Last week we celebrated a friend’s birthday, but this week we celebrated my man candy’s well deserved promotion to Lieutenant Commander!! And we did it on top of a 10,000 ft. high mountain. (Which I have to admit was seriously cool, despite my many, many objections.) To have such an important celebration on top of the highest point on the island really brought home the magnitude of this event and made the whole thing extremely special.
However, there was another really cool part of this celebration: the after party (that I got to make a cake for)! A few years ago I made JP an Oreo birthday cake which he loved, but he only got to eat one slice before the rest was devoured by the party guests #sadpanda
I guess he’s been pining for it ever since because he asked me to recreate the flavors of the cake for his promotion party. He also asked for a very specific design, so I figured I’d share a little bit of my cake design process today.
With his promotion, he received gold oak leaf collar devices to denote his new rank on parts of his uniform. He asked me to decorate the cake with just a simple congratulatory message and an oak leaf, so he let me borrow the pins for a visual when I made my design sketch. I usually sketch out my cake ideas to help me gather my thoughts on which elements will look the best and form the most cohesive design (I tend to get super excited about all of the potential designs for a new cake and go overboard with all of my ideas and end up overwhelming myself) and to help me organize my time for whichever design elements I need to create. In this instance I really wanted the oak leaf to look as authentic as possible, so I made sure to sketch out every single vein from the pins to help me get a more realistic look on the final product.
The next step in the design process was to make a batch of good old fashioned Rice Krispies Treats from scratch. (I may or may not be chowing down on the leftovers as I type. Hint: I am.) I used the oak leaf sketch as a stencil to carve out the shape of it into the treats, stopped for a photo op while taste testing the product, then I frosted the leaf shape with the cookies-n-crème buttercream that I made, and covered that with fondant.
The layer of buttercream added a delightful squishiness for me to work with when adding detail. I placed my drawing of the oak leaf on top of the fondant and used a dresden
tool to trace over all of the veins to leave an imprint in the fondant, then I painted it with my own special blend of Americolor gold sheen Amerimist and Luxe Cake gold highlighter luster dust (a little shout out for some of my favorite products!) to make a glitzy gold paint for the oak leaf cake topper. (I’m not kidding when I say that I love this combo. I used it on my own birthday cake, on a client’s fairy cake, and on two other birthday cakes for friends!)
The next piece of the puzzle was the cake board. I didn’t want it to be just a small, simple white board like the oak leaf is resting on in this photo, because come on! A promotion of this magnitude needs a cake board with some pizzazz! But I didn’t have a thick cake drum either (specialty items like that are hard to get on the island with any sort of speed) so I improvised! I taped together two thin white boards and covered them with gold foil to add just one last decorative touch without changing the cake.
My very last step was the most challenging for me. Writing on cakes is so nerve wracking for some reason so usually I just don’t offer to do it. But since this cake was a specific request from my man candy, I agreed to write on it. I have to admit, I made about 6 attempts (including one attempt where I had to scrape all of the writing off the cake and smooth out my blue cookies-n-crème buttercream again) to get this writing correct by using a transfer method.
Basically what I did was write the word “Congratulations” on my sketch pad in sharpie so the color would bleed through the paper. Then I flipped the sheet over to the back, taped a piece of parchment over the page, and traced the word backwards in buttercream before popping it into the freezer to harden. To get the transfer method to work correctly, I had to pipe it backwards so that it would be correct when I flipped the parchment over and pressed the buttercream onto the cake. Maybe it was because I had to pipe backwards from right to left, but every time I made this transfer writing, I ended up disliking it so much that I would scrape it off and re-pipe it.
Eventually I just decided to suck it up and free hand pipe the writing directly on the cake (with extremely shaky hands) and I left it alone. In my opinion, it looks like a kindergartener wrote on the cake, but no one really looked like they minded as they were inhaling cake right after the group photo was taken so I’m going to call it a win! Also, I almost never cut my own creations but I agreed to cut this one, and apparently I was really happy about it.
So there you have it – a brief peek into the design process that I go through for most of my cakes. And though I had a great time sharing the story of how we've been celebrating a truly spectacular person who is very deserving of such an incredible promotion, (all while eating #cake!) I must run because I have another cake due tomorrow and I have to go through this design process all over again. Wish me luck!
Happy eating, y’all!
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