Tag Archives: display cake

you’re not the only one…

so this month, back in August, pastry live, had a 3 day event comprised of seminars, workshops and competitions all for the glory of sugar and chocolate. not sure what bug got in my bonnet, but i decided to throw my hat into the ring for “the art of cake” competition. they had a pretty cool concept – take your favorite artistic inspiration – art, artist, or time period – and translate that into a sculpted cake creation. piece of cake! not. at. all.

first of all, we had to submit both the artistic interpretation and cake flavors for the tasting cake waaay ahead of time. not so great for a procrastinator. or maybe that was great, since it forced me to get my butt in gear early. i decided that since the competition was taking place the same weekend as the occasion for the 50th anniversary of jamaica’s independence, i would select a jamaican artist.

whenever i visit jamaica, i spend lots of my time at my aunt’s house in new kingston. not too far from her home is emancipation park, and central to that park is the bronze statue by artist laura facey – redemption song. at the time it was unveiled, there was quite the uproar about the nekkidness of the man and woman. i mean, di people nuh hav on no clothes! controversy aside, it is a larger than life piece that always speaks to me about the steadfastness, determination, perseverance and pride of the people of jamaica.

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Laura Facey’s Redemption Song

i decided i was going replicate he and she out of modeling chocolate, never mind that i had never used that medium before. you mean it’s not a good idea to try something brand new, when going into competition?

fyi, modeling chocolate is basically melted chocolate and corn syrup, which magically turns into a malleable chocolate clay. it’s different that fondant. very different! it required a whole new set of tools. introducing the newest member of the not a crumb toolkit (drumroll) – a hair dryer! it totally helps to soften the surface of the modeling chocolate so that it is easier to smooth and sculpt.

anywhoo, back to the fantastic inspiration. i didn’t just want to do 24″ of people (that was the height requirement), i thought that would be boring and too simple! (if i had known how much work sculpting he and she would be, believe me, i would have totally only done the people!) mad props to laura facey for making he and she 20 feet tall! my likkle 12″ people almost killed me! from start to finish, they took about 12 hours to complete.

i wanted some color, and representation of the land of wood and water. i looked no further than the artisans of wassi art. they make the most beautiful pottery. it’s handcarved and handpainted, and gorgeously colorful and vibrant.

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Wassi Art Vase

what happens when you combine pottery and nekkid people…

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Jamaica Independence Cake

not too shabby right? i want you to know that at turns during the creative process, i was filled with pride, self-loathing, nausea and delirium. and apparently short-term memory loss, because i didn’t take a single picture until it was done. sorry!

i mean, this competition was not televised, and didn’t have $10,000 prize money, yet i was nerve-wracked! i mean, how do the food network challenge people do this?!

on friday, august 3rd, i headed on over to the summit at perimeter, to set up my cake. there were 8 other competitors, some local, and some not. all of the cakes were awesome, and a testament to all the fantastic things you can make out of cake, sugar, fondant and chocolate. there were piped, carved, and handpainted cakes. all in all, it was a confectionary gallery d’art! once i saw the work of all the sugar savants, my nausea returned with a vengeance! and because the folks at pastry live are so kind, they wouldn’t reveal the winners before sunday afternoon. sigh.

i returned on sunday with my mom in tow (the DH stopped by on friday to support and help ease my nerves). spoiler alert – i didn’t win. 😦 my mom was kind enough to point out “you’re not the only one who didn’t win.” thanks… i think? jamaican parents have weird ways of reassuring you. in any case she was right. i still didn’t feel better about not being the only loser, but felt pretty good about my first foray into the world of competitive caking.

fast forward five days – i get an email from pastry live. inside were the judges’ scores from the competition. i mean, the competition is completely over, but guess who stops by for a little visit? my nausea from the weekend. talk about an unwanted guest! at any rate, i finally got up the courage to look, and guess what! i came in 4th out of 8! and i think that is pretty darn awesome! gold, silver, bronze… tin? DH says 4th should at least be copper. either way, i don’t care. I think I did damn well. Well enough to brave gastrointestinal distress and try again next year!

 

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what’s the big faking deal?

every year event and wedding design reveals new trends. most of those have to do with color, shape, texture, or graphic images. one trend that’s been around for the past few seasons is frugality. now being a girl who has champagne taste and a coca-cola pocketbook, i understand that not everyone has oodles of disposable income to throw at their wedding or celebration. it’s important in these difficult financial times that we make every cent count twice. so i applaud thrifty-ness and bargain-hunting.

brides are all about diy, from their invitations to their bouquets, to favors, forget fake it till you make it, just make it! all of those handmade items bring a certain whimsy and personality to a wedding, and i’m all for it! since brides are being discriminating with their  dollars, event planners are being creative with cost-cutting, thus, the fake cake.

most cake designers have created fake cakes before; tiers of styrofoam covered in fondant or plaster and decorated to look like a fab wedding confection. they’ve been made for bridal shows and exhibits, or for displays in their shops or studios. i’ve made quite a few myself. some of the work pictured on my website consists of display cakes that i’ve decorated for various occasions. up until recently most of us have never been commissioned to make one for a real live event. brides and planners are soliciting display cakes for show & pics, and then sheet cake for the kitchen with the hopes of saving some scratch. here’s the thing… that actually won’t save you money. in some cases it may actually cost you more! allow me to debunk a couple of myths for you.

  • wedding cake costs more than other cake; bakers automatically charge more when they hear the word wedding. – not true, unless you are comparing the cost of a wedding cake to your local bakery or grocery’s grab & go birthday cake. personally, i charge the same for any special event cake – birthday, wedding, anniversary, baby shower, etc.. the price is determined by the level of detail and the amount of work that will go into a specialty design.
  • a fake cake plus sheet cake will cost less. – bakers determine the price based on ingredients, how long it will take to decorate plus the amount of time it will take to bake the cake(s). when making fake cake plus sheet cake, the cake still needs to be baked, plus the cake designer has to decorate twice – first the sheet cake (which needs to look like it came from the pretty display cake), then the display cake. there are also additional materials for the display cake. that styrofoam can get pretty expensive! for a three tier cake, it can cost anywhere from $15-40 just for the dummies (not insulting them, that’s just what they’re called)
  • no one will know the difference, i can just get cake from costco (nothing against costco, i LOVE costco – where do you think i get all that butter from?!) to keep the  number of servings down. – ummm… nope. most cake decorators have an all-or-nothing clause in their contracts. you must get all cake from them. this is designed to protect them and their reputation. guests don’t know that the groom’s cake came from one place and the wedding cake came from another. they just know they had cake. and if one is really awful…only one gets all the credit/blame. they won’t differentiate. also, sheet cake looks different. it’s usually two layers of cake and one of icing/filling, whereas wedding cake is usually three layers of cake and two of filling or icing. you wouldn’t want your guests to think there’s been a bait and switch!

so how can you save on your wedding cake? when is fake cake appropriate?

  1. be realistic about your budget and share that information with your cake designer. s/he will present you with ideas that are within your price range if you are up front about it.
  2. simpler is usually less expensive. choose a design that will not require hours of detail work. nix the sugar flowers and go with silk or fresh, non-toxic blooms.
  3. choose a smaller cake for display (big surface+fancy details=more details & more time. little surface+fancy details= less details & less time) and other types of desserts like pie or cookies will reduce the amount of servings you’ll need.
  4. choose a smaller display cake and kitchen cake provided by the same baker.
  5. supplement the size of your cake by the addition of one or two fake tiers. this may not save you on decorating, but it will save you on the number of serving.

i hope this helps you navigate the world of cake!

which one is real?


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stomping at the savoy

every now and then i get an opportunity to run free and wild. last week back in october (see how long ago i started this post. smh. i’ve got to write more often!) i had the great pleasure of creating a display cake for the pi alpha omega chapter of alpha kappa alpha. they were having their annual fundraising dinner and dance benefiting their ivy and roses scholarship fund. last year the theme was motown…

this year the theme was the harlem renaissance. there’s SO much from that era, but i was totally inspired by the glamour, the glitz and the bling ( i swear this year i am going to retire that word!), as well as the art deco architecture and design. i kept thinking about the cotton club and the savoy ballroom, so this is what i came up with

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