I was recently reminded of this particular adventure because Mr. Menace and I are gearing up to take on a similar challenge soon. To be honest, I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t already written about it – until I realized that it predates the blog! That’s right – I was undertaking crazy food challenges for no reason other than the pleasure of it. (rather, I should say WE were taking on crazy food challenges – Mr. Menace was deeply involved in this project.) Madness, I know.
This particular adventure had its genesis in several different things that were going on at the time. The first is that we were reading a lot of Cake Wrecks, an incredibly funny blog that details some of the worst professionally designed cakes you’ve ever had the misfortune of paying for. On Sundays, however, Jen showcases good cakes – great cakes, in fact – masterpieces of confectionery beauty. Known as Sunday Sweets, these cakes showed that given the right tools and a good eye, baked goods can be sculpture.
Our second inspiration was the grand opening of the Museum of Toys and Pop Culture – or MOTAP, as it is affectionately called. MOTAP is the brainchild of our good friend the Toynerd and Mr. Menace, and it is a showcase for pretty much the most amazing collection of toys and other pop cultural ephemera you’ll ever see. If you’re local to the Boston area I highly recommend coming to the grand opening of the latest exhibit – an unparalleled collection of all things Captain America! Trust me, even if you’re not particularly into comics or toys there’s something amazing about the range of toys, products, and weird crafts dedicated to Cap all being collected in the same room. It’s being curated by my friend Garth of 110 Everywhere, and the grand opening on July 23rd (that’s this coming Friday!) will feature special cupcakes by myself and Mr. Menace! Visit either Garth’s blog or the MOTAP site for details. END MASSIVE MOTAP PLUG.
I digress. This post is about the FIRST MOTAP exhibit, and what Mr. Menace and I created for it. The theme of that very first exhibit was a little movie (and toy franchise) that you may have heard of. It takes place in a galaxy far, far away…
Yep, they opened with a bang and the biggest collection of Star Wars toys and memorabilia you’ve ever set eyes on – completely fitting since it was a massively successful example of movie merchandising. We pondered an appropriate food, but it was tough – Star Wars doesn’t really immerse the viewer in the lives of its characters in that way. Hard-core Trekkies can tell you what Klingons eat, and even Futurama has Bachelor Chow and Popplers. But can anyone tell me what a Wookiee likes to snack on? The only remotely food-like thing we could come up with was Blue Milk, and that’s a drink (which I successfully made with blue curacao, creme de cacao, and cream – actually a cocktail known as the Bluetail Fly. I thought they were horrible but they were gone quickly, proving that other people like sweet drinks more than I do.)
That was when our thoughts turned to Cake Wrecks and the possibility of sculpting a cake into a character or scene from Star Wars. Mr. Menace is quite a talented artist and sculptor and felt that he could learn to work in cake. I was nervous as I am better at making things that taste good than look good, but agreed that by combining our talents we could probably pull it off. We tossed back and forth ideas of who or what to represent, and initially decided on the Death Star – it seemed fairly simple, after all. In order to get the round shape we ordered a cake pan that would make two hemispheres – it was originally intended to make a baseball cake. We were excited to start, until we received the package – the pan was ridiculously tiny! A sad Death Star indeed would have been the result. We were back to square one, when it hit us.
R2D2’s head is a dome shape. A hemisphere, if you will.
Hurray! We were back on, and could still use the freaky-tiny dome shaped pan we’d bought. Half of it, anyway.
I did some diligent research on similar cakes, feeling that it had to have been done before. (This is my other great strength in such a project, besides tasty baked goods – I am a meticulous researcher. Why kill yourself trying to recreate the wheel?) While I didn’t find anything quite like what we had in mind, there were enough similar cakes out there to cobble together a design that would work with both the materials we had at hand and our limited skills – remember, neither of us had ever attempted anything of the kind before. I can barely frost a cake properly, let alone make it look like a beloved character.
We started by making several round yellow layer cakes, along with the domed top. This took many hours of tedious baking, since a. spherical cakes take a LONG time to set and b. I insist on making everything from scratch. When these were cool we stacked them on top of each other with dowels inserted through the middle for sturdiness and frosted the heck out of it with butter cream:
The base is made of cardboard, not cake, for additional support.
Next we added the legs, which Mr. Menace made from Rice Krispy squares sculpted into the appropriate shape. He tackled the making of the squares since I’d run out of time with the cakes. This was one of the tips I’d picked up in my research!
(tiny R2 is there for reference!)
Next we wrapped the whole shebang in white fondant. I’m personally not a huge fan of the stuff, but for a smooth-looking base it was key! I mixed a silver wash from edible dusting powder and painted his dome.
He was on his way!
All in all, this was an incredibly fun (though at times frustrating!) project to work on together. Though perhaps not Sunday Sweet worthy it was pretty danged good for a first attempt and folks at the opening were suitably impressed.
Our Cap cupcakes will probably be a bit less detailed, but we’re dreaming up our next challenge – maybe a Halloween cupcake? Perhaps the Red Menace himself? Now that we know what’s possible, the sky’s the limit!
Since this post is already lengthy, here’s a shot of friend The Goog of Copious Collections enjoying the Blue Milk!