Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Surprises

I have never successfully organized any event which involved an element of surprise, mainly because I am a notably bad actor/liar. This weekend, however, required major covert operations in order to celebrate Eric's 40th birthday in high style without his knowledge. Even the taxi driver was in on the surprise as I kidnapped him to his first helicopter ride to Victoria and onwards to Sooke for a relaxing and luxurious excursion at Sooke Harbour House.


The problem was that I had also promised to make him a cake of his choosing before deciding to spend his birthday out of town. Eric has an affinity for crab, biologically and gastronomically. Many of our travels, including this weekend, have involved tidepooling and in fact, we were engaged in Tofino in the rain, surrounded by a large party of star fish. Hence, he choose a crab-themed birthday cake to be served after our return on Monday, giving me a challenge, both technically and logistically.


Working with pastillage was the best choice since I needed a medium which allowed me to work well in advance. Using a live (later cooked and eaten) Dungeness crab model, I shaped the leg segments by hand from pastillage which were airbrushed with my new Aztek airbrush system which I love. The sides of the gift box (and a lid with bow which I forgot to photograph!) were also made of pastillage.


The cake itself was also made in advance and frozen after being masked in buttercream. An 8" x 8" square cake served as the gift box interior and the crab's body was carved from a 6" diameter round cake. Three layers of chocolate cake and two layers of pistachio dacquoise were sandwiched by dark chocolate ganache, passionfruit curd, and pistachio mousseline. After returning home on Sunday night, I covered the crab's body in rolled fondant and airbrushed the final details. Don't you love its smiling face?


The element of surpise with Eric's Crab birthday cake was not the cake itself since it is impossible to hide multiple crab parts littered throughout the kitchen from the husband. Instead, the expectation was that this cake was to be served at a small family dinner Monday evening; however, I stealthily planned to present the Crab to him at work Monday morning which meant I only had a rushed few hours to assemble, photograph, and deliver the Crab intact. With only a few minor hiccups, the Crab was a hit, finally cut and consumed after great initial reluctance to destroy it. Happy Birthday Eric! Forty is the new thirty!

15 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

So cute!!

Happy birthday to Eric!!

Fionna said...

Cute! And yummmmm! Love the smile and flavors. :)

jennifer said...

adorable! crabs are yummy...as are cakes! crab cakes must be even better. the airbrushing job you did is amazing.

Audax Artifex said...

What an effort you did for Eric "your better half" as they say in Australia you must really love him!!!! What a fab job you have done on the cake and the crab. Excellent photos you must be very pleased!!!!!!

: irene : said...

wow, that's amazing! do you just use food coloring in your airbrush system?

flutterbyblue said...

This cake looks AMAZING (and really delicious!)

Perry Strange said...

aaaaa! so cute...

... I don't usually do cute... but... Smiling Crustacean! Adorable!

Hungry Gal said...

This cake looks really cool. You would give that Ace of Cakes guy a run for his money. ;)

Fahrenheit 350° said...

Step by Step please! Amazing!

mandacorry said...

Which model of Aztec airbrush did you buy? I have been wanting to get an airbrush for awhile but have not gotten any first-person feedback. So you use liquid gel color?

☾ Ash ♡ said...

That is amazingly impressive!

Charmaine said...

mandacorry: I have the A4709 model and so far, it's great. You need to use specific edible colourings made for airbrushing, not gel. KopyKake and Americolor make airbrush colours that I know of.

i bake for you :) said...

The cake looks amazing, and I'm sure it tasted as good as it looked!

I love the crab! It's so adorable! :)

I'm very tempted on diverting away from eyes and into pastry and cakes right now even though I'm already 3/4 of my way through to graduating from an optometry degree.

Jess said...

Charmaine! I love the crab cake! I found your site looking at macarons on Tastespotting. I am a medical student, soon to be ophthalmology resident. I saw that you used to be an ophthalmologist. Why did you switch and how long ago? That cake is fabulous! My BF would die! He loves crabs too!

jasmin said...

I have just stumbled upon your blog and I have to congratulate you on your amazing cakes and photography - well done, Charmaine - absolutely brilliant. As I'm contemplating my very own move away from a corporate job into something more creative I can only hope I am half as inspired/ing as you are! All the best from across the pond. jxx