April 25, 2004

Flaming Bridezilla Cake

Completed Bridezilla cake

I created this cake for good friend's bridal shower, and I'm delighted to say that she really liked it. It's pretty easy to make, and it could easily be adapted for any other fire-breathing monsters you feel the need to create in cake. Just make sure the intended recipient is actually going to find it funny and not horribly insulting.

The Bridezilla Cake. It breathed fire, via a shot of rum in its mouth which was ignited. Look at the pink claws! The glint in its eye which says, "this was NOT on my registry!" The royal icing lace on its veil!

Start of the veil work with royal icing

I began the night before the party with the veil... well, actually I procrastinated and began very early on the morning of the party. That wasn't ideal because the icing only had about 9 hours to dry, which isn't really enough. A full day is much safer. Thankfully, it worked out ok.

For the icing, I used the Wilton royal icing recipe, medium thickness. If you haven't used royal before, it dries very hard, almost like candy. It's great for gluing pieces together and for lacework like the veil. You'll also need a decorating tube, a small round decorating tip, and some wax paper. I used a #3 tip, but if you want it more delicate you could go smaller, keeping in mind that more delicate = more breakage. By medium thinkness I mean that you should be able to pipe it easily, but the line you pipe should hold its shape. When you're not using your bag, cover it with a damp kitchen towel to prevent the icing from hardening.

The piped veil

Once you have the icing, lay down a sheet of wax paper. You may want to tape it down so it doesn't shift. Start by drawing the outline of the shape you want. It's easier if you draw it on a piece of paper and put that under the wax paper so you can trace, but I was feeling lazy (plus it was 1:30 in the morning) so I did it freehand. Make sure that all the corners connect solidly -- I added a little extra dot to make it stronger. Try to keep the line as thick and even as you can, since thin spots are likely to break. Also, the bigger the piece, the more likely it is to break. In fact, it's a good idea to make two of any lacework piece just in case.

Once you have the outline in place, pipe overlapping squiggles inside of it. Don't make it a solid mass of icing, but make sure there's a fair amount of overlap so there aren't any long unsupported pieces. This should be done immediately, before the outline has a chance to dry. (If you want to add any edible glitter to make a sparkly veil, this is the time to do it.)

the veil on a flower former

And that's it for the flat pieces that I placed on the tray just above Bridezilla's shoulders. Just leave it to dry for a day or so, and then gently remove the wax paper when you're ready to use it.

However, I decided that I wanted Bridezilla's headpiece and the long side pieces to curve. So I used the convex side of some flower formers to provide shape. Just lift up the wax paper and place it over the flower former -- again, this must be done immediately before the royal his time to dry. You'll need to tape the wax paper onto the former, or it'll just slide off. I think a paper towel roll cut lengthwise would work nicely for this.

the cake pan

Finally, on to the cake. I used the Megasaurus Pan from Wilton (PDF). I was thinking of using one of the Barney pans, but my local Michael's didn't carry them. The pan is size for one regular box of cake mix.

the baked cake

As you can see, it only sort of turned out. For one thing, I tried a new chocolate cake recipe from Joy of Cooking, and either I didn't do it right or it's not a good recipe, because it just didn't rise as much as I'd hoped. This meant that the edge of the shot glass was visible above the cake, which annoyed me. Also, it ripped a bit when I took it out of the pan. I'm told that greasing it generously with nice melty butter works better than the cooking spray I used, so I'll give that a try next time.

I unmolded the cake about 10 minutes after it came out of the oven, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and went to bed. In retrospect, I probably should have frozen it to help prevent it from going stale and to make the cutting easier.

slicing the cake into 2 layers

It's now early on the morning of the party, and I'm decorating with a deadline! The first step was to torte the cake. I was hoping for 3 layers, but because of the less-than-stellar rise I settled for two. You can do this with a bread knife, but it's much easier with a cake leveler. You just adjust the little wire to the height you want and push it through the cake.

the cake cut in half

I then slid both layers (still together) onto the tray (last used for the Thorax Cake). To remove the top layer, I inverted a cookie sheet onto the cake, slid my hand between the layers, and flipped the top half over using my arm to support as much of the cake as possible. If it had been any bigger, I might have needed to slide a pizza peel in there for more support.

putting the filling between the layers

I then piped a dam of buttercream frosting around the edge of the cake to prevent the filling from leaking out the sides. I used a relatively large round tip for this, I think a 6 or an 8. For the filling, I used a sour cherry jam, but you could also use regular frosting, flavored ganache, custard, nutella, fresh berries... pretty much anything you want. The jam I used had big cherry pieces in it, so I ran it through the food processor to smooth it out, and then warmed it slightly in the microwave so it would spread better. A 10oz jar of jam was just enough to fill the layer.

the cake with the hole for the shot glass

After flipping the top layer back onto the bottom one, I went looking for the smallest shot glass in the house. To make the hole for the shot glass, invert it and center it over the mouth, and then just press in. I recommend snacking on the cake you remove from the hole.

food coloring the frosting

Finally, I was ready to start decorating. I made a batch of buttercream icing, except that linked reciped calls for butter and shortening, and I used just unsalted butter because it tastes better. One batch that size ended up being just enough. To color the icing, I used paste food color, which is mighty powerful stuff. To add just a little at a time, dip a toothpick into the paste and then into the icing.

paper icing cone

I just included this picture because I'm so pleased that I finally learned how to make the parchment bags (even if I can't do it in 3 seconds like Jacques Torres). I used a regular pastry bag for the green, but it was nice to use the paper ones for the other colors. Especially since at the moment I only have one dedicated buttercream decorating bag (buttercream leaves grease behind in the bag, and even a small amount of grease can break down royal icing).

starting the crumb coat

Anyway, back to the cake. First I outlined the face in grey (black food paste), but then decided that was kind of a false start. So I mixed up some nice, unpleasant green (moss green with a touch of black), and did a crumb coat over the whole cake. This both sealed in the crumbs and gave me a nice green base to work with so I didn't need to worry if my scales had a few gaps between them. Since it was going to be covered with scales anyway, I was pretty sloppy about it.

filled in eyes

After the crumb coat, I took a little bit of the white frosting and thinned it with a few drops of water (be careful when doing this, it's easy to over-thin). I put that icing in one pastry bag with a small round tip (2 or 3). I then filled the space within the eyes with the white. The thin texture makes a pretty smooth surface, but to get it extra-smooth, I dipped a small brush into some water and gently brushed over the surface to melt out the bumps.

drawn on face and the start of the scales

Since I'd covered by initial facial lines with the crumb coat, I re-drew the face and added evil-looking irises to the eyes with the grey frosting (again with a small round tip). Then I mixed up more of the green icing and started making the scales. I used a leaf tip and piped them in overlapping rows.

cake with completed scales

And here's the cake with all the scales on (except for where the gift is going to go). The green color ended up being slightly greyer than I had intended, which was ok since it's a Bridezilla cake, but it wasn't the most appetizing color. The scales take quite a bit of icing to do, and I ran out partway through and had to mix up more, which is why the scales aren't all quite the same green.

filling in the gift

To fill in the gift box, I used the same technique as with the eyes, just on a larger scale. I thinned the icing just a bit with water and then drew the outline of the box using a small round tip. I started filling it by piping back and forth so that the lines touched and melted together. To get it smooth, I used the same trick with the damp paintbrush. I did that in sections because the box was large enough that the icing would have started to set if I waited until I filled the whole thing.

finished gift box

Here we have the filled in gift box. I don't really like the wavy texture, but that's from the shape of the cake beneath it. I'm actually not really convinced that the shaped cake pan added a lot to this cake, since by the time I put down the crumb coat most of the detail was obscured anyway. It's nice to have the overall shape, of course, but I think it would work just as well to trim a sheet cake to the desired outline, and then just draw the features on top of it.

the cake with claws and lips added

After mixing a really nasty pink, I started in on the claws and lips. I was quite pleased with claws, which were done using a fairly fat round tip, kind of similar to the carrot technique. The lips looked kind of odd because of the shot glass. I think if I did it again, I'd try piping some of the pink inside the shot glass about a third of the way down. I think that would disguise it a little better, and plus the icing would melt beautifully when the alcohol is lit.

add the bow to the present

The final touch for the gift was a nice festive bow. I also used the last of the green to pipe thick fingers to give the claws something to attach to (they looked kind of weird just sitting on top of the scales). I used a pretty big round tip for this, let the icing build up under claws, and then pulled out and decreased pressure, kind of like the ghost technique.

placing the veil

At this point it was about half an hour before the party, and I very nervously went to check on my lacework. Much to my surprise, they were dry, and even more to my surprise, they pulled off the wax paper without much protest. I used just dab of royal icing to fix the veil pieces to the cake and to the tray, and they stayed just fine.

drop flowers on the veil

The final touch was to place some small white drop flowers along the edges of the veil. They were left over from a different project, which is another wonderful thing about royal icing -- the flowers will keep without refrigeration so you can do them ahead of time.

Then I celebrated, took a picture, cleaned up, and ran to take a shower before everyone arrived. Fortunately I don't have punctual friends.

filling the shot glass with 151

I didn't fill the shot glass with 151 until right before we lit it on fire, since it would have just evaporated. I only filled it about a third of the way and it burned for several minutes. By the way, flaming cakes are the only use 151 sees in our house. Long ago a roommate of mine made jell-o shots with 151 and vodka, but that wasn't my idea and they were awful anyway.

the cake on fire

To light the 151, drop a match in the shot glass and stand back. Unfortunately, the flame was almost invisible since I had forgotten to add a few pinches of salt to the 151, which gives the flame a really nice orange color. Once the sugar around the shot glass started melting, it picked up a little color (and looked really cool), but it works a lot better with the salt.

To put out the flame, cover the shot glass with the bottom of a drinking glass to smother the fire. Once it's cooled, you can just lift the shot glass out and let it soak for a little while, and the sugar comes right off (or at least, my shot glass suffered no ill effects).

the cake on fire

And that's it!

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