I guess you can sort of see they're books... (I hope so, anyway.) That's about the only kind thing I have to say about this decorating job. It looks pretty bad, in my estimation, but it certainly lived up to being a practice cake. Nearly all the techniques ended up not working. So at least I know not to use them on the Final Exam cake.
The co-workers are probably thrilled this is the last practice cake. However, I think it tasted good so I'm going out on a high note in that regard.
Note: The far left book and the second-to-left-book make one full title of a book. I just broke them up here to try a couple different ways to pipe the book names. Also, this cake is about 11" tall by 9" wide, by 6.5" deep. It was heeeeavy, probably over 20 pounds including the serving platter.
Details of the cake:
Three batches Siren's Chocolate Cake, all 9" x 13".
Each cake cut in half and stacked to create 3 tiers of 2 layers each, about 9" x 6.5" x 12" tall. (Carving the top removed some of the original height, of course.)
Syruped all cakes with 1/2 cup coffee liqueur.
Used Magi-Cake strips (the Wilton knock-off ones).
Used 4 batches of Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting from Baking Illustrated, with 3.5 oz Lindt 70% and the other 20 oz Nestle Semi-sweet chips, instead of milk chocolate.
Fondant (from Peggy Weaver's mm fondant recipe, with less sugar) and Chocolate Plastic (from the King Arthur Flour Cake Class) painted with Wilton's gel colors.
Used royal icing for piping, a mix between the recipes in The Cake Bible and Spectacular Cakes. Painted with lustre dust, but it's difficult to see.
Cake made about 2 weeks before serving. Syruped when cool, prior to storage. Stored at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
Chocolate Frosting made about 10 days before serving.
Cake assembled about 1 week before serving.
Cake decorated 1 day before serving.
- Left book: painted fondant. Looks like crap. Don't do that again.
- 2nd to left book: fondant rolled in cocoa powder and then painted. Worked extremely well, color-wise. Probably the staple in the Final Exam cake.
- 2nd to right book: painted chocolate plastic. Hard to get a distinct color difference on such a dark surface to start with.
- Right book: Choc plastic. Wonderful to work with, and most people like the taste better than fondant. If it took color better, it would be the staple. But I'll still use it liberally in the Final Exam.
- Texturing with vinyl and duck cloth (like canvas) didn't work too well after the fondant and choc plastic were on the cake. Can't really put them on before attaching to cake because I still have to smooth it down. But maybe not so much with the choc plastic. Try it again on the Final Exam.
- Royal icing piped onto the vertical parts had trouble adhering. Try a light coating of vodka or vanilla extract next time? Also, get a size 1 tip. Size 2 was slightly too large.
- Figure out a way to make the gold lustre dust accents more sparkly. Hard to tell it was gold.
- Get a lamp for decorating the cake. Even though the new(ish) dining room light is very bright, I couldn't get a good angle for the spine of the books. They were all in shadow, and I couldn't judge distance. That didn't help the royal icing adhere, believe me.
- Prepare extra choc frosting (ganache). Make at least 2 batches more so that there's enough from crumb coat and fondant/choc plastic adhesive.
- Making the cake 2 weeks before the Final Exam is fine. Even assembling it a few days in advance is ok. Must be the liqueur as a preservative, and the humid weather. (Rained all during practice cake construction, which was about a week.)
- Stable during transportation, even though it was a little top-heavy. Final Exam cake will be wider than tall, so it will have a better center of gravity.
- For decorating Final Exam cake:
1) Put on pages first. Roll out enough fondant to cover the two sides that will be pages, and drape over entire section. Cut slits where book covers will go, but don't remove page fondant. Paint before adhering other book parts.
2) For front and back covers of entire stack, roll out fondant and/or choc plastic, then wrap around spine and cover. Do not try to cover the top where the pages are.
3) Try piping on spines before adhering spines to books.
4) Paint on the lustre dust over white royal icing, don't try to incorporate it into royal icing.
5) Place each shelf of books on a smaller cardboard or plastic section before putting them onto the wooden shelves, which don't fit into the 'fridge.
6) Use edible flowers to cover messed up areas. (Hopefully that won't be the entire Final Exam cake.)
Good luck to me, I'm almost done! Working on the Final Exam cake as I post this one...