About Leigh Henderson

Leigh is a cake artist, theatre scholar, and auntie to two boys. Find her on twitter @leighanncakes.

Emperor Palpatine Whoopie Cushion Cake

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My nephews and I play a game called “Emperor Palpatine Whoopie Cushion.”  I don’t remember the genesis of the game.  Essentially, the boys put imaginary whoopee cushions on a chair and then I, as Emperor Palpatine, sit on the chair, make a farting noise, and chase them around the room shouting about how I’m going to destroy them.

So, for his fifth birthday, Sam requested an Emperor Palpatine whoopie cushion cake.  Here is what I came up with.  The steps, the chair, and the lower portion of Palpatine’s body are cake.  The upper half of Palpatine is rice krispie treats.  I used a little recording module from Radio Shack to record the sound, triggered by a button under the seat that was depressed when Palpatine sat down.

This may be the silliest cake I’ve ever made (which is a pretty high bar), but it was also perhaps the most entertaining.

 

Star Wars cross stitch

Apparently I’ve suddenly decided that I cross stitch now.  So for Christmas, I made my nephews Star Wars cross stitches.

When I put them to bed, I often sing Garth Brooks’s The River.  The chorus begins with, “I will sail my vessel, until the river runs dry.”  Nathan made up his own lyrics: “I will fly my X-wing, until there’s no place left to go.”  So I turned it into an inspirational cross stitch for him.

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Another song that I often sing at bedtime is the Rainbow Connection, from the Muppet Movie.  Sam is very into beautiful colors and he dressed as pink Darth Vader for Halloween, so for him I made this Darth Vader – Rainbow Connection mashup.

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Fruit Ninja Cake

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I’m so happy that now that I’m back in California I can make birthday cakes for my little friend Isaac again!  He really loves the game Fruit Ninja and he really loves numbers, so I went for a Fruit Ninja cake that prominently featured the number seven.  At one point I had planned to make the base shaped like four number sevens, but fortunately Isaac’s mom pointed out that my sketch looked disturbingly like a swastika, so I shaped it like six number sevens instead.  Cakewreck narrowly avoided!

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Isaac was celebrating at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, so I had to make a cake small and portable enough that it could survive the hour drive over windy roads and conveniently be served in the middle of a busy amusement park.  By my standards, then, this cake was remarkably practical.  The only problem was that it was too windy to light the candles.

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Basically, the number seven is a wooden cut-out covered with fondant to look like the background of Fruit Ninja.  The slashes that are cutting the fruit are poured isomalt.  All the little fruits are cake covered with modeling chocolate.  I started with a basic white cake recipe and then added fresh squeezed fruit juices and zests so that each cake is flavored like the appropriate fruit.  The lime, orange, and pineapple worked especially well.  It turns out to be pretty hard to get kiwi flavor and watermelon flavor to translate into cake.  For the bombs, I added a little bit of Tabasco sauce.  I think they had a little bite at the end, but I didn’t want them to be too powerful since kids would be eating them.

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Minion Chicken Coop Cake

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While my mom and I were taking a cake class at the Wilton School, we had a very nice Skype call with my nephews.  They told us that they were planning to be minions from Despicable Me for Halloween.  We also had a very entertaining conversation about whether or not they were building me a chicken coop.  The details of the chicken coop joke are kind of hard to explain, but basically I decided to take the joke to the next level.  So I made the cake I was making for class a minion / chicken coop cake.  Then I carried it back home on the plane.  It was greeted with shrieks of joy.

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Dinosaur Skeleton Cake

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This is a cake that I made for a class at the Wilton School on tiered cakes and buttercream.  I don’t do many buttercream cakes or many traditional tiered cakes, so I’m pretty pleased with the results.  It’s not as impressive as many of my cakes, but I think it’s still pretty fun.

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Star Wars cake

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For his seventh birthday, Nathan had very specific cake specifications.  He wanted a cake being cut in half by a light saber with “Jedi trainers” around the sides.  The only Jedi trainers he could specifically name were Yoda and Obi-Wan, which isn’t surprising, because he’s only seen Episodes IV, V, and VI.  So I found a picture of the Jedi Council and went with that.

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The light saber is a combination of poured sugar and pressed sugar with a string of LEDs embedded in it.  The handle of the light saber is gum paste.  The Jedi trainers are also gum paste, hand painted with food coloring.  I’m particularly pleased with the candle light sabers.

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Head Chopping Cake

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When I asked Sam what cake he wanted for his fourth birthday, of course he wanted an Axe Cop cake like his brother had.  I didn’t have time to make Sam quite as large a cake as I made for Nathan, so I just went with a simple 8” round cake with a row of back guys around the perimeter.

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I stuck a motor in the middle, so that I could attach chocolate axes to chop the bad guys’ heads off.  I really needed a stronger motor and a better way to attach the chocolate axes, but we did eventually manage to decapitate and/or knock over all the gum paste bad guys.

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Carousel Cake

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My grandmother lives near a beautiful old carousel from the 1920s.  When we visited her when we little, she would always take us to ride it.  When I was designing her 90th birthday cake, I got to thinking about riding the carousel with her, and this is the result.

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Obviously, it rotated and lit up.  The little gum paste horses on the candles are modeled after horses on the real carousel.

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