My new buddy Sonja asked me to make her daughter a cake for her fourteenth birthday party. We tossed around a few ideas, but eventually decided on a tiered cake with a big black spider on the top. I got inspired by this cake which was made by the I Dream of Cake bakery in San Fransisco.
After studying the photo for what seemed like several hours, I thought it was something I could replicate and could be a good challenge. I started with the spider about five days before the cake was due. I made the head and body out of rice crispy treats and formed the legs out of gum paste. I put the gum paste in a covered container which I now know was a bad idea. Since gum paste needs to dry out completely before using, covering it in an air tight container prevented that from happening and kept the legs somewhat hydrated. This meant that come Friday, when I was to cover the legs in fondant, it was a lot more difficult! I ended up having to slather the gum paste in a thin sheen of shortening to give the fondant something to stick to. The legs broke at the foot, knee and other random places. Albeit frustrating, it actually was a mixed blessing. Once it was time for me to assemble the spider, the broken pieces came in handy in getting the spider's feet to actually "stand" on the top tier.
Since I've struggled with covering a cake perfectly with fondant in the past, I thought it would be a good idea to get a lesson but I ended up canceling it after having an "ah-ha!" moment while doing of all things, housework. One evening as I was cleaning up my living room before bed, I was shaking out a large blanket over the round, cake-shaped ottoman. As the blanket floated up and over the ottoman, it fell perfectly over its surface, with the excess blanket falling on the floor. The top and sides were completely covered in the blanket and that's when I knew what I was doing wrong when I was covering my cakes! I wasn't rolling out the fondant big enough! By rolling the fondant larger than the cake, it couldn't help for cover the tops and sides of the cake evenly. Seems like a no-brainer but unfortunately it took me four cakes for the light-bulb to finally go on.
Once the cakes were properly covered in fondant, I thought it would be a good idea of etch the spider web into the surface before I piped it on. However after I was finished, I thought the cake looked really good just as it was and really didn't need the black spider webs piped on. It took me a few minutes to arrive to that conclusion though. I sat at the table with my piping bag set and ready to go. Each time I started to pipe, my hands started shaking and every part of me was telling me not to do it. I ended up using the black icing to create the glue I needed to stick on the adorable gummy eyes (left over Halloween candy) and the orange sprinkle smile.
The spider was supposed to be holding up a spiderweb shaped banner that was made out of gum paste and said Happy Birthday Maddy. But the banner broke in three pieces and I didn't have the time to make another one. Although you can't really see it in the photographs, the spider wasn't as "clean" as I wouldn't have liked. I find that it is difficult to cover rice crispy treats with fondant without your finger prints being visible. I tried to smooth them out, but most were still there. Perhaps it's just an experience thing. Anyone else need a cake? I need more practice! :-)