Saturday, August 8, 2009

Road Block Threadcake

A few weeks ago I learned of the Threadcakes contest from Threadless.  It definitely sounded like something that I should participate in, so my wife and I set about planning.  Having only made one carved and fondant cake prior to this cake (an armadillo grooms cake), we had no doubt that we’d get anywhere near to winning. 

The competition basically is to create a cake based upon one of the shirts that Threadless sells.  We decided upon the Road Block shirt.  It wasn’t so detailed that it would take forever to create or be hard to cover with fondant, but was interesting enough to make a good cake.  If you want to skip to the entry page at Threadcakes you can go directly there.

For the cake we used the chiffon cake recipe from the Culinary Institute of America’s Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft.  We used a store bought fondant for covering as well as store bought pre-mixed gum paste. We used a simple vanilla butter cream frosting rather than the more complicated icing I’d normally use.

Mise en place

Here is the mise en place for the cake.

Wet ingredients

The wet ingredients get measured out.  This is the first of two half-sheet cakes that we made for the cake.  Each half sheet cake used about 25 eggs.

Wet ingredients all mixed

The wet ingredients get mixed and then set aside.

Dry ingredients

Then it’s time for the dry ingredients.

Ingredients mixed

Then the wet meets the dry in slow increments.


And once again a merinque gets made.

Meringue getting folded in

And then folded slowly into the mixture to give it an extra fluffy texture.

Finished cake batter

There was so much batter that I wasn’t sure it’d fit into my large kitchen aid mixer, so for the first batch I ended up splitting the batter into two bowls.

Ready for baking

Then the batter goes into the pan and into the oven to bake.

After baking

Here is the cake after baking.  A half sheet cake is quite a large cake.

Cake corner close up

A nice close up of a corner of the cake.

Cake base gets started

Now comes time to start carving.  This is a leveled piece that is ready for frosting.  This piece will eventually become the base of the final cake.

Second layer for the base

The base gets frosted and stacked two cakes high.  The whole thing was then frosted and put into the fridge to harden the frosting so that applying the fondant is easier.

Coloring gum paste

Then it was time to color all the gum paste and fondant for the cake.  I did them all in one sitting and then set them aside inside plastic bags to keep them soft.

Forming the ice cream truck

Then it was time to frost and carve the ice cream truck for the cake.  It was three cakes high.

Iced ice cream truck

Here is the truck after carving and icing.

Rolling out fondant

This is the orange fondant for the base of the cake all rolled out.  I ended up doing a poor job of rolling and in the end you could definitely tell that the fondant wasn’t all of the same thickness.  I’ve earned a new appreciation for rolling pin spacers, though since the pieces of fondant was so large, I would have needed a larger rolling pin.  Also, you’ll notice here one of my favorite kitchen item, the rollpat.  It is basically a large version of a silpat that is specifically designed to roll things out on.  I don’t end up getting to use it often enough since I rarely have space for it to be laid out.  It is also the perfect surface for kneading bread.

Covered base

The base of the cake gets covered with the orange fondant.  We ended up getting tears at most of the corners.  Also, I’m not quite sure how to get the vertical edges to be perfect.  We ended up using kitchen scissors and cutting the excess down off the edges and then smoothing the pieces together.

Early walrus

Here is an early incarnation of the walrus.  We decided to make him out of rice crispy treat since it would be easier to shape that way than trying to carve cake.

Gum paste legs

Then it was time to make the ice cream man.  He is made entirely from gum paste.  These are early legs that turned out too large for the cake.  Also, we discovered that putting some vegetable shortening on your fingers and working a little into the gum paste will stop it from drying out so quickly or sticking to your fingers.

Drying gum paste

Here is the gum paste ice cream man drying.  Next to him is two sets of tusks for the walrus.  We made two because we weren’t sure of the final size of the walrus.

Shaping the walrus wrinkles

Here is the walrus after being covered with fondant and in the process of further shaping of the fondant.

Walrus underside

And just to prove that he is rice crispy treat, here is the underside of the walrus.

Cutting out windows

We put squares of the grey fondant onto the ice cream truck where the doors and windows would be.  Then covered the entire truck with white fondant and cut out the windows and doors.  After that we combined black gel food dye with vodka to create a dye to paint on the details of the truck.

Finished walrus

Here is the walrus with his large tusks and having been sprayed with some black spray food dye for shading.

All finished pieces

And here are all the final pieces, prior to assembling them on the cake.

The base

And now it’s time for assembly.  Here is the base of the cake.

Base and walrus

The walrus goes on first.

Base, walrus, and ice cream man

Followed by the ice cream man.

Adding dowels

Then we put some dowels into the cake to hold the ice cream truck up off the cake so that the wheels would look more realistic.

Adding ice cream truck

Then the ice cream truck went onto the cake.

Finished cake

Here is the final cake with all pieces on.

Walrus face

And a close up of the walrus’s face.

Ice cream man

And the ice cream man.

Ice cream truck

And the ice cream truck.

Alternate view of the cake

Here is the cake from a different view.  My wife insisted on painting on the headlights for the ice cream truck so that it’d be more realistic.

Piece cut out of the base

And then came the hard part.  For the competition you had to take pictures of you cutting into everything to prove that it was cake.

Piece of the base

This is the piece we cut out of the base.

Piece of the truck

And this is the piece cut out of the ice cream truck.

Ice cream truck with a piece cut out

This is ice cream truck after the carnage.

All in all it was a fun process, even if it took longer than we thought.  But we definitely learned a lot about cake decorating and got a new appreciation for those that do it for a living.

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