Introduction: The Witch's Kitchen Cake
This spooky Halloween cake may look diabolical but I can assure you, it tasted heavenly. The entire display is made of various sugar art techniques and recipes or other food products and is completely edible except for a couple of items used for supports and of course, the lighting. It sits on a custom wooden base that measures 18"x18" and the witch measures about 12" tall. The cauldron is chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing and the tree trunk is yellow cake with maple buttercream icing.
Let me start by saying, I'm not a professional pastry chef, nor have I had any culinary training. I just happen to love sugar art as a hobby! Because I like to try to do things I haven't seen before (or try to improve upon what I've seen), I learn through trial and error. This cake was no exception! I'll share with you each component of the project and what I think would work better next time. I've included as many details as I possibly can for those who are interested in learning more about the actual sculpting of the witch and execution of the construction process for this cake. I hope that it helps.
That said, this certainly isn't a project for a beginner. You'll need to have worked with fondant and gum paste and of course, be able to bake a cake. ;) If you need help learning to make and/or work with fondant, I have a link to my blog in my profile. In addition, you'll have to be comfortable with using power tools to build the base, else, just have someone build it for you. I did all of the work myself, with the exception of the actual cake assembly. You'll definitely need an extra set of hands for the last steps.
I am entering this cake into the DIY Halloween Contest, so if you like it, your vote is appreciated ;)
Step 1: Building the Cake Board Base
First off, have a well thought out plan. I had a pretty good idea of where everything was going to be placed, how big the cakes were going to be, as well as how the lighting would work in the cake. In addition, I built this base/cake stand with the intention of using it for a couple of future projects.
My "tree hugging" daughter will be glad to hear that almost everything I used, I was recycling and/or already had on hand. (exactly how many strands of Xmas lights does one really need to have on hand?) The only thing I had to buy was the PVC pipe and flanges. You will need:
1 MDF or other wood board cut to size and at least 3/4" thick (really, these cakes were heavy!)
4"x1/2" finished boards of inexpensive light weight wood, I used aspen pine
Velcro (even if you get self adhesive, you'll need to glue it or staple it)
Wood glue, duct tape, electrical tape, nails, screws
3/4" PVC pipe
1 small string of battery operated LED lights (for the witch's eyes)
1 small string of Xmas lights (I used electric because the battery operated ones I had were not bright enough)
Gift wrap or cake board wrap
Table saw or router (only if you want a removable bottom, but this isn't really necessary)
I started with an 18"x18"x3/4" MDF board for the top. Next, I used 4"x 1/2" aspen pine boards for the base that would house the extra lighting and switch. I used a table saw to cut a groove along the boards so that later I could add a 1/4" thick bottom that I would be able to remove completely if and when I needed to work on the electrical wiring. Next, using a miter saw, I mitered the ends of the aspen board to form a box that measured 13"x13" and set in with about 2 inches all the way around. That way, when it was finished (and turned over), I would have room to hold the sides and safely move the cake stand. I glued 3 sides of the "box" to the bottom with wood glue, and when dry, turned it over and secured them with small finishing nails.
For the "access" panel and for added support, I glued a brace piece across the open end. Then I glued pieces of velcro on the support piece as well as the access panel. You'll want to dry fit this first to make sure that your access panel will shut completely and securely. Hind site, I would have moved the brace support inward and put blocks on each side for the velcro contacts. Even without a bottom, there wasn't much room for my hands to fit underneath to make adjustments after the cake was assembled.
Next, I turned the stand over, upright. I marked where the witch and the cauldron would be placed. At this point, I already had the witch completed and I knew that I my cauldron cake would be at least 9" in diameter and would be at least 5-6 inches tall, from the base of the coal lights. (that's without the candy top) For both the witch and the cauldron, I used 3/4" PVC pipe and plastic plumbing flanges for the supports. Then I drilled holes in the cake board, using a 9/16" hole drill bit, where the wires would be threaded through the pipes. I made 2 smaller holes, using a regular large drill bit for the pumpkin lights. Where the cake base (flange) would sit, I drilled 4 holes in conjunction with the holes on the flange. The holes were just big enough to hold 2 orange lights each for the lighting of the fiery coals. (ok, that wasn't pre-planned, that was just lucky)
Sorry that I didn't get a photo of the top side pre-drilled, but I do have pics of the lighting in the next step.
Step 2: Adding the Lighting to the Cake Base
I painted the pedestal base black with acrylic craft paint and when dry, covered the bare top of the MDF board with a double layer of gift wrap. Then I pre-drilled two holes in each flange (one for the witch, one for the cauldron) so that they could be screwed to the board.
Next, I punched out the paper where the holes were for the cauldron base and screwed it into the base board. I measured and used the miter saw to cut the PVC pipe for the cake to about 5 1/2 inches. I fed the end of the light strand (that would light up the green goo on the cauldron) up through the pipe from underneath. My light string had a plug on one end and a receptacle on the other. So, I cut off the receptacle end and taped the wires individually with electrical tape. Of course, ideally, you would want to use a strand that ended with one light and not a receptacle. I just happened to use what I had on hand.
As for the color of the lights, you will have to make some decisions according to your cake design. My candy top was clear but tinted green, I had made this ahead of time to test out the recipe. Originally, I thought I would use green lights for the top, and orange lights for the bottom coals. But it turned out that it looked much better and brighter with the white lights when I did a little test run.
I ended up using about 10 white lights for the top and 8 orange lights for the bottom. This worked out perfectly and gave just enough light for the effects I was looking for. Originally, I was going to use two battery operated strands that I had, but when I did a test run with the candy piece and set the lights underneath it on a plate, the lights weren't strong enough at all.
Because I changed my mind and went with the electrical strand, I then had to go back and drill a hole in the access panel just small enough for the cord to fit through, so that it would sit level on the table. I think it's important to point out that when I designed the box, I was sure to place the access panel on the "back" side of the display.
The last step was to add some protection for the candy coal lights as well as something that would lift the cauldron cake up off the cake board. I ended up using an acrylic food canister container that I had because it happen to fit perfectly over the flange. I had to cut it down to size though, so I put a piece of masking tape all the way around and marked where I wanted to cut. I used a hand saw, cut through all the way around, then lightly sanded the edge. Next, I drilled a 3/4" hole so that the pipe would fit through the center. Now I had something for my cake to sit on that would also protect the lights from touching the cake or candy coals.
Now give your lighting a test run to be sure that everything is working. Also, in the photo I show the light string hanging out, but before the actual cake assembly, I pushed those wires back through the pipe so that when I put the cake on, it would touch the wires and they'd be protected.
Step 3: Making the Witch's Frame and Wiring the Eyes
I knew that the cauldron would be a 3 layer cake and planned on it being about 5-6 inches tall (that's not including the coals). So I planned my witch accordingly and made her to be about 12" tall in total. Although I plan on saving her, I still wanted to make her technically "edible" (that's part of the challenge, right?). This meant not having any wiring touching any of the edible portions.
I used a small string of battery operated Xmas LED lights for her eyes. I took a bendable soda straw, cutting off at least half of the long end, and a small portion of the short end. This way, I'd be able to bend it into position right before sculpting. Next I threaded two of the red lights up threw the end, Later, I would secure them in place with white electrical tape so that they wouldn't move during the sculpting.
For her body support, I cut another piece of PVC pipe to about 10 inches (sorry, I didn't measure, I guestimated). Of course our torch was out of propane, so I just used a candle and heated up the middle where her waist would be bent. (I wanted her hunched over) I did this a little at a time, heating then bending, until I got what was just a little less than a 30 degree angle. (just eyeball it) Then I gave it a good roughing up with some coarse sandpaper. This gave the pipe some "tooth" so that the food products I used would stick to it and not slide down the pole. I washed it really well with soap and water.
Next, I drilled a hole straight through where her arms would go. As you can see, I used soda straws again, only this time, fitting them together and utilizing the bendable portion of the straws for her joints. I tried to get close to anatomical proportions, but left them just a bit longer, knowing that once I sculpted the body I could just cut them shorter if and when needed. I also made sure the the piece that went through the pipe, went all the way through, then the other straw fit all the way into that one. Even still, I left myself a little bit of playing room in case I needed to make her shoulders more narrow or wider when I started sculpting.
After placing the arms in, then I took the "eyeball" straw and stuck it up through the pipe and behind the arm straws. I placed the PVC frame into the third flange and screwed it to the board so it would only serve as a stand. I had to cut the bottom of the wires so that when I went to put her on the cake board, all I had to do was feed the wire down through the pre-drilled hole on the board.
Now that the "work" was done, it was time to have some fun and sculpt the witch!
Step 4: Sculpting the Witch's Body & Head Base
I've sculpted fondant figures before, but never a size this big. I did know that fondant when soft, is difficult to sculpt without disfiguring your figure. So I had planned on using Rice Krispie Treats as a base form so that I could let that harden and it would serve as a solid foundation for the fondant covering. I used the recipe on the box, but left out the butter.
Rice Krispie Treat Base:
5 oz mini marshmallows
3 C Rice Krispies Cereal
Pour marshmallows into a large bowl and microwave for about 2 minutes then stir. Continue to microwave at 30 sec intervals until completely melted. Quickly stir in the cereal.
Working with this stuff can be a nightmare, so here are a few tips:
Place the mixture into a glass bowl and set it on a heating pad, that has been covered with a towel. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap then cover that with part of your towel. Set the heating pad to the lowest setting. This will keep your mixture from drying out and also keep it warm and pliable, giving you more time to sculpt with it.
Rub a little bit of shortening on your hands and fingers, and/or a little bit of water. This will allow you to handle it and get it stuck to the pipe without it sticking to you.
Start from the bottom and work your way up. I did a cone shape for the dress, then went all the way up the pipe just past the shoulders. Then I went back and added more here and there to get her shape. You'll want to really pack in the cereal, so that you have a pretty solid form. If needed, you can use a pairing knife or a pumpkin saw to carve in more details of the shape after it has hardened.
Whatever shape you are wanting, be sure to exaggerate it because you'll be covering it with thick fondant and you'll loose some of your "curves". For instance, I knew that I wanted a "hunch back" for aesthetic reasons but also in order for the cape to go flowing off of her back. I also had planned for her to have a hood, so I exaggerated the hump. This helped hold her hood up when I got to that step. Her "butt", I did for similar reasons. It allowed the bottom of the cape to rest on it, keeping it away from her body, thus giving her more dimension.
Ok, so the body was looking good. Next, it was time to move onto the head and neck. I used my personal fav, MMF (marshmallow fondant) and tinted it with a neon green food coloring. You can use store bought, however, it IS much cheaper to make your own. I really don't want to go into particulars here on how to work with fondant or make it (this tutorial is more about the cake construciton), but you can check out my blog at ddpiesslice.blogspot.com for the recipe and tons of details and tips including all of the fondant tools I use.
So, first I taped the eye lights with white electrical tape bending and shaping them into place. Then I taped them more securely to the straw. I started with only a small ball of fondant, shaping it around the eyes. I built on that using smaller torn pieces of fondant. Similar to how you see people creating head busts out of clay. This step only serves as a base for the rest of the head and face, so just worry about the general shape.
Next I shaped the neck and smoothed that down over the tops of the shoulders. I let the whole piece dry and harden over night before moving on to the next step.
Step 5: Sculpting the Fondant Witch
I began by adding more onto her head and then again, exaggerated some of the areas that would later be her main features. (think bone structure) So I concentrated on the eyebrow bones first, then pinched her nose, then her chin.
Next, it was a matter of pushing and shaping her cheeks using my fingers and thumbs, then when I got her basic face shape, I used a fondant tool to add in the details, like her nostrils and her lips. Then I gave more shape to her eyes and more detail there. I also added little rolls of white fondant for the whites of her eyes, and also, that served to be more of an anchor for the led lights. Using the fondant tool, I carved in some wrinkles around her mouth, eyes and forehead.
Once I was satisfied with the shape of her face, I used gel food coloring to hand paint her eyebrows, gave her some eyeliner, and what's a witch without the black mole? So I stuck on a little ball of fondant and painted that black too. Then I used a moss green food coloring powder (also known as "petal dust") for the shading and a bright yellow for her cheek bones.
So now, it was time to get her dressed. I used black MMF and covered her bodice and also made rolls and stuck them vertically on her skirt. This would help create the ruffles in her skirt later. Then I rolled out fondant, about 1/4 " thick, cut it and draped it over as a skirt. I made the twisted belt and attached that.
Tip: when dressing your figure, cut out the clothing pieces as if they were pieces of a dress pattern. Then "dress" or apply them from the inside closest to the body outward.
Next, I started covering her arms with the green fondant. As you can see in one of the photos, I removed her "pinching hand" and stuck it into a styrofoam block to dry so that the fingers would hold their shape. Also, fondant gets pretty heavy, in fact, when I went to attach that arm, I ended up inserting a wire through the straw for added support...PLUS...I made her a little temporary crutch to hole her are up while it dried.
The other arm went on much more smoothly because she had a walking stick for support. I made the stick first, letting it dry over night so that it would be hard. Also, this arm would be closer to her body, so I didn't have to worry so much about the weight, I stuck it right to her bodice, then after shaping her hand and forearm, rested them on the walking stick.
After the arms, sleeves, and hands were in place, secured and dried, it was time to add the cape. I used a fondant rolling pin with guide bands to roll out more fondant, this time making it only about 1/4" thick. I cut it slightly smaller at the top, leaving it wider at the bottom. I pinched in some folds at the top, then attached the top around her neck using an artist brush dampened with water. Next I did the hood, tucking it under and shaping it as I went.
A little touch up paint here and there and of course, I also had to polish her "fingernails" with black also. I wired her battery pack back on just to check her eye lights (not that it would have done me any good at this point if they didn't work, I just wanted to see how she looked)
At this point she was done, except for her hair. I waited several days for the fondant to dry and harden before attempting to add it. Even then, you'll have to be careful because even when dried, fondant is fragile and can crack, crumble and/or break on you.
One last tip:
If your rice krispie treat base is too bumpy, it will show through the fondant. You can use regular icing as "putty" and smooth over all of the cracks. Just attach the fondant right after doing this so that the icing is still wet and the fondant will stick to it.
Total time it took for constructing the witch was about 3 days, add on a week of drying time before the actual cake construction.
Step 6: Making the Fondant Pumpkins
The witch was done and while I waited for her to dry, I worked on the pumpkins. They were actually quite easy to make, it was handling them afterwards that was tricky. I had to make them thick enough to be durable, but thin enough that they would light up the way I intended.
I started by taking styrofoam balls and cutting the bases flat, so that the pumpkins would sit upright and still. Then I used my thumb to make an impression on the top that would serve as a nitch for the stems to sit later. I wrapped the balls tightly in plastic wrap and put a small piece of tape on the bottom.
I tinted some fondant with a touch of copper colored gel food coloring to get a really light yellow orange color. I also kneaded in some Gum Tex powder which makes the fondant a bit stronger, more like a gum paste. You can find Gum Tex at most cake supply stores that sell Wilton brand products. I rolled this fondant out to just a little over 1/4 inch thick.
Working on one pumpkin at a time, I dusted the ball with cornstarch first. (this will make for easy removal later. Then I covered the ball with the fondant and trimmed around the bottom. I picked the ball up and tucked in the fondant underneath, this helped give the pumpkin an open, but more durable bottom.
Next, I used a fondant tool to make the depressions for the lines of the pumpkin. You want to go deep enough to give it dimension, but at the same time, don't go too thin. Once I had the lines in, it was time to carve my pumpkins! I used an exacto knife and carved in the faces. For the stems, I just used scraps and rolled them into little logs, then twisted them slightly for that realistic stem look.
Ok, so then I let them dry overnight on the styrofoam balls in front of a fan. The next day, I brushed on some deeper orange powdered food coloring. (I think I used "sunflower") I also used a cocoa color to deepen the lines, and then some moss green and cocoa to color the stems.
The next day after they had dried enough to handle, I carefully cut them in half using the exacto knife with as much of a clean cut as possible. Very gently pull the halves apart and pull it off of the styrofoam ball and the plastic. Once off of the form, it's time to put them back together. I just use an artist flat brush and dampen it with water and go along each edge. Wait just a few seconds for the fondant to soften, then put the pieces back together. You can wait for a few minutes and then use a dampened brush again to smooth out any crumbs if necessary. I sat them back in front of the fan so that the insides could dry and harden.
For the stems, I actually waited until it was time to assemble the cake. I just barely moistened the bottom of the stem and then the top of the pumpkin and sat the stem gently on top without pressing down.
They were a great addition to the cake display and I just love the little guy's expression....I might just keep him because I feel so sorry for him LOL
Step 7: Making the Hard Candy & Pulled Sugar
This was a key element in my cake design. I have seen tons of fondant cauldron cakes, but all of them had buttercream icing for the "bubbling goo" and maybe some fondant body parts thrown in. I really wanted my goo to look more like a transparent liquid, and I knew without a doubt that it had to "glow". Well if I could do that, then surely I could make fiery ambers as well, right? This was my first time working with cooked sugar of this type, my goal here was for the solid top, the little spurts and splashed of green pulled sugar were just for practice and actually, came out surprisingly well for my first attempt.
Preparing the molds:
Finding a candy recipe was easy (there are tons on the net), but I had to figure out how to mold or shape it. For the green goo, I used a flat glass lid from on of my glass Pyrex bowls. Then I cut out pieces of a cardboard egg carton and trimmed them all lower than the lid then just taped them on the bottoms so they wouldn't move around. Next, I used heavy duty aluminum foil to cover the whole thing and made depressions in the foil. I didn't want this too thick so I kept the depressions shallow. I think it ended up being maybe 1/4"-1/2" thick. Be careful though, too thin and it will break during assembly, too thick and it will be too heavy. (my piece was pretty heavy as it was) After you're satisfied with the mold, spray lightly with a non-stick cooking spray.
Hard Candy (think lollipops)
1 C white granulated sugar
1/2 C light corn syrup
1/4 C water
3/4 tsp extract flavoring (I used pineapple flavoring)
(you'll also need a candy thermometer)
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place your thermometer into the pan, keeping it from resting on the bottom. Heat to a boil without stirring, until candy reaches 295-300 F. (hard crack stage) Remove from heat and quickly stir in your extract and food coloring. Immediately pour into molds. Let set at room temp until candy hardens. (it only takes a few hours) Store in a cool dry place (not the refrigerator) covered with plastic wrap until ready to use.
For the green goo:
I used just a few drops of neon green food coloring. After I poured it into my mold, I poured just a portion of it onto a silpat mat. I let it cool until it was still soft but I could handle it. With gloves on, I pulled it just to get some sheen. Now, I really didn't know what I was doing here, I was just following how I've seen pulled sugar done. (This is a technique that is used to make sugar ribbons.)Then I pulled little pieces off and into long strands. For the spirals, I lightly sprayed a metal knife honer and as I pulled a piece off I quickly wrapped it around the honer. It set up rather quickly then I was ready to slide it off. I made some other quirky shapes just so I would have pieces to stand up in the cauldron goo, so I really didn't have to be so precise.
I did the green pieces way ahead of time (about 1 week prior to assembly), since this was my first time trying out these sugar techniques. If I use this technique again, I'll wait until it's closer to the time of assembly. My kitchen is really super humid and so some of the delicate pieces either broke, or melted. Which actually, I had expected anyway. This type of sugar art will take some practice but I will definitely revisit the idea at a later date. I waited until the entire cake display was assembled before attaching the spiral shapes to the top of the green goo. This was pretty easy because at this point, they were pretty sticky. It was just a matter of balancing them on there.
For the coals:
I used the top plastic part of the egg carton, but this time, I crumpled up a large piece of parchment paper, then laid it over the tray and made some more depressions. Be sure to let the paper rise above the plastic tray, else the sugar may be to hot for it and melt it (plus I didn't want my coals too big) Spray the parchment paper with non stick cooking spray. I used the same recipe as above, only this time, I tried to throw in some powdered Koolaid mix to make an "orange pineapple" flavor. (this was a tip I found on one of the sites) However, I would NOT recommend this, the candy was really bitter and I only used less than a teaspoon. The green one tasted much much better and more like pineapple lollipos. Leave the coals in the paper mold until you are ready to use them because they will be sticky and they will melt and fuse together once they are touching.
Again, although I completed this step first, I decided to add it in here, where I would actually do it the next time.
Step 8: Making the Cauldron Cake
While I've grouped certain steps together so that you can see how each component was done, I wanted to point out that I actually baked and prepared the cakes for both the tree and the cauldron a day before cake assembly. I just wrapped them well with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge until it was go time.
For the cauldron cake, it took 3 boxed cake mixes. I used 2 of the cake mixes to bake 2- 9" round layers. Then I used another box for the layer for the bottom of the cauldron in a glass Pyrex bowl. (it is about 8" in diameter at the top, maybe 4" on the bottom) I only filled the bowl up about 2/3 way, and had left over batter. (just bake this in a small layer pan or bake some cupcakes)
I had also made my cardboard cake rounds (with the holes) the day ahead. I needed a smaller 4 inch one for the bottom, and a 7" one for the top. I also drilled 3/4 inch holes into the centers, then used white electrical tape (cake board tape) around the edges.
I trimmed all of the cakes to level them. In the photo, you can see I'm using a (Wilton) cake leveler, but you can also do this with a long serrated knife. I measured the height of each cake layer to give me an idea of how tall the cauldron would be. A crucial step at this point, because I didn't want the cauldron to be taller than the witch's hand. (I could trim the cakes, I couldn't move the arm or hand) Also, I had to calculate how much filling would be added, plus, consider how tall the top candy portion would be, plus, I wanted to make sure my pipe would hit right at the top of the cake layers.
After leveling the cakes, I cut holes in the center of each layer (I used the wide end of a pastry decorating tip) I took the two 9" rounds and put butter cream filling between them and stacked them, lining up the holes. Then I sat the 7" white cake board on top in the center, and used it as a guide to round the top edges. I used a long serrated knife to carve in the edges.
Next, I gently turned those upside down so that the white 7" board is now on the bottom. I put more butter cream on what is facing up. Then I placed the "bowl cake" on, lined up the holes, and placed the smaller 4" round on top of that. I trimmed what will be the bottom of the cauldron into shape. Once I had the shape done (the cauldron is upside down at this point) I turned the whole thing right side up. So I had the 4" board on the bottom, the bowl cake, then the two 9" round layers, then the 7 inch white board. (so sorry I don't have a pic of this step)
Now, I iced the cake using a crusting butter cream.. I wanted to use a crusting butter cream in lieu of fondant for two reasons. One, fondant would be way too heavy, and also, because I was shooting for more of a "iron skillet" look to the cauldron. Here's the recipe I used:
Crusting Butter Cream Icing
1 stick of butter (not margarine)
1 C shortening
2 lb bag of confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp meringue powder
1 tsp vanilla extract (or other extract flavorings of your choice)
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 - 4 Tbsp warm water (depends on consistency desired)
For chocolate icing:
replace 1/2 - 3/4 C of the powdered sugar with Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa
Cream your butter and shortening in a stand mixer. Add in the salt and extracts and beat well. Pour in about 1/2 of the powdered sugar and the meringue powder. If making chocolate, now is the time to add that in. Beat on high, occasionally stopping and scraping down sides of bowl. Add in a few tablespoons of the warm water and then start adding in the rest of the powdered sugar, 1/2 C at a time, until all is used. The icing will be really thick, so you may add in more water if needed until you get a nice spreading consistency.
I iced the entire cake, waited for it to dry and crust on the outside. Then I used a small piece of parchment paper to gently lay over it and smooth it with my hands. (or you could use a paper towel)
Next, I picked up the whole cake and slid it down onto the cake pipe on the cake board. Once it was in place, I brought the lights up out of the pipe that I had tucked in there, and used white tape to tape them to the white 7" cake board. (the pic below of the lights and board were actually taken during the deconstruction phase) This is where it's helpful to have a second set of hands and eyes.
Now, once the lights were secured, I made a large roll of fondant to go around the circumference of the white board. This also served as a "spacer" for the green top, which, went on next.
After the cauldron was completely assembled, I covered my cake stand with paper to protect it from over spray and used a cake round just to cover the top green candy while I airbrushed it black. (I use Kroma brand airbrush food colorings)
Next, I placed the "coals" around the bottom, sticking some directly to the acrylic container first, then adding in some at the bottom and sticking those directly to the cake board paper.
Ok, two mistakes I made......
1) I didn't think that the three layers would be so heavy therefore, I didn't add any supports such as dowels or straws between the layers. (I know better, I just got in a hurry) I should have, because they were heavy. Especially when I added the weight of the candy piece. So the cake only held it's shape for one day before it started to sag down. :( Next time, I would use a cake board with EACH layer, and sink straws in each layer for added support.
2) the bottom white cake round wasn't big enough. When the cake started to settle, it sagged over the bottom cake round, also, the cake started to tilt a bit.
Other than that, the lighting system was fantastic and worked according to my plan. I was also happy with the crusted iron pot look.
Step 9: Making the Tree Stump Cake
Well I must say, after what I went through with the cauldron, the tree stump was a piece of cake. (ok, sad pun intended). I also want to point out that I had done the ax, toad, spell book and mortar and pestle at the time of making the pumpkins, this gave them plenty of time to dry.
For the tree cake, I baked 2- 8" rounds. I cut my cake board so that it would have 3 points in order to hold the fondant "roots" when transferring it over to the cake board.
After leveling both layers of cake, I put them on the cake board and carved in some "v" shapes between each root. (a real tree isn't perfectly round, right?) I used maple butter cream icing for the filling and then put a thin (1/4") coat all over, except for the top. Next, I added rolled pieces of black fondant to create the tree roots. (the fondant was left over from the cauldron and witch)
Next, I put another layer of icing on all over, including covering the roots and the top. Once the icing started to crust over, I began making my bark by carving in lines with a fondant tool. Then I took a piece of parchment paper and laid it on the top of the trunk. I flattened the icing a bit with a fondant smoothing tool and then traced around just the inside edges of where the bark lines were.
I used that piece of paper as a pattern and cut out where I had traced. Then I rolled out some white fondant and cut out around the pattern. Next, I applied what was now to be the "cut portion" of the trunk and laid it into the butter cream icing, smoothing it and pushing it down into the icing. I want to point out that you could just cover the whole tree with fondant, carve the bark marks into the fondant then air brush. But I was testing the effects of a using a crusting butter cream. The top piece of fondant is necessary either way, because otherwise, the fondant do-dads would be too heavy and would have sunk into the trunk.
I left the paper on while I airbrushed the tree. I did a coat of a reddish brown first, followed by a coat of black. Next, I removed the paper pattern and airbrushed a little color of the brown and black and before it dried, I used a wet flat brush to remove some of the color, this created the growth rings in the cut tree.
When finished with the painting, I used a large heavy cake knife, slid it under the cake board and transfered it to the cake stand. I had to at the same time use a smaller knife to hold one of the heavier limbs.
To top it off, I added the do-dads....the frog (and his cut leg hehehe) book, mortar and pestle and then just leaned the ax beside the tree.
Step 10: Finishing Up the Cake Display
Ok, so far, I have placed the cauldron and tree onto the cake board/stand. Next, it was time to add witchie-poo.
Remember, I have her on a separate base, so it's just a matter of picking her up off of that base, and threading her lighting wires through the pipe and flange that is already secured on the cake board. You'll definitely need an extra pair of hands for this step. I held the witch up while my daughter guided the wires through and pulled them underneath the board. Next, it was just a matter of re-connecting the previously cut wires back to the battery pack. Wrap them with electrical tape individually.
Lastly, I placed the pumpkins over their lights and sprinkled around some Multi-bran flake cereal for the leaves. Originally, I really wanted to air brush them with fall colors, but again, I got in a hurry and just wanted to call it done.
The greatest part was the official lighting of the cake. I tell ya, I felt like Clark Griswald on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation...you know, the moment when he plugged in the Xmas lights for the house? Only to my amazement, it totally worked the first time.
Step 11: The Deconstruction Process
always ask, "is that really cake?" or, "How can you cut it after all that work no wait..... how DO you cut it?"
So, I thought it would be fun to actually for the first time, document the deconstructing process. First of all, to somewhat offer proof that, yes, it is indeed a real cake, not a "dummy cake". Secondly, that the deconstruction process isn't as bad or as messy as one might think.
Whenever I design a cake, I usually think about the carving and serving process as well. It's just a matter of following your building steps backwards. The tree stump is pretty self explanatory, just slice and carve as you would any other round cake.
For the cauldron, first I removed the candy top and fondant log ring and set them aside. I used a meat mallet to tap the large piece and break it up into smaller pieces. Next, I carefully removed the tape that was holding down the lights, then I pulled the light string out from underneath the cake stand. Next, I removed the white cake board.
After that I just basically positioned plates on both sides and cut the cake down the middle on each side of the pipe. One piece fell over and a little of the cake stuck to the bottom cake board, but really, no big deal. Then I just sliced each half into serving size portions.
As for witchie-poo, I wanted to save her and add her to my collection. I took her off and placed her back on the other stand safe and sound. I'll wait for a good month for her to dry out completely, then I'll spray her with a polyurethane lacquer to seal it and preserve it. You can store dried fondant pieces for who knows how long as long as you keep them away from heat, moisture, and direct sun light.
I hope that someone has found this tutorial helpful. I also hope that being my very first official instructable that I did a decent job writing it. Any questions, comments or suggestions are always welcome!
I am entering this into the 2009 DIY Halloween Contest, so if you like my cake, please vote for me!