Calder Cake

A few years ago I took a kinetic art class and we made little wire versions of Calder-style hanging mobiles.  I decided to try to make one using cake to serve at a graduate student conference being put on by my department.  It was partially an experiment to see whether I wanted to attempt a similar cake for my friends’ wedding that was coming up a couple months later.  Although I think this cake turned out all right, I decided not to try one on a larger scale at an important event like a wedding.

For this project, the cake was the easy part.  I tried out a new lemon cake recipe, since my friends wanted a lemon cake for their wedding.  It was really good, but I didn’t wind up using it for the wedding because it called for the juice of one lemon and the zest of four lemons, so I wound up with a lot of naked lemons left over.  It’s just not a very practical recipe.

I cut the cake into various sized truncated pyramids.  Then I spritzed them with rum and coated them with an apricot jam glaze.

The trickier part of this project was the structure.

I started with a ½” steel pipe secured to a 24” diameter wooden base.   I had planned to have two 18” aluminum tubes running through the top of this at right angles to one another to support a total of 32 little cakes.  I clearly hadn’t envisioned the spatial relations carefully enough because there was just nowhere near enough room for that many cakes in that amount of space.  I wound up with only 12 little cakes hanging from just one aluminum tube.

I made some little wire saddles to hold the cakes, and bought some ¼” aluminum rod to connect them.

To assemble this kind of sculpture, you start from the bottom and work your way up, balancing the components by shifting the pivot point.  Once I had all the little cakes in place, I fine-tuned the weight by adding a white sugar glaze to each little cake.

I finished off the piece with a larger truncated pyramid cake on top of the central pole.

I had thought that the way that eating the cake disrupted the balance of the sculpture would make for an interesting interactive dining experience.  I’m afraid, though, it may have just been off-putting and irksome.

I think the conference attendees enjoyed the cake overall, though it was by no means one of my most impressive efforts.  It’s probably a good technique to have in my arsenal.  I can picture some more interesting cakes based around a similar structure.