Wednesday, February 16, 2011

30th Birthday Suitcase Cake

A good friend of ours asked me to make the cake for his 30th birthday party. He wanted it to reflect his personality and interests. He gave me a list of all the things he likes and wanted represented on the cake (he sent me emails of all the logos/symbols he wanted included). Since it was such a jumble of unrelated things, I gave him three options on how I thought we could incorporate them onto the cake and have it still look cohesive. First, I could make a basic sheet cake and just cover it will symbols of all his favorite things. Second, I could go with a tiered cake and make each tier a different theme to represent his likes. Third (and the one we went with) was to make a cake shaped like a suitcase and put all his favorite things on like stickers all over the suitcase. He also wanted a figure of his dog on top. It was a big order for me and I was really excited to try it. I had never made a carved cake like that or a figure of a dog, so not only was it a large cake but it had some new challenges for me in it too!

30th Birthday Suitcase Cake

I get asked all the time how long it takes to make a cake like this, so I'll explain the process with a timeline to give you a general idea. I like to break it up so I don't get bored with it or get sloppy because I'm rushed. This cake was for a party Saturday afternoon. First thing I do is bake the cakes on Wednesday afternoon. I let them cool down all the way on a rack, wrap them in plastic, and put them in the refrigerator overnight to get cold and firm. I also started to make the fondant logos for the case. They were pretty dry the next day when I went to put them on the case but I knew they were going mostly straight up and down so I wouldn't have to bend them to fit. This means I wouldn't leave any cracks.

There are a lot of ways to make the logos. Some shops have a printer that prints on edible paper with edible ink. You can go to a shop and ask them to print out items for you (for a fee). Some chefs will paint them onto a flat piece of fondant, gum paste, or combination of the two. Others will overlay the different colors of fondant or gum paste on top of each other to make the logos. I find that the edible paper tastes funny and doesn't look as nice. When you overlay fondant on fondant you get a pretty thick logo that you then add on top of more fondant. I personally think that is just too much fondant. Since some of these logos were very detailed, I didn't want to use gum paste since it dries fast. I chose to inlay the fondant into each color. It takes time but I really like the finished look.

Fondant Greenday American Idiot Logo

For example, on this American Idiot (the Greenday Musical) logo, I printed out the logo on thick paper. I then took a piece of black fondant, rolled it thin and wrapped it in plastic wrap. I placed the printed out logo on top of the black fondant and cut out all the white areas with a X-Acto knife. I then rolled white fondant out, covered it with plastic wrap and used the paper with the holes I just made to cut out the white. I then just placed the white cut-outs in the black holes. I did the same process with the red for the final effect.

The next day, I make the buttercream, dessert syrup and any other fillings. This cake had a chocolate buttercream. I used my normal Italian buttercream recipe and added 90 grams of good quality melted sweet chocolate at the end. I never had a request for chocolate buttercream so Dan got to be a taste tester before I used it. (Note from Dan: Yum. Please, if you ever want Laurie to make a cake for you, feel free to go with chocolate buttercream. You'll be happy and so will her official taste-tester.) The advantage to chilling the cakes overnight is that they are easier to cut and less likely to fall apart as I stack them. On Thursday, I also filled, stacked, and covered the cake. I like to do this for a few reasons: it gives me a full day to decorate the cake and also gets the cake cold and firm so it is easier to decorate. Since I wanted the British flag on top to look like it had some movement when it set on the suitcase, I made first it and placed it on the cake right away. This way I could move it around and it would not crack. I then placed the cake back in the refrigerator to get cold overnight. I also worked on the logos at night on Thursday. I had about 4 of the logos done by Thursday night.

Friday was my decorating day! I put all the little detail touches on the suitcase such as hinges on the back, a handle on the front, dark brown edging with stitch marks using a fondant decorating tool, and yellow corner caps with black rivets. I also put a line around the whole case which showed where it would open if it were a real suitcase. I finally added all the logos around the cake. I also made a luggage tag with a Happy Birthday message. Finally, I had to make the fondant model of their dog for the top of the cake. This was a long process that merits its own post, which you can look forward to in a day or two! Finally, I placed the dog on top.

Fondant Dog Sculpture

I like to get my cakes done the night before they are due so that they are nice and firm for delivery. It also gives me the morning if anything needs to be fixed. 

Below are the photos of the other 3 sides of the cake. On the back, you can see logos/stickers for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oasis, Israel, and a special message that our friend requested. On the one side, there's a logo for the Philadelphia Union and American Idiot the Musical. On the other side, there's logos for Penn State and Leeds United Football Club. All the way back at the top of the post, you can see on the front of the cake there was a NBA logo along with the handle, lock, and luggage tap. And of course on top there's the British flag and the fondant model of their dog.
30th Birthday Suitcase Cake with Philadelphia Eagles, Oasis band, and Israel stickers

30th Birthday Suitcase Cake with Philadelphia Union and Greenday American Idiot sticker logos
30th Birthday Suitcase Cake with Leeds United Football Club and Penn State sticker logos

1) When placing paper over fondant, make sure you have plastic wrap between or the fondant will stick to the paper. I had to start over a few logos because of this mistake.
2) When piping wording on something make sure it is facing the correct way before you start piping. I wrote on the luggage tag only to later realize that it was upside down.
3) Don't get too bogged down with all the little details. I wanted to keep adding more.

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