Sunday, January 15, 2012

Clone Wars

We are immersed in the world of Star Wars at our house lately. Will saw the original movies this summer and there was no turning back. I have to admit, though, that they are pretty good and bring back some memories! Now Will is really into Clone Wars, which is a cartoon set between two of the newer movies and features Anakin and clone good guys. I confess I don't really know much about the series except that Will loves it.

My little guy turned 6 this week and asked for a Clone Wars party and cake. This was the first year we have thrown a birthday party for him with his friends. Wow - that is a whole other story!

On to the cake! I had a really hard time coming up with ideas for Star Wars or Clone Wars. The movies and cartoon series are all so character-based and I don't think I can do justice to figures that are people. I also can't really draw. The other alternative was complicated ships, which also seemed beyond my current abilities. (Check back in a few years or so, though, and I bet I'll be trying some!) I finally decided to do a clone trooper helmet. I chose Rex, who is a leader of the clones (I think).

Here is the finished cake.

Do you like it?

I also snapped some progress pics for you. This was a carved cake, so I thought you might like to see it in process.

I started with a 12-inch round (3 inches high) marble cake filled with dark chocolate ganache. I then carved it into the basic shape of the clone helmet. You can see at the bottom that I "glued" some extra pieces on to make the full curve of the bottom of the helmet. I used some of the ganache as the "glue." After I had the basic shape around the edges, I started carving the top - adding a curve to the top part of the helmet and cutting out spots on the "cheeks" of the helmet.

Here is the carved cake. It's a little hard to see all of the details on the top.

Next came the ganache to support the fondant. The ganache is the same that I used between the layers. It creates a nice smooth surface for the fondant.

Fondant was next up. I was a little worried about the fondant going on smoothly over all of those little curves, but it went pretty well. I was very pleased with that part!

Here's a helpful hint - make sure your fondant smoothers are clean before smoothing white fondant! I accidentally got some of the ganache on mine when smoothing one side and didn't notice. That ganache then got smeared onto the other side of the cake. Doh! It took some doing to get it off and ended up leaving a little mark. Now I will always check that!

After the white fondant was on, I added the black and blue details in fondant. The hard part was the measuring and making sure both sides were even.

Another lesson I learned with this is that you can make fondant really black by painting it with black gel food coloring mixed with a little vodka. Another lesson I learned is that it takes absolutely forever to dry. At the party, kids were walking away with black streaks on their fingers and faces. And though I did all of this on Friday, that black is still not dry! And it is now Sunday! I don't think I'll be using that method again unless it is something I can paint well in advance and in a smaller area.

I would recommend buying black fondant if you need it. I like to make my own fondant, but you have to add a ton of gel color to get a true black. (The same is true for a deep red.) In the past, I've started with chocolate fondant to make black and that works a lot better. This time, though, I didn't want to make a full batch of chocolate fondant for just these accents, so I started with the white that I had. I added a TON of color and it was still only a dark gray, but clearly gray. In hindsight, I would have just used the gray on this cake instead of painting it to make it a true black.

I recently used Satin Ice fondant in black (sadly, all of it was used on my last cake and it is not readily at hand for me where I live) and it was wonderful. I think I will make a point of buying the Satin Ice for red or black projects from now on. It is a little pricey, but well worth it for these colors.

Finally, I needed to add some depth and shading to the helmet. I debated for a really long time with myself about this. I almost didn't do it. But the helmet needed something in the "cheek" areas and around the top and sides to really look like the clone's helmet. I decided to paint it on. This is the one part of the cake that I am not really happy about. If I had time and more fondant/cake/etc., I would have re-done it. But the reason I went ahead and tried this in the first place was because I knew this was a family cake and I want to learn new things. I think the first problem was using the gel color for this. I suspect that it would have gone better with powdered colors. The second problem was the brushes. I just don't have the right brushes for this. Third, my skills and knowledge of painting is limited! I am seriously going to start watching The Joy of Painting on PBS now. I actually love that guy anyway and I know that what I learn will come in handy in my caking future!

I am very grateful for opportunities to learn and grown my skills, though. How can we ever learn and get better if we don't try new things and if we don't fail, even a little, at some of them?

Overall, I am very happy with this cake. And Will really loved it. That is all that really matters to this mother's heart!

Stay tuned for another cake that I also did this weekend and will post about tomorrow. I have a lot of cakes and cake plans coming up, so come back often or, better yet, sign up for e-mail and each post will be sent straight to your inbox. Thanks for reading!

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