My customers frequently challenge me in terms of the designs they ask for. In the last twelve months alone I have been asked for everything from Optimus Prime, edible Lush Bath Bombs and caravans to Lady Gaga, chandelier wedding cakes and Art Deco Flapper dresses.
One such challenge was the first of this week's cakes. The recipient is a huge fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula - the film featuring Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves - so the brief was to recreate the original movie poster artwork.
I had a rough idea how I would do this one. Essentially I had a couple of options: I could print an edible image of the entire graphic onto an icing sheet and just stick that onto a round cake. Alternatively I could "animate" the gargoyle with fondant or modelling chocolate, basically modelling it and cutting out the Dracula lettering by hand. I decided to go for the latter as I knew if I got it right the effect would be much better. More time consuming, but much more effective.
The gargoyle took a few attempts as I my modelling chocolate was very sticky and frankly, there was more on my hands than on my work surface. (This is because I'd complained earlier that day that my studio was freezing cold, so I'd put the heating on. Rookie mistake.)
So, instead, I decided to work it in fondant. Often sculpting with fondant doesn't work as it's much harder to blend in joins and cracks than with chocolate, but for this, I actually liked the cracks visible as the gargoyle is supposed to look like stone.
I was fairly happy with the first attempt at this, but I decided to leave it overnight to set before I decided whether I was going to paint and dust it properly.
The next stage was the baking of the cake which needs no explanation (hint here, don't forget to add the eggs, like I forgot to do with a cake the other week, then wondered why it looked weird and wasn't rising - I blame tiredness!) but as the cake was cooling, I applied the first layer of colour to the gargoyle's head. It was quite patchy and blocky at the point - the shading will be done when this coat is dry.
So, the next day I made some zingy lemon buttercream, some lemon syrup and I torted, drizzled and filled the cake. Then as the layers were settling, I rolled the gum paste for the Dracula letters. I find when cutting sugar and gum paste it is best to roll it to the required thickness, then let it air dry slightly before cutting, otherwise it can drag as you slice. And the knife blade has to be sharp. (And given that it is sharp, don't then do what I did last week, and run your thumb over it to wipe off bits of sticky sugar. Because there will be blood which meant I had to down tools for 24 hours. I am that daft sometimes.)
There is a lot of waiting for things to dry in cake-making. You get used to managing your time effectively. (Or sometimes when it's hot and I'm impatient, I leave my studio, go downstairs and hang out with the Gallery owners for a bit!)
As I waited for the red gum paste to be dry enough to cut, I ganache my cake with a creamy white chocolate ganache. Then, as this was setting in the fridge, I went back to the letters and cut them out. By the time they were cut, the ganache was hard enough to cover in fondant. As the picture above shows a sort of stone-effect, craggy background, I decided to marble my fondant using a mixture of white, chocolate brown and pale yellow.
After applying the fondant and smoothing any noticeable bumps, I then distressed it with a dusting of colour then brushed it with alcohol to "drag" the colour. Then I added the gargoyle, stuck the lettering in place and left it alone to dry and set.
And here is the finished cake. (Before it was delivered I did a couple more tweaks on the colouring of the gargoyle, just adding a bit more light and shade!)