Sunday, 24 July 2011

A Cake Story

 On a few occasions I have alluded to the fact that my other writing life involves professional wrestling. Unsurprisingly, there are very few opportunities for wrestling and the rest of my life to mingle, so I was especially excited when Natalie at Bake and Destroy brought her SugarSlam wrestling-themed baking competition back for another outing. I don't consider myself a cake decorator. I can cook and bake but I generally find all that patience and steady-hand stuff mildly terrifying. When I found out Beth Phoenix was going to be one of the judges, however, I felt that I had to have a go and I had make it a cake for her.

This lady here is Beth Phoenix. Not only is she one of the most fantastic female wrestlers on the circuit, but she's also a lovely person. Wrestling, like all industries, has its fair share of bitching and back-biting, but I never hear anyone say a bad word against her. She's one of those clever ladies who manage to be tough cookies, humble and utterly sweet all at the same time. Cheesy as it may sound, she really does inspire me. Alright, that's quite enough girl-crushing for one day. Let's get to the cake.  
Beth's moniker is The Glamazon, so I gave it some thought and decided the only way to go was a princess cake where I could make her look mega-glam. I then fell into a state of panic, realising that I had no idea how to execute this idea. I was rescued by YouTube. I spent several hours trawling through the various tutorial videos, some of which were brilliant and some totally intimidating. Asking myself "What would Beth do?" I concluded that she would feel the fear and do it I did. I bought a Beth Phoenix action figure and an enormous cupcake mould to form the skirt and got started. 

The first challenge was deciding on the kind of cake that would bake best in this gigantic silicone mould. I had never baked using anything that deep before, so I wasn't sure if my tried and tested sponge recipe would work. I decided to try making a test cake to see how it would turn out. 

It worked! The middle was a little wet and doughy but I was extremely pleased and we scoffed the lot. The second cake didn't end so well. It cooked terribly and collapsed in the middle. Why didn't I just use the first one instead of eating it? This needed a rethink. I scoured the internet for lighter recipes and the consensus seemed to be that a chiffon cake would do the trick. The recipe I used can be found here. I suppose I could have just iced the dense, inedible cake. Nobody would have known. But I really wanted it to be something that could actually be eaten.

It worked! No, really this time. The final result has the texture of a large muffin rather than a standard sponge, but that's what makes it that much lighter. The picture on the right is what it looked like after cutting off the 'doming' seen in the picture on the left. And yes, I did eat the pieces I cut off. Baker's perks! On to the icing.


I've never worked with fondant icing before and, with hindsight, I wish I'd bought it ready made in a block or roll and had coloured it from there. What I actually did was buy the powdered fondant sugar and mix my own, before going on to try colour matching it to the action figure's outfit. It was a lot of work just getting the sloppy paste to a workable consistency, and that was before all the time I had to spend getting the colour right. By the way, that's not blood in the picture above, just food colouring. It was tough work, but not that tough. 

Once the fondant was finally rolled and cut to a suitable size, I made some flounces for the skirt from thin sausages of fondant and ran them from the waist of the skirt to the trim. This lifts the skirt of icing slightly, making it more like a real puffed-out skirt. I then covered the whole cake (including flounce sausages) in buttercream icing before carefully picking up the skirt circle and lowering it on top of the cake. This was easily the most stressful part of the whole process. I recommend rolling the skirt on a board to make it easier to pick up and slide off. The other problem I had here was that I'd taken so long about making, colouring and rolling the skirt that it was beginning to dry out and break a little. There were a few little cracks here and there that needed some manipulation and patch work. Still, I now had a skirt! 

Once the fondant had dried I began with the embellishments. The first thing I did was cover the whole cake in edible lustre. I discovered that you get a much more intense shine with this shimmering powder if the icing is slightly damp, but it makes it more difficult to move around if you put too much on in one spot. I'm glad I practiced on a few scraps first. As you can see from the picture on the right, I also added some puff sleeves. It helped to tie the upper and lower halves of the "dress" together. After that I made a Divas Championship belt from black fondant and a printed plaque and just went to town with my pink icing gun. I ended up reprinting the plaque and attaching it again for the final photos. The black icing had seeped through on the first one. The final version is below, and was flown to the Amazon photographed in my garden to give an Amazonian effect. 

It was by no means professional, but then, the rules of the competition stated that the concept would be more important than making it look professional. Considering this is the first time I've ever done anything like this, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out and I've learnt enough from my mistakes that I know I'll make a much better job the next time. I didn't win either the judge's choice or the people's choice awards, but that's okay. I lost to two very cool cakes and I think I just found a relaxing new hobby. I've won.

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