I was so excited & thrilled to be asked to create the showstopper centerpiece for the dessert table during the afterparty for the Long Center for the Performing Arts’ 9th Anniversary Party. Their feature show was a Beatles tribute called Let It Be, & so the whole party was themed around the Beatles with a colorful Peter Max twist. LOTS of peace signs, daisies, tie-dye & brilliant color was everywhere! Sterling Events planned & executed the event from top to bottom, including the catering, & Larry did a magnificent job as always. He’s truly a visionary designer.
Meet Larry here in my video clip, as he was setting up the table around the cake!
It is all dummy inside, since they wanted it as a dramatic centerpiece for the whole evening and not to be cut or served. The outside is all made of sugar except for the guitar strings, which are golden jewelry thread.
The guitar is carved of floral foam and the neck made of foam board. I used an actual acoustic guitar as my template to create it, so it is truly life size! It is all handpainted fondant with modeling chocolate frets and gumpaste details. We played on a Peter Max scene on the front by using the famous Abbey Road silhouettes over it.
The Yellow Submarine is my favorite part! It was pretty hard figuring out how to take a 2D drawing and extrapolate it into a 3D sculpted figure, while still keeping that unmistakable side profile! I carved everything but the tail from floral foam, and then created the tail from modeling chocolate over heavy wire. It was challenging but so much fun! It is covered in a 50/50 mix of fondant & white chocolate, to allow for smoothing out the seams in covering such an odd shape. All the little details are either fondant or modeling chocolate. And there are an incredible amount of them once you get started. It really came to life when I airbrushed it!
Here it is when it was just carved & the foam was covered in chocolate ganache:
I’m TERRIBLE at remembering to take progress pictures as I work, so I don’t have many to share. Sorry! I will try to do better. ***hangs head in shame***
But here is the finished submarine!
The drum is a 12 inch diameter cake dummy covered in fondant with gumpaste hardware. I designed it to exactly match the drum from the actual set the Beatles used, thus the cool wash-painted effect on the outside. The super fun peace sign is a 10 inch diameter cake dummy covered in fondant with handpainted tie-dye, modeling chocolate peace sign, and fondant flowers. I designed this tier to mix with the decor from the rest of the party & bring in even more color & height!
I DID manage to get progress pictures of the peace sign tier. I had such fun painting the tie dye! Groovy! Shagadelic! Yeah, Baby, YEAH!!! (Sorry, went off on an Austin Powers tangent there. Oh, Behave!)
The bottom tier is a huge 12 inch cube that was a massive pain to cover in fondant! Handpainted front and back, with fondant British flags on both sides. The front panel was inspired by a piece of artwork I saw & loved, so we used iconic silhouettes of all the Beatles to create our own version.
There’s over 30 pounds of Satin Ice fondant on this! I prefer to use Satin Ice for display cakes, especially because it dries nicely & is so strong. Along with the modeling chocolate, gumpaste, etc, it was quite a bit of sugar! It’s amazing how HEAVY featherweight styrofoam suddenly becomes when it’s covered in sugar!
Yes, it’s easier to do something like this out of dummies from a structure and weight standpoint. Could it be done of real cake? Absolutely! But it would dramatically change the type of structure and mechanics to compensate for the weight, make transporting infinitely more difficult, and would cost wayyyy more. Even without baking, stacking and icing cakes, the carving and decor alone took most of this week, with a team of 3 people working on it!
That’s a point I want to emphasize–THREE people worked for several DAYS on this cake! It always amazes me that the general public can watch all the cake shows, love them all, & yet they BELIEVE Cake Wars is reality over the others. Ummmm…..NO! NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT! Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, & the specials where they follow the bakers through the entire process of a team of 6 people including construction experts, engineers, etc. creating the structure & the cake is the reality. There is no ‘I’ in cake. It takes a team of talented people working together seamlessly to create an amazing structural masterpiece.
So when you see cakes like this, don’t believe for a second they can be made in an afternoon with everything magically being ready & available in the kitchen, for free. I wish they would tell the prices on these shows. No, when you commission a cake like this, you are hiring a team of talented people with unique skills to work for many hours. We easily have over 80 labor hours total in this cake. I lost track of how many. That’s TWO WEEKS’ worth of hours for normal people! The structure, tools, & materials are also quite pricey, as are all the edible elements. A cake like this is thousands of dollars. Several thousand, in fact. Would you expect to hire a team of interior designers, computer engineers, plumbers, electricians, etc for dozens of hours of labor plus materials for a couple hundred dollars? Of course not. Cakes don’t work that way, either! It’s not ‘just a cake’—it’s ART that happens to be edible, & takes forever to make. Edible mediums are very difficult to work with, too, since sugar is so affected by all kinds of weather. It’s never happy! Ugh!
So that’s my educational moment for today! Haha! I hope to open some eyes on to the VALUE behind what we do, & the basis for the cost. It’s the centerpiece of the event that will be the talking point for months or years to come, & the bonus is it tastes so delicious!
And now I have to make fun of myself & let you laugh at me too. People are always wanting sketches of cake. I see other artists create beautiful renditions that they then bring to life in 3D. I can’t. I absolutely SUCK at drawing. Your small child would laugh at how bad I am, & so would trained monkeys. I can work beautifully in 3D, but absolutely cannot draw a stick figure. If clients judged me by my sketches, they’d never hire me to make a cake! So here’s the ‘sketch’ of this cake where I was figuring out the structure needed. See the resemblance? LOL—–no???? Me either.
So I guess it goes to show that it’s the vision in my head, & not the one on paper that counts! So don’t come to me expecting a good sketch, but you best believe you’ll get an amazing CAKE!