too even before I started sketching it out, I started stacking pans just to get an idea of how tall I wanted it. I started with only two large ones, then I just kept adding.............and adding.

The colors of Boston College High are maroon and gold, but since those colors together make me shudder (reminds me of a wound), I exercised my artistic license and tweaked the colors "just a bit". I usually order fondant from a commercial bakery supply, but because this was such a big cake I also made a couple of batches from scratch as a back-up. I think I've said before that I'm not a fan of fondant. Athough it tastes like marshmallow, I've always thought it was sort of rubbery. I am usually the one who peels the fondant off the cake before it. So given a choice, I'd choose buttercream everytime. Until now.

The home made fondant is pretty tasty. I mean you wouldn't want to make a meal of it or anything, but's not bad. It's loaded with confectioner's sugar, glucose and corn syrup of course, but it had a more delicate texture than the commercial brands, AND it tastes so much better. I like it. It's a little messy to make because the corn syrup sticks to everything. In fact, my flip-flops are still stuck to the floor under my computer table but I'm considering this a good thing because now I will always know where they are. Seriously, the recipe is really easy, but you definitely need a heavy duty mixer. Don't even think about making rolled fondant without one......unless Superman drops in to help you mix it up. Once the fondant is smooth and pliable, it's wrapped up in Saran Wrap and left to rest on the counter for at least 12 hours. Do not EVER refrigerate fondant. Even though you'll be tempted to do it. Don't. A fondant-covered cake actually seals out all the air and moisture and can be left (lightly covered with Saran Wrap) in a cool, dry place for up to 4 days. So there.

Along with Andrew's name and class year on the cake, Regina also wanted me to recognize Andrew's recent Eagle Scout achievement. She emailed me a link to a particular eagle she found amusing and asked if I could use it as a starting point.

As you can see, the figure is very comical and I loved it! Because I wanted to make the eagle bigger and sitting beside the cake as opposed to smaller and sitting on the cake, I knew there would be some "engineering" issues. If I made it entirely out of fondant, it would have taken from now until Christmas to dry out. I needed a "moldable" medium. Enter Rice Krispie Treats....(or a Whole Foods comparable facsimile because I didn't want to drive any further to Stop & Shop).

I loved these things as a kid, didn't you?? My nephew just informed me that for his birthday in July, he would like an entire cake made out of Rice Krispie treats. What an easy gig.


Once the mixture cooled, I just reached right into the pot and grabbed a handful. Then I squeezed it and twisted it and compressed it into the beginnings of an eagle shape. Sort of.

Once I had the general structure, I refrigerated it overnight and the next day I covered it with chocolate fondant.

Next I rolled out pieces of chocolate fondant strips to shape into feathers.

Then I pressed them into the body of the eagle just to give the impression of tail feathers.

Eagle feet?? Hardly, right. Pssst! In the fondant world, we can get away with anything.

Next, I rolled out white fondant to cover the head. I left some extra on the sides to give the face some shape.

I'm gonna have nightmares about this's a little too close to looking like something out of a Stephen King novel.

Although I have to admit...... this guy is a riot.

I actually made this almost a week prior to the event. Then it sat out on the counter, covered lightly with Saran Wrap so it could dry out and become nice and solid.

Okay, now for the cake. It would be a four tiered tower made up of decadent Devil's Food, rich Gold cake and Tahitian Coconut. The Devil's Food cake was a 14" round double layer filled with Chocolate Mousse Meringue, then comes a 12" Vanilla with Swiss Meringue Buttercream, the third is an 8" Coconut with flaked coconut buttercream and lastly, just because I hate odd numbers, the forth tier is a 6" Coconut Cake with Chocolate Ganache.

Thought you'd like to see just how stuffed my refrigerator was this week. I think I need to convert a closet in to a walk-in fridge like they have in restaurants. Wouldn't that be great??? Why don't they have those in homes?? I'd have one in mine in a minute, dang it. I don't have nearly enough counter space in my kitchen and my cabinets (the few I have) are chock full of baking supplies. Actually, if anyone knows of a contest with a complete kitchen give-a-way, sign me up because I want to GIVE MINE AWAY!

*My apologies for the quality of some of the photos in this post. They are usually much clearer and I know the white balance (yellow cast in some of the photos) is off by a country mile. I think I need another eye exam.

I used A LOT of fondant for this project. Actually, it was a total of 6 pounds of fondant. The cake construction consisted of two dozen eggs, 4 pounds of butter, 5 pounds of flour, two pounds of granulated sugar and (you better sit down for this) 10 pounds of confectioners sugar. Are your teeth aching yet??

Since this was a tiered cake, I used thick plastic tubes cut to the cake's height. The tubes are pushed into each cake so the next cake can be placed on top.

I usually keep a loose layer of Saran Wrap on the fondant-covered cakes until I'm ready to start working with them.

I just love animal stripes, don't you??

I used a rich chocolate ganache to pipe beading at the bottom of each cake.

I cut a mortarboard 8 x 8" to fit on top of the 6-inch cake at the top of the tier. I was afraid that the mortarboard would break enroute to the event, so I bolstered it underneath with a small piece of corregated cardboard.

Did I mention that my friend Julie asked me to be godmother to her new son Ryan, and both events coincided? (That baby is just the sweetest little thing!) So on the day of the graduation party, my sister Kathy offered to deliver the cake. I constructed a special "crate" with styrofoam pads and with the help of my friend Dawn, used additional dowels hammered through the cakes to secure all four tiers together. The dowels had to have a sharp point on one end (do you like to whittle?) in order for them to pass through layers of cake and cardboard. I had to stand on a stool to hammer them in.

I finished off the eagle by making him a well-deserved white fondant sash......isn't he cool?

After some internet research, I finished the bottom tier by piping the descriptives of Scout Law around the circumference of the cake.....trustworthy, loyal, kind, brave, reverent, clean, cheerful, thrifty, helpful, courteous and friendly. And since Andrew's favorite candy is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I arranged some mini's on fondant circles around the center tier.

At the eleventh hour I decided to add fondant stars suspended on each side of the cake with silver floral wire. I know, I wasn't in the original plan. But you know me, that's just my rebel side popping out.

Kathy did a great job on the delivery. I think I'm going to hire her as my assistant. Since the cake weighed about 60 pounds, my brother-in-law John flexed his biceps and carried it singlehandedly into the function hall. The only obvious "wreckage" was that the tassle on the mortarboard broke off enroute.....but I replaced it as soon as I arrived at the party. I noticed that the fondant suffered through some temperature and humidity changes in the car, but all things considered, the cake was in one piece. So Regina was happy.......

Andrew was happy.....

....and I was happy.


Lisa said...

Oh! My Gosh ANN! Once again you leave me without knowing what to say!! THIS one just "TAKES the CAKE" and that Eagle.....Every time I come over to see you ~ Your talent leaves me in AWE!! I think if Kathy becomes your assistant......LOOK OUT WORLD!! there will be nothing you too can't do together.

Congratulations to Andrew too!

How did it happen that our babies are going up???

BEAUTIFUL JOB on everything!

Aunt Grace said...

It looks to me like you need to get into the plumbing line also. I recognized Grandpa's white pipes and also that hammer. What absolutly beautiful work, Uncle Bill is looking at and asked me how you know so much about construction.....Andrew had to take a second seat after that cake, everyone was in awe, I know. Congrats to Andrew, but!! How can you top that?? By the way, did Lisa send you a picture of the one I made for the marathon?

One of many cuzzins! said... definately got the WOW factor!

I've received several phone calls and emails today about Andrew's graduation party and EVERYONE has commented about the UNBELIEVABLE cake.

Here is a sample of what I've heard: "the cake was... so beautiful." So, not just Regina and Andrew loved it...EVERYONE loved it!!!

A mom arrived to pick up her son who was attending the party and she came in to see the cake. During the party, her son SENT her a picture from his cell phone!! I thought that was the best compliment of all...a 16 year old boy texting his Mom a picture of the cake because he thought it was so awesome!

It was truly a work of art. The eagle was adorable...very clever how you put it together and your replication of the picture was exquisite. I love that little guy and he is going to stay perched on my kitchen counter. Nobody better touch him...or worse, eat him!!

The final head count was about 170 people. Not bad for a high school graduation party!! All of the teenagers in attendance were just terrific. They were well behaved, very respectful and had a lot of fun. Every, single one of them mentioned the cake and said it was the best cake they'd ever seen. And, it tasted good, too.

Thank you Anne for all your hard work and dedication. You captured Andrew's quirky personality and pegged him perfectly. It was so nice of you to do a cake that was all about him. There was nothing generic about it. It was very unique and personal and that is what made it so special.

Kathy told me today that you lost sleep worrying about this project. You have unbelievable talent and have nothing to worry about. Your work is going to sell itself.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are the best and I love ya!

Smooch, smooch,

One of many cuzzins! said...

Oh, I forgot to mention....for those who didn't see the cake in person...The cake swiveled! That's right Anne Marie placed the cake on a round swivel stand. Talk about WOW factor! We could turn it around and see it from every angle. She thought of every single detail!

Anonymous said...

Oh, am I impressed. I can just hear your Mother and Dad beaming with pride. Congratulations to Andrew ---Eagle Scout and he looks just like his Dad---lucky Boy.
Aunt ML (NONI--with the new knee)

Anonymous said...


Looks so yummy~ IF Kathy is ever busy ... as your assistant. I'm AVAILABLE! I'll just lick the spoon. Marg

One of many cuzzins! said...

Enjoying the last few morsals of leftover graduation cake. I've sampled each of the layers and they all taste differently. Every bite is moist, flavorful and delectible.

It is true, the fondant doesn't hold up well in the gets gummy and soggy and gross...but the buttercream icing inside is oh-la-la-yum-yum-yum!!

Not only did this cake look amazing it also tasted amazing. There, its finished now. I hate myself for eating every leftover crumb. What am I going to have for breakfast tomorrow? Anne Marie got anything in the oven?

This was the best cake ever. Simply sweeter than anything I've ever seen before. Thanks Anne, you're the master!


SimplySweeter said...

Thanks Regina, so glad you liked it!

Thank you to everyone for all of your nice comments. AM

ANDREW said...

Hi Anne Marie!
Thank you SO much for the wonderful CAKE, if you even want to call it that. If you ask me, it was more a MASTERPIECE. I saw all the pictures you posted and the description of all your hard work. I appreciate every ounce of effort that you spent on it. It was delicious, looked awesome, and I really loved it.
I especially loved the little "eagle guy". When John first opened up the cake box, "eagle-guy" was peeking out at me. He was the first thing I saw (how'd I miss the massive cake?) and I thought he was hilarious. All of my friends were saying "yo, where'd you get that cake?" and commented on how good it tasted. I gave you all the credit. The points of Boy Scout Oath were a great touch by the way. I really thought it was cool how you designed it all around me. My school colors, the Boy Scout stuff, the Reeses, and even the fact that you wrote my last name, because thats how all my friends refer to me.
You got it all right! It was an awesome party. I had such a good time and I'm glad your cake made such a big impact on everyone.
Thanks so much for your hard work and for the amazing cake!

The Amazing Trips said...

I just shake my head in amazement. You can do this - and yet I almost catch the house on fire from cupcakes made from a box.

I'm so impressed. Awesome job!

(And congrats Andrew!!)

Joycee said...

Let me get this straight in my head, catering..hairdresser...cake designer!?! What do you do in your "spare" time? These cakes are amazing and Emily is just too cute, give her a peanut butter ball!

Ralf said...