Special Feature: Making a Competition Cake (Pastry Live 2015), Part 3

I’m back! I’m sorry for the long delay between entries; life has NOT slowed down for me lately! I do have lots of great things planned, though, so hang in there just a bit longer!

I’ll be resuming my Pastry Live series today! For the previous entries, click here: Part One, Part Two.

At this point my focus was shifting toward the smaller items, relatively speaking. The doll, bear flowers, blankets and similar.

The first step was creating the base the toys would sit on, so I had to add a modeling chocolate blanket. I used a real knit blanket as a sort of imprint mat to give it a texture, and then I used buttercream to pipe on some faux embroidery.

At this point I also sculpted the doll’s face with modeling chocolate and created some gumpaste snow drop flowers. I also used the gumpaste to make a small box. You can see all these items drying in the photo below:

I focused on finishing the doll first, since our girl’s arms would have to be made around her. Most of the doll’s details were fondant. I’d say this was the only part of the cake where I really relied on fondant details over modeling chocolate. Her skirt in particular took a significant amount of time to complete, as it consisted of dozens of small ropes from a clay extruder that I twisted together and arranged to look knit. It took ages. Believe me when I say I felt those hand cramps for days.

Since the doll was done, I moved back to working on the girl long enough to give her a coat. I really wanted to focus on texture with this cake, so I used a patterned paper towel to add a very subtle fabric effect to the coat. Once again, pardon the mess. This photo was snapped right after I had trimmed down lots of different areas.

I used thick skewers to attach the doll. Here’s another “if this were an order” sidebar. If this were an order, I’d have created the doll’s body from rice krispy treats to keep the weight down and make skewer adhesion possible. I would also make sure to put the skewers through any cake dividers (i.e. cardboard dividing boards) within the girl’s body so it had a firm base and wouldn’t shift. Between that and the modeling chocolate arm bracing it in place, it would be quite secure.

Since this was not an order, however, I really just had to insert the skewer into the styrofoam body. Woohoo!

Next up… what’s this?! HAIR!

I think this is where I got excited. I’d been working with a bald cake for so long that even this test hair (to figure out approximate volume) made me giddy.

Time for a bit of a skip in time! I finished out the hair (which was made of modeling chocolate). I also added a modeling chocolate scarf, and some modeling chocolate and fondant gloves. I tried an alternate method for a knit look, using a simple sculpting tool to make indentations. I wanted as many different textures as possible, so this was in the plan (and not just an excuse to not roll out more ropes, though that didn’t hurt). The flexible icing bow also went on.

In the final hours leading up to the competition, I finished up the bear, marbles and flowers. I’m sorry to say that I really dropped the ball on taking pictures during this last bit. I was simply in competition mode!

All my other photos are of the cake completed, so I’ll show some closeups of those details first.

The marbles were made by pouring isomalt into sphere molds painted with food coloring. Isomalt is a kind of sugar substitute used for showpieces. It’s great because it doesn’t turn a caramel color when cooked to the proper temperature, as is the danger with sugar if you aren’t careful. It also absorbs far less moisture and therefore lasts much longer.

You can see I also painted the box with some food coloring. The bear was covered in a royal icing/flexible icing mix and swirled with a brush for texture. I finished him off with a small flexible icing bow.

I also focused on baking that final day. Here you can see my final almond gooseberry cake. I settled on one layer of fruit filling and one crisp almond cookie layer. I iced the whole thing in triple sec Italian meringue buttercream and covered it in a thin layer of fondant.

Transporting the cake to the event was quite an adventure. Since only a cargo van was tall enough to hold the cake, I got to try my hand at driving one for the first time ever. Let me tell you, going from a VW Beetle to a cargo van was an intense change… especially with my outing going right to the center of downtown Atlanta. I had my mother next to me to keep me calm, but it was still extremely stressful. Somehow, though, I made it unscathed along with my piece and was able to set up on time.

The final picture is probably my favorite, as it really showcases what I was trying to do with textures. The coat, doll’s dress, gloves, scarf, etc. all have differing textures. Many were achieved by using the same items (the woven silicone mat, piping tips) in different ways. I even powdered down specific areas with cornstarch to look more matte, or painted others with water to add shine. I wanted every piece to be just a little different.

You can also see that I painted some baby hairs to make the hairline less sharp and a tad more realistic.

And that was that! I was finally done.

All in all, I ended up feeling proud of what I’d made. As with any cake, I can’t help but see every single flaw and every “would have, could have” whenever I look at these photos. Certainly it wasn’t perfect, and many aspects were a learning experience for me. Honestly, though, wouldn’t it be boring if it were perfect? If I had nothing left to improve on I’d have nothing left to practice. Thankfully I have LOTS to improve on, so I’ve got lots to strive for as well! That’s just the way creative work is.

Thank you so much to everyone that stuck around to read all of this! Your input has been so encouraging and I truly appreciate every comment. I try to respond to all of you, but sometimes things get caught in my spam filter and I miss them. If I never responded to you, this is more than likely why! Please try commenting again if this is the case; I already fished a few comments out of my spam folder today that I nearly deleted.

This won’t be my very last Pastry Live entry… I’d like to make one more entry that serves as more of an event report, with photos of the other cakes and an event review. That said, my planned recipes will take precedence over that entry. I’ve got Halloween goodies to share, and my Steven Universe series is calling for my attention! Stay tuned, everyone!

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