Thursday, December 17, 2009

Science Cake

My Mission
I was asked to create a science theme cake for a scientist’s retirement party. Hmmm, a lot harder than it sounds. I wanted to somehow make a large molecule, but decided that wouldn’t involve vey much cake and would probably require more time than I had to figure out how to do it, 5 days! So I started searching the internet for some ideas. It turns out when you search for chemistry and cake you learn all about the science behind baking! Not too many science theme decorated cakes out there. So I started thinking about lab equipment. This scientist works in a chemical durability lab and was very involved with safety. What came to mind was safety equipment (gloves, goggles, safety labels, etc) and labware (beakers, flasks, chemicals).

My Design
I started by making paper templates of different items, so I could play with placement and scale. I turns out there isn’t much room on an 8 or 9 inch cake. I decided on a flask, a beaker, test tubes, a small molecule, and purple nitrile gloves (of course!) I would also add some chemical formulas and safety symbols to fill in the dead space.

The Process
I needed to make the 3D items early so they would have time to dry. Fondant wouldn’t dry hard enough for these items so I had to either use straight gum paste or a fondant gum paste mix. I chose the mix because it gives you a little more working time. Straight gum paste can actually dry out and start cracking on you if you don’t work fast enough. I finished these on Sunday night, so they had plenty of time to dry before cake delivery on Wednesday.

• I found a bottle to use as a mold for the beaker; I made the walls of the beaker first. After that dried, I added the base and glued them together with gum paste glue. I wanted to fill the beaker with something so I added some extra support around the edges inside so it wouldn’t leak.
• The test tube was just formed around a wooden dowel rod. Easy enough.
• I made the center molecule and added toothpicks for “bonds”; I had to add these before the fondant dried. Then I made several other balls and put them on toothpicks to dry.

That was all I could do ahead of time, the rest would need to be added to the cake while still pliable.

What should I fill the beaker with? I know…lime jello! That would be cool. I made 2 beakers, just in case, so I figured I better try this and see if the beaker could hold the jello. Using the quick set method I added grape jello to one of my beakers. After 1 hour the jello was set and everything was looking good. The next morning, still OK. But later that day, Doug called and said he had some bad news….The jello had dissolved the beaker! I am sad to say, the jello was not a good idea.

At least the beaker was not on the cake; jello all over my completed cake would NOT have been good! Back to the drawing board.

The flavor was left as my choice. I decided to go with a strawberry cake and vanilla butter cream frosting. Strawberry could be risky but I thought it was worth taking a chance. It turned out that strawberry was the recipient's favorite cake flavor!

After the cake was frosted with butter cream, I added the fondant layer. Fondant would be smoother to apply all of the decorations to. My test tube and beaker were white, so I didn’t want to start with a white base. Why not a light yellow color?

I rolled out the purple fondant (for deep colors I buy pre-tinted fondant, the colors fade less) and used my template to cut out two gloves. I did remember to do a left and a right. Luckily these could be placed to hide a small crack in the yellow fondant (our little secret). I was able to allow these to hang off the side of the cake because they were not dried and stiff.

Next, the “chemical spill”. I thought green would be a good choice. Just a free hand blob cut from the fondant and placed on the cake.

I cut out small squares of red, blue, yellow and white to create the HMIS labels. The numbers were added with edible marker.

The gloves, spill, HMIS labels, and test tube were glued to the cake using gum paste glue.

The molecule was put together and just placed on the cake.

I added the markings on the beaker but it still needed to be filled, I used frosting and tried to make it look like bubbles, but as you can see I ended up just swirling the “liquid”. The beaker was placed on the cake. I was afraid if I glued it the weight would rip the yellow fondant.

Last I added some chemical formulas and equations to fill in the bare spots.

The result!

The cake was a hit! I had a lot of fun putting it together.

Happy Retirement Duane!

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