Friday, August 19, 2011

Dan's Graduation Cake

It has been a while since I have posted and have a lot to catch up on. This past June, Dan graduated from Lehigh University with his MBA. He had been working on this since before we got married. I was very proud of him and wanted to give him a cake for his party that was both appropriate and celebrated the occasion. He said a simple stack of books would be fine, but I thought he deserved something grander--not just a few books, but a laptop computer, a fondant figure of Dan, and some other chocolates too.
The bottom two books are chocolate cake with peanut butter cream filling and covered in chocolate buttercream. The computer is a vanilla cake with a white chocolate raspberry filling. The cakes were covered with fondant and the figure is also out of fondant.

The hats around the edge of the board are Reese's peanut butter cups attached to Ghirardelli chocolate squares. I attached them together with melted chocolate. Once the chocolate cooled, I flipped them over and piped on the tassels with yellow tinted royal icing. Lehigh's colors are brown and gold so I could use chocolate as is. If the colors were different I might have melted down colored chocolate into molds to make the hats.

The two books were made from a single cake baked in a 9x13 cake pan. I made my usual chocolate batter for this cake. Once the cake was baked and cooled, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it refrigerate overnight. Doing this made the cake easier to cut and stack. The next day I cut the cake in half. Each half was divided and filled. To fill the cake, I piped a line of chocolate buttercream around the edge of the cake and filled the outline with peanut butter buttercream. This was done on both books. I positioned the books on the final cake board where I wanted them. Once the books were filled, stacked, and positioned, the cakes were coated with the chocolate buttercream.


I rolled out white fondant to make the pages of the book. I wanted to have square corners so I had the pieces of fondant meet at each corner. I used a fondant tool to make lines to look like pages of the book. Later in the process, I used a sponge and some food coloring to give the pages a more aged look. I didn't like the stark white color. I wanted the books to look used since it was for a graduation and not the start of school.


The next step was to put on the cover of the books. I rolled out chocolate fondant and cut it so it overlapped the pages. Then I used a Wilton ribbon cutter to cut 1/8 inch strips to place around the edge of the pages to look like the bottom cover. I used some water to attach the strips to the white pages and to attach the cover, making it look like the cover wrapped around the book. Once both books were covered, the cakes were refrigerated so they would be solid when I stacked to computer on top. It is also easier to peg a solid cake then a soft one. The pegs are also more likely to go in straight.

For the laptop computer cake, I made a vanilla butter cake in the same size pan as I made the books in. I trimmed a piece of cake board to the size I needed. I placed this board on the books to make sure the computer would fit on top before I cut the cake. The cake was cut to the size of the board. The cake was then split and filled. For this cake, I made a white chocolate buttercream. I piped a line of the buttercream around the edge of the cake. A thin layer of raspberry seedless jam was evenly spread on and then it was covered with a layer of the white chocolate buttercream. The top of the cake was then put on. I cut out a section for the keys of the keyboard (after determining the proper size to fit all the keys) and then crumb coated the whole cake and refrigerated it.

The next step was to cover the keyboard with gray tinted fondant. Once this was covered, I cut out the keys with a square cookie cutter. For the larger keys, like the space bar, I did not push down the cutter all the way so I could combine multiple squares and keep the sizes consistent. Once all the keys were positioned in the area on the computer, they were glued down with a little water. The letters of the keys were piped on with a number 1 tip and royal icing. Dan told me the letters as I piped so I wouldn't get confused or pipe the wrong letter. We tried to make it a fairly realistic keyboard.


I was very unsure on how to do the screen of the computer. I decided to go with foam board. I covered it with the same gray fondant that I used for the main computer. I used royal icing to stick the edges on the foam board. I didn't use any royal on the back which later I found out was a mistake, since the back started to sag once it was in place. I printed out a logo from the school and made a fondant replica, using the same cut-out technique I used for the logos on my Suitcase Cake. That logo was placed on the back of the monitor with more royal icing. On the screen part, I cut out yellow fondant letters and stuck them on with royal icing. To stick the monitor into the computer part of the cake, I used a knife to cut a long, thin hole in the top edge of the cake. Once the covered foam board was in place, it started to pull away from the cake. I took it out and stuck toothpicks all along the bottom of the board. Once it was place back in place, I pushed two toothpicks through the cake into the board and filled the area around the board in with some royal icing. This held the board in place and didn't cause any more issues to the cake. I used a piece of black fondant on each side of the back of the computer to cover the toothpick holes. Since I had to take the screen out twice to get it positioned correct, I damaged the fondant on the front. Since I didn't have the time or extra fondant to fix the damage, I made to yellow squares to cover up the damage and wrote notes on them. They looked like post-it notes and worked with the design. This cake was also place in the refrigerator to firm up.


To stack the cakes, I placed wooden dowels in the books to support the weight of the computer. I did not stick the cake down with any royal icing until it was delivered. I wanted to transport the books and computer separately. Once it was stacked, I piped words on the books in yellow royal icing. The books had the year, the program he was in, and a symbol of the honor society he was in.


Once this was done, I started work on the figure of Dan in his gown. I used floral wire to make a skeleton to build a body on. From there, I just built on some skin colored fondant to make a body, arms, and legs. I covered the body with a brown gown and made half circles to cover the arms giving him long sleeves. I added light brown shoes. The head was made separate and detailed with a paint brush and food coloring. I used the same brown fondant to make the cap. I used black fondant rolled very thin to make the glasses. He was stuck onto the cake with a toothpick and some royal icing.

Laurie absolutely blew me (and everyone else at my graduation party) away with this graduation cake. People were actually upset that we went to cut it because it looked so good, but I think they changed their minds after we served it and everyone realized how delicious both flavors were. When we did finally cut it, everyone crowded around us to watch the cake-cutting like it was a wedding! Laurie also made a whole plate of other cookies and treats too, which isn't pictured here--chocolate chip cookies, more of the candy graduation caps, and some sugar cookies shaped like diplomas and graduation caps. It was a great party, and the cake was definitely the featured piece.

LESSONS LEARNED:
1) Make sure you stick fondant on to any material you are using. Gravity is not your friend with fondant
2) Research before you try something new. I did a lot of research to see how to make the screen of the computer. Even with research, it took some trial and error to get the screen positioned correctly
3) Make sure you plan how you are going to transport the cake before you stack it.
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1 comment:

  1. Holy cow, sure wish you had a branch out here! Your skill and ambition are amazing... Emily wants a princess cake for her birthday and I think I am going to have to find an easy way out (without going all the way to buying a cake!) since my cake skills are nowhere near yours.

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