Special Feature: Making a Competition Cake (Pastry Live 2015), Part 2

Aaand we’re back! This is part two of my Pastry Live competition cake process. Hop on over to Part One in case you missed it!

One of the things I was most nervous about with this cake was sculpting the face. I’ll admit I don’t have a ton of experience sculpting faces. I’ve done lots of smaller ones, but they were mostly in a cartoon style. In this case, I’d be taking on a more realistic, full-sized face for the very first time. It’d also be an insanely important aspect of the final product; when a sculpture like this has a good face it brings everything together, but when it’s bad it can take away the rest in a major way.

I had a basic paper template just to make sure I wouldn’t make the face too large. It was really important to keep proportion in mind at every step in the process. I took a styrofoam sphere and carved it down into a rough head shape before coating it in chocolate to seal in any foam bits. For a real order I’d use a solid chocolate head, but I should shave of all the weight I could for the competition.

I used a reference photo for the very first part of the process, but I abandoned it fairly quickly. That’s always the way for me, honestly. There’s a point where what looks good to me in person diverges from the photo, and after trying in vain to exactly replicat the photo I give up and just do my own thing.

To start sculpting, I just worked on building up the modeling chocolate. It became scary-looking fairly quickly.

Here’s the first pass at the face, pre-painting. THE HORROR! I wish I had taken more photos, because I actually redid some aspects after this. Specifically, I added more chub to the cheeks and re-did the mouth to be a bit wider.

I forgot to take photos of the painting process, but I used primarily powdered food colors and grain alcohol to mix my paints.

Next up, I had to begin sculpting the body. Once again I used styrofoam as a base. This time, though, I used cake dummies. I shaved them down to the proper shape and built them back up a bit with modeling chocolate. In a real world scenario, this is where the cake would be. I would also alter the order of production a lot in that scenario, mind you, in order to put the sculpting of the body off until the final days. But, say it with me: “It’s a competition, not an order!” So, body now it is.

At this point, I finished bulking up the body with more chocolate and added some bloomers with flexible icing, which I’ll get into more detail about in a bit. Guys… I was proud of the bloomers. They were super cute. It was only once I’d put the modeling chocolate skirt on that I realized I’d forgotten to take a photo of said bloomers. So… uh, I ended up with this picture. Anyway, if nothing else there’s now proof that looking up the skirt of my cake will show you nothing indecent. And hey, it’s a neat look at the texture of the legs, as well, which I spent more time than I’d like to admit on. I definitely did not want them perfectly smooth, but rather I wanted a thick fabric look.

Okay, so, time to praise flexible icing! For those not in the know, flexible icing starts off as a liquid and sets to a plastic/fabric-like consistency upon air-drying or being popped in a low heat oven. If you’ve seen amazingly realistic edible lace on a cake, it’s probably made of flexible icing! You essentially spread it onto a mold or mat to create these patterns. It can also be spread flat on a silicone baking mat and allowed to dry as a sheet before being cut to use.

I had never used flexible icing before now. A common brand is Sugarveil, but I decided I would really rather learn to make my own if possible. I found a good recipe, and using the Sugarveil brand woven mat mold, I managed to get an awesome base for my cross-stitch pattern:

Can you imagine if I had tried to pipe all that? I almost did, too, because I’m an insane person. Bless my last minute return to sanity.

Next up, it was time to make this into a lovely cross-stitched dress!

I used a mixture of royal icing and the flexible icing (roughly 10:1) and a 00 tip to pipe on the stitching. Even though I used a 00 tip, it still ended up thicker because the flexible icing makes the royal quite a lot runnier than it would be. However, adding the flexible icing made everything MUCH sturdier… royal icing on its own is often terribly brittle, but this way it had just enough give to make sure that a bit of shifting here and there won’t make it all fall apart.

This part alone took about 4 hours, possibly more. I made a pattern to adhere to and printed it out, but that didn’t keep me from messing up. A lot. Being off by a single square–if I continued without noticing the screwup–could easily undo half an hour of work.

I did a little dance when I finished (at 1AM…), but I was happy with the result!

Back to the sled! After pondering what sort of final finish to give the sled, I finally decided to cover it in fondant. I did, and then painted on a wood grain:

For those interested in the wood grain technique, please check out the amazing Gateaux Inc/Evil Cake Genius video on painting wood grain! Essentially you begin with simple white fondant, and paint on circles and ovals of plain ivory gel color. Allow those to dry for just a few minutes before painting over the entire thing with a very very diluted version of the gel. I suggest diluting with vodka or grain alcohol. Just be sure NOT to use water… it’s necessary to use a strong alcohol because it evaporates quickly instead of sitting on the fondant and melting it.

From the flexible icing mix, I also made a plain fabric sheet that I used to make an ivory bow for her hair.

You’ll note all the lace bits; since it was my first time using this medium I did a LOT of experiments! I still have that green bow, in fact. I have no clue what I’m supposed to do with it now, honestly.

That’s it for this entry. Stay tuned for next week, where I’ll dive into making the toys! Here’s a preview:


  1. Marvelle says:

    I love reading about these techniques! Seeing how things are made is so cool! Is the fleXible icing edible? That’s crazy if it is lol

    The wips are scary uncanny valley @_@ lol

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