Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The doors

In Grade 4, I watched Poltergeist at a birthday party and could not sleep for three nights, convinced that trees and clowns would attack me. What followed was a solid avoidance of scary movies (as well as TV commercials for scary movies) for many years, until it became my spousal obligation to view The Shining, the 1980 classic directed by Stanley Kubrick.

The doors of The Shining cake

As a result, I was actually quite prepared when asked to create a cake for a major fan of The Shining. I even do a great imitation of Shelley Duvall waving her knife around in a deadly panic. Thankfully, I was essentially given carte blanche in the design and after some reflection, I realized that there were many doors of significance throughout the movie. And what better way to feature doors than on a "cube"-like cake (get it, KUBRICK?)?

The doors of The Shining cake - bathroom & elevators

One of the most memorable scenes is when Jack violently axes his way through the bathroom door. This is actually the same door on which Danny wrote REDRUM in lipstick. I can still hear that freaky growly voice echoing in my head. Behind the doors of Room 237, some of the most disturbing scenes of the movie occurred, reminding us all to never approach strange naked women in bathtubs. Finally, the most vivid image of the movie for me was the torrent of blood rushing out of the distinctive red elevator. I gave the birthday boy a bag of bloody piping gel to squeeze onto the cake right before serving so unfortunately, none is shown in my photos.

The doors of The Shining cake - REDRUM & Room 237

This proved to be a project where the beauty was in the details. Much time was spent reviewing images in order to perfectly match each door knob, door molding, and wall pattern. Serendipitously, the movie was actually on TV the night before the cake was to be ready, and I realized that the apartment wall was actually pink, not white. My favourite item was the top of the cake, representing the memorable bold pattern of the hotel hallway carpet, which was made by piping and flooding royal icing onto a dried fondant square.

The doors of The Shining cake - carpet pattern

Here are the technical details: the cake was 4" x 4" x 6", layers of espresso chocolate cake, dark chocolate mousse, and hazelnut crunch. Every panel was made of dried fondant, later decorated with tiny fondant bits and royal icing details. It was intentionally constructed like this in hopes that the "box" created by the five panels would be lifted off the cake intact and potentially saved for future admiration! I have no clue if this happened but I certainly know that this cake was much loved by both its creator and its recipient.

Monday, July 12, 2010

All aboard

Dinosaur Train Birthday Cake - front

I seem to learn new things every time someone asks me to make a cake. The world of children's television is a mystery to me but with my introduction to the PBS show Dinosaur Train, I can see why kids these days are so enthralled with such captivating edutainment. Except for Sesame Street and 3-2-1 Contact (remember the Bloodhound Gang?), which I remember watching in the afternoons with my sister right after Three's Company re-runs, there was little else which was both fun and educational.

Dinosaur Train Birthday Cake - flying Tiny

A relatively simple buttercream-covered cake inspired by Dinosaur Train was requested so I decided to make fondant elements which could be removed easily before consumption. Tiny is a Pteranodon who is spreading her wings in the sky above the Dinosaur Train, manned by the Conductor, a Troodon with great knowledge of the dinosaur world. Seriously, I have never heard of these dinosaurs. I barely remember what a Stegosaurus looks like.

Dinosaur Train Birthday Cake - rear

I used royal icing on dried fondant shapes to create the train. Flourescent green Tiny was the most challenging to make, as those skinny arms, legs and neck made me extra cautious; however, the Conductor was my favourite since I can't resist animals that wear clothes! The cake itself was simple, just chocolate cake and dark chocolate mousse, masked in buttercream with piped italian meringue clouds. Because the train was too short to wrap around the entire 8" round cake, some prehistoric decor was added at the rear to fill things out. Who doesn't love a little lava? I heard that the cake was met with a chorus of squeals which is music to my ears! Happy Birthday Alex!

Dinosaur Train Birthday Cake - the Conductor