Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy 8th Birthday, Son #2!

Today is Son #2's birthday and that meant cake! He, of course, wanted a Harry Potter cake. The library does not have the Harry Potter cake pan (which is OK, because it's kind of lame) so he chose the open book pan. Over the week we brainstormed ideas about what kind of book it could be: a spell book, the Half-Blood Prince's potions textbook, etc. We finally decided that it would be fun to do the story within the story: Beedle the Bard's Tale of the Three Brothers from The Deathly Hallows. I was thinking I could make the book like an old illuminated manuscript--the question became how to do it in buttercream. I knew planning was involved so I made a life-size sketch to work out the word spacing and picture placement. Even so, you'll notice I had to leave off the title because I ended up enlarging the picture on the first page, and some words ended up taking up more space in frosting.
The cake itself is a quadruple vanilla cupcake recipe with the oil reduced by 1/4. This made for a fluffier cake that baked up nicely in 45 mins at 350. The icing is a single recipe of buttercream. But, at first I did not add any soy milk--this became the foundation icing for the pages. I wanted something thick and durable. I coloured about half of it with orange, yellow, and brown to make it look like aged paper. I spread it on and let it dry for 20 mins, then flattened the icing by pressing on it with a piece of parchment paper. I added some soy milk to the remaining icing for the text and pictures.
As for the pictures, I made cutouts of the figures and pressed them into the icing by gently pushing along the edges with a toothpick. I think this was a great method because it allows for fine detail and sharp edges. Basically I filled the depressions with icing (#1 tip again) which is easier than trying to keep a steady hand all the time.
The text icing is a mix of red and black and was piped on, letter by letter, with a #1 tip. I guess all that calligraphy as a kid paid off. The shading around the figures is done by thinning the colouring gel with vodka (a tip from one of my Facebook followers) and painting it one with a brush. I love this technique. The alcohol evaporates off and you get a wonderful watercolour effect. I also used this technique to colour in the brother standing at the back. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but his figure is depressed into the icing and has no buttercream. So you get a sense of depth in colour and in actual relief. I used a mix of blue, purple, and black.

The vines are moss green and piped on using a #3 tip. The page edges is the leftover moss green and blue shadow icing mixed together.
All in all, this was a very fun, but pretty hard, cake to make. I liked the artistic challenge of making something more original and it certainly got a lot of ooohs and aaahs from the neighbours we invited over to partake.