Monday, July 20, 2009

Reaching new heights

Giraffe cake

It has been a challenge to do anything in my narrow kitchen lately because there is a large 4-drawer lateral filing cabinet smack in the middle of it. No, I typically do not file my documents in the kitchen but because of the ongoing saga that is our hardwood floor installation, cake making has been even more formidable than usual. Despite these circumstances, it was hard to refuse a request for a giraffe baby shower cake because of its cuteness potential and my determination to make a really tall cake.

Giraffe cake - head closeup

Luckily, the giraffe requested did not need to be standing (which would have been a big problem since carpentry is not my forte). Instead, a sitting giraffe munching on leaves was definitely doable in my hands since I prefer to use as few non-edible structural elements as possible in my cakes. Wood just isn't that tasty.

Giraffe cake - leaf closeup

The body of the giraffe was constructed as a three-tier chocolate cake with chocolate mousseline (top tier 4" round, bottom two tiers 6" rounds). After stacking, the shape was carved and masked with buttercream. Meanwhile, the head and skinny legs were made of Rice Krispie treats. Everything was eventually covered in rolled fondant and hand painted to resemble giraffe print.

Giraffe cake - right tilt

Ultimately, the giraffe was at least 18" tall, although I neglected to measure the actual final height and only remember that it barely cleared the top of my fridge. My favourite details are the giraffe's ears and the leafy branch. I did not envy Sam who was charged with transporting the cake a fair distance to a warm and sunny outdoor luncheon nowhere near a refrigerator. So far, I have not received any reports of a cake disaster so I assume that all went well. Congratulations Krystal and Yannick!

Addendum: After sitting in the hot sun for several hours, eventual demise ensued as heat-induced decapitation did occur.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In flight

Ezra's Helicopter Cake - sunny side

Having only recently taken my first helicopter ride in March, I was excited about this week's project, a birthday cake for Ezra, a two year old who has a love for aircraft. You may remember the cake I did for his sister, Simone.

Although Ezra's mom is a supreme chocoholic, we decided to feature more summery flavours and ended up with vanilla cake, passionfruit mousseline, and fresh strawberries in a tall 6" round size. The helicopter was constructed from Rice Krispie treats which I carved and covered with fondant. Since a helicopter can not be a helicopter without a spinning propeller, a manually functioning propeller was fashioned with the help of one toothpick.

Ezra's Helicopter Cake - rainbow side

Ezra just went on a big camping trip so I decided to set the flying helicopter against a fondant landscape of mountains, trees, and lake. Puffy Italian meringue clouds completed the scene. As anticipated, the children poked the clouds before the cake was even served and the propeller eventually broke from overspinning, but the cake was succesfully devoured, so I am told. Happy Birthday Ezra!

Ezra's Helicopter Cake - closer

Monday, July 6, 2009


For Nadia

There has been little activity in the home kitchen lately because of our recent vacation to Chicago and New York, compounded by the unpredictable timing of our hard wood flooring installation. Despite having a large 4-drawer lateral filing cabinet smack in the middle of my narrow galley kitchen, I managed to produce this cherry blossom-inspired bridal shower cake for my dear friend Nadia.

view from the top
We met sixteen years ago as summer students working in the same research lab at UBC, spending many entertaining hours together growing fungus, bubbling agar, and inadvertently killing plants that summer. She even drove me to the police station once so I could file a police report (don't worry, it was nothing serious). Years of pharmacology classes and medical school followed and despite being in different cities during residencies and fellowships, we have always stayed in touch, making Nadia one of the most considerate and reliable friends I have (and without question, the smartest person I know although she will hate me for saying that).

a slice

Knowing that Nadia likes pistachio, I featured a pistachio mousse and pistachio sponge with layers of vanilla panna cotta, milk chocolate mousse with cocoa nibs, and chocolate cake. Cherry blossom decor consisted of chocolate rolled fondant branches and pink marzipan blossoms. Vancouver has been unseasonably warm lately and I was convinced that the cake would melt en route to the restaurant in my un-air conditioned black car which normally bakes outside on the street. Luckily, no melting occurred and following a delicious multi-course Italian luncheon, the cake was served and enjoyed (although, thankfully, I was not present to witness its consumption since I had to leave early). Congratulations Nadia!

cherry blossom detail