A "Cake Boss" Adventure of My Own
Nov. 20, 2009 10:19 am
Updated: Jun. 13, 2010 8:43 am
When asked to make a cake for my uncle's birthday, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to try out some of the fun stuff I've seen on "Cake Boss". My uncle loves to fish, so I thought I would do a cake with a fish jumping out of it. My idea was to use cereal treats to make the body of the fish and use molding chocolate tinted in gray to cover the cereal treat base and then paint and sculpt the fish from there. I drew up a couple salmon from some pictures I found online to practice. My original plan was to use a 4 layer cake and cover it with white chocolate fondant. Then to use icing gel tinted blue on top to make water and sculpt a salmon out of molding chocolate and position it on the cake with dowels as though it was jumping out of the water. Then create the splash of water using a hard candy tinted blue. Now, I'm somewhat new to the world of cake decorating in that while I'm familiar with fondant and marzipan, I have no idea how to make frosting roses or do much of anything with decorating tips. So this was quite a learning experience for me. I'll tell you now that the cake turned out amazing, however many of my plans had to change because of various reasons I will explain below.
The Cake: I started with the "black magic chocolate cake" recipe from allrecipes.com. Baked 2 9 inch layers and whipped up some free style cool whip frosting (2 small tubs coolwhip, 8 oz cream cheese, and powdered sugar to taste). I cut each cake round in half and layered all four layers with sliced banana and my whip cream frosting. Lastly, I frosted the whole cake. I put it in the fridge to settle overnight. MISTAKE #1- There wasn't enough frosting to really get a good layer around the whole cake after filling 4 layers with it. I thought I would cover this up with the rolled white chocolate fondant.
The Fondant: Having grown tired of the texture and flavor of the normal marshmallow fondant, I was looking forward to a chocolate like flavored fondant. I was super excited to discover how easy it is to make white chocolate fondant/molding chocolate/candy clay. Just melted two bags of Wilton white candy melts and added 2/3 cup of corn syrup. Mixed it up and poured it in a container and left it out over night.
MISTAKE #2: Butter the container you pour the candy clay into or you will spend lots of time trying to get it back out. Duh...
The Jell Icing: This was the easiest part. It came already made in a little container and I just added the food coloring to make it blue.
MISTAKE #3: Since I was planning on adding hard candy water splashes on top of the gel, I should have waited to color the jel until I had made the candy to get a better color match.
The Cereal Treats: I made up some standard rice cereal treats and once they had cooled, cut some rough fish shapes out and pressed together to form the foundation of the sculpture.
MISTAKE #4: Since I had put the cake in the fridge already, I should have used the cake pans as a guide to how big to make the sculpture. My cereal fish turned out two times bigger than the top of my cake. FAIL.
Assembly Prep: The first thing I did the following morning was begin sawing down my krispy fish to try and get it to the right size. Then I began the unanticipatedly LONG kneading process of working with the molding chocolate. A lot of the cocoa butter from the chocolate had separated and settled to the top of the container. The recipe said this might happen and to work it back in by kneading. Even after kneading for a long long time there were still little chunks of cocoa butter through out my dough. I would pinch them to break them up and then continue working the dough.
The Fish: I began by tinting some of the molding clay gray as I decided that was the main color of the fish. I rolled out the clay, realized that it wasn't enough to cover the fish, and did something right for once by adding my already tinted clay to the new batch of tinted clay and working them together till uniform. As I was working the tint into the clay, I noticed that the amount of clay I was using to cover the krispy fish was actually about perfect for constructing a solid candy clay fish. It would be a little bit smaller, but actually a much better fit for the top of my cake. So into the garbage with the krispy fish body!
I molded the body of the fish and tail from the clay and set aside some of the tinted clay to add fins and details later. As I was working with the fish, I put the parts in the fridge to harden whenever they would get too soft from all the kneading and molding. It only took a few minutes for them to harden up, then I'd pull them out and continue working.
I constructed the fins as per my earlier drawings and attached them to the body of the fish using the back end of my paint brush to fuse the clay together. I decided to do the same with the gills and ridge around the mouth. I used my paint brush end again to make eye holes and to add some details by depressing the clay around the tail and head.
MISTAKE #5: I totally forgot that I would need something to hold the fish up as I painted and detailed it. I should have bought a big styrofoam block at the craft store to stick the dowels into.
I decided to go with two dowels for support, which I would stick into the under belly of the fish. I stuck the dowels into the fish. Now, I wanted the fish to be at an angle with his head higher than his tail. Kinda like he was jumping. This would require that the dowel closest to the tail was shorter than the dowel closer to the head. I eyeballed the dowels and cut one of them down.
MISTAKE #6: The PROPER procedure here, would have been to first cut the dowels. Second, stick the dowels into your styrofoam block. Third, position your fish on top of the dowels.
Because I didn't follow this procedure, and didn't have a styrofoam block, my fish got jostled and twisted and by the time it was done, the dowel holes were all stretched out. Not having styrofoam, I stuck the fish on dowels into a vase with rocks in the bottom. Not ideal. It was wobbly and I can garauntee that it took me twice as long to finish because of this inconvenience.
Painting the fish was also an adventure. I wanted to create the darker gray of the oceanic salmon on the top half of the fish. I mixed some of my black food color with water, and it turned green. I mixed it with corn syrup and it retained it's color, but when I painted the corn syrup onto the fish, the cocoa butter in the chocolate caused it to bead up. I mixed some cornstarch into the cornsyrup ink and tried again. Not much of an improvement. I mixed some black into some clay thinking I might mold the clay onto my fish, and it turned out more purple than dark gray. So with a now sticky fish, what to do. Well at this point I was willing to try anything, so I dipped my fingers in corn starch and blotted the painted part of the fish. I coated it really good till it wasn't sticky any more, then used a paint brush to brush off the excess. SUCCESS! After failure anyway...I ended up with the dark gray that I was going for and the fish was no longer sticky. I mixed some golden yellow into a small bit of clay for the eyes and filled the eye holes with the clay. I used plain black food coloring paste to add detail to the fins and tail with my fine tip paint brush. I dulled the end of a toothpick, dipped it in black, and added the dots to the body of the fish and filled in the pupils of the eyes. Lastly, I used a brush to dust the entire fish with a silver shimmer dust to give it that glimmer that wet scaley things have.
Finishing: I tinted the remaining candy clay with blue, as I was going to drape it over the cake. I rolled and rolled and rolled. I sweated over that rolling pin, but no matter how hard I rolled, I could NOT get it to roll out to a big enough diameter to cover my cake. Lesson learned. You can't cover a cake with candy clay. Hence...fondant. Next cake I make, I'm covering it with marzipan.
MISTAKE #7: In my delirious, tired state, I put the rolled out candy clay on top of the cake to see if I could just make it work. This was a bad, bad idea. I ended up having to throw away all the clay that got frosting on it.
I was going to have to make some more frosting to cover the cake with since it had barely been covered by my first batch of frosting and there were edges of chocolate cake showing through. I had heavy whipping cream in the fridge and another brick of cream cheese. I thought I'd try to make the frosting with that instead of running to the store for more cool whip. That leads me to MISTAKE #8: Don't do that. Stick with one recipe. Earning me another DUH...
The whipped cream was too watery and wouldn't mix completely with the cream cheese. There were little lumps in frosting and I could tell that it wasn't going to hold up. Even so, I wanted to be done with the cake so I tinted the frosting blue and put it on the cake anyway hoping my fears would be proven invalid. UGH! I took it all off the cake, washed it down the drain, and ran to the store for a tub of cool whip.
Once I had the proper frosting made up and tinted blue, I refrosted the cake. And, keeping with the theme, there STILL wasn't enough frosting. I started at the top and worked my way down. Almost to the bottom of the cake I only had about a 1/2 inch bare area to cover. I used the left over candy clay that had been tinted blue to make gumballs and placed them all around the bottom of the cake. MISTAKE #9: Giving a bachelor a cake with blue balls all around it may have negative connotations. But it was already tinted and the rest of the cake was blue so that was my excuse.
I used the jell icing to make water on the top of the cake and inserted the fish, on dowels, into the cake. Lastly, I cooked up some hard candy and added blue food coloring. I didn't think about the yellowish tint of the candy making the blue turn more green. I added a lot of food coloring until I thought it was blue enough and made drips down the sides of overturned, buttered, metal bowls. Once they had hardened ( just a few moments), I picked them off the bowls and stuck them into the cake around the fish.
In the end, the cake looked fantastic. Next time, however, I will have all this experience to work from and I'm sure I'll have much less trouble. Thanks for sticking with me and I hope everyone can learn something helpful from all my mistakes!
Uncle Bob's Fish Cake
Candy Clay Fish