My friend’s granddaughter’s birthday party theme was Love Makes the World Go Round. So I came up with this cake, which is meant to suggest the earth traveling around the sun on an outer space cake board.
The color is all hand painted. The sun came out looking maybe a little more like a giraffe than a sun, but at least the overall effect is fun and colorful.
The earth is mounted on an aluminum strip that rotated freely around the post supporting the sun, so you can make the earth orbit around the sun.
Nathan, for his 10th birthday, requested a Terraria celestial event cake, with a four-sided pillar, each side of which corresponds to a phase of the celestial event – Nebula, Stardust, Vortex, and Solar – and includes the appropriate monsters.
Fortunately, after Sam’s last Terraria cake, I am expert at painting pixel-y gum paste Terraria characters. The guy on the side is Nathan’s avatar, with a Horseman’s Blade, which he specifically requested.
The tower is cake, mounted on a pipe connected to a bevel gear, so that the cake can be turned with a crank.
I wanted to make the backdrop change color to correspond with the celestial event phase, so I made a light box like the one I made for the Terraria Blood Moon Cake. Inside are strips of LED tape in pink, yellow, blue, and green. When the cake turned, a strip of copper tape on the gear created electrical connections that lit the appropriate color LEDs as each side of the pillar came to the fore. It quite well at home, but the party was outside on a sunny day, so with that much ambient light the color change was virtually imperceptible.
As usual, I made about four times as much cake as the party required.
For Sam’s 7th birthday, he wanted a Terraria blood moon cake. Apparently, when there is a blood moon, a lot more zombies come out and there are some kinds of zombies that only appear in the blood moon. So we settled on a design where the moon changed from blue (regular moon) to red (blood moon) and a bunch more zombies rose up out of the ground.
The characters are handpainted gumpaste. The blood moon zombies are all mounted on metal tubes that are attached to a little platform. The platform is lifted by fishing line attached to a wooden dowel, so that when the dowel is pulled out, the zombies rise up for the blood moon and when the dowel is pushed in, the zombies sink into the ground for the regular moon.
Sam also wanted his Terraria avatar and the guide NPC, so I included a little house made of gingerbread where they can hide from the zombies and mounted them on a track so they can walk back and forth.
The backdrop and the moon are light boxes with lids of plexiglass covered with fondant. Inside, are rows of red LEDs and rows of blue LEDs. The LEDs are wired through the platform that raises and lowers the zombies, so that the blue LEDs light when the platform is down (regular moon) and the red LEDs light when the platform is up (blood moon).
I’m not sure why Nathan wanted to be Pac-Man for Halloween. He may have played Pac-Man once or twice, but he hasn’t seen Pixels. The overall structure of the costume was his idea. It’s made of foam core and it has a removable compartment in the mouth so that he can collect candy in Pac-Man’s mouth. It’s also outlined in EL wire, for easy visibility trick-or-treating at night.
Sam is very into Skylanders games and he wanted to be Dark Washbuckler for Halloween, who is a kind of octopus pirate.
I started the costume with black sweatpants and a black shirt and trimmed them with silver. The six extra legs are sewn to an elastic waistband. The hat, belt buckle, mustache, and suckers on the tentacles are made of fun foam. The ladder logos on the hat and belt buckle are because Washbuckler is a climbing type. Sam insisted that there be two on the belt buckle. I’m not sure why. They have LEDs inside to help with trick-or-treating visibility.
This Inside Out cake was for my friend Isaac’s ninth birthday, which is why it’s in the shape of the number 9.
The number 9 itself is mostly foam core covered with gum paste, because I needed room to embed LEDs and I didn’t need very much cake because they party was pretty small.
The memories around the edge of the 9 are gelatin bubbles, which are made by dipping partially inflated balloons, coated with shortening, into melted gelatin. They’re surprisingly sturdy once dry and technically edible, though it’s a little like eating plastic.
Each memory bubble contains a picture of the birthday boy, at ages from infancy to now, printed on edible wafer paper and each one has an LED behind it.
The figures are made of modeling chocolate with gum paste hair and clothes. They are made over a wire armature attached to a motor, so that they can spin joyously around.
The actual cake is the memory balls in the middle of the 9, which are cake balls dipped in royal icing and then in colored piping gel. I was trying to make cake that was easy to pick up and eat with no utensils, because the party was outside. But I didn’t leave enough time for the piping gel to dry, so they wound up extremely sticky and messy to eat. Still tasty, though.
For his 9th birthday, my nephew had very specific requirements – a Level 6 Clan Castle from Clash of Clans with an Archer Queen and Barbarian King as well as archers and barbarians. This is actually a fairly reasonable cake request, especially since Clan Castles are nice and square, and therefore quite conducive to being sculpted in cake. I, of course, decided to make it more difficult for myself by trying to make the archers and barbarians march in and out of the castle.
I think I actually built a pretty cool turntable mechanism out of 5-gallon buckets and rubber bands, but sadly once I got all the weight of the figures on it, it didn’t really turn. Oh well.
I also had more problems than usual with getting the figures put together. Partially this was because I just didn’t have enough time so the gum paste wasn’t totally dry, but I also had problems with royal icing that just didn’t want to dry. I still don’t know exactly what the problem was. I think I must have mixed it wrong somehow because I’ve never had that problem before. I had so much trouble attaching the Barbarian King’s hand that I ultimately had to leave it off and add some red royal icing so it looked like his hand had been chopped off in battle.
By the time we got the cake to the park for the party I was pretty frustrated, but I did eventually get all the figures standing up. I had to prop some of them up with bits of foam core concealed under green royal icing so that they wound up looking like they were knee-deep in unusually large tufts of grass.
The kids loved it, though, which is the important thing. The best part was after the cake was served when a bunch of the kids dismembered and reassembled the figures like a bunch of miniature Doctor Frankensteins.
For Sam’s 6th birthday, he asked for an Enderman cake (from Minecraft, of course). He specified that it should have a Minecraft backdrop and that it should be holding a cake saying “Happy Blockday Sam.”
For some reason, I found it impossible to locate square candles, so I had to make my own by melting down round candles and pouring them into square molds.
The legs and arms are wood, the head, body, cake, and big grass blocks are cake. There are LEDs behind the eyes, which are covered with several layers of wafer paper and then a layer of purple gelatin sheet. Everything is covered with gum paste plaques. To get the crucial minecraft pixel texture, I cut stencils for every color and airbrushed them. The Enderman only took eighteen separate stencils; the cake took eight; the grass blocks took fifteen (five for the tops, ten for the sides).
The backdrop is foamcore covered with gum paste. In Minecraft, Endermen can teleport, so I tried to accomplish that by cutting out Endermen shapes in the foamcore before it was covered in gum paste and putting LEDs inside. That way, when the lights went on and off, Endermen appeared and disappeared. It worked pretty well, except that Endermen are supposed to be black and, of course, these Endermen had to be white, so they were sort of reversed ghostly Endermen. To paint the backdrop, I needed twenty-four additional stencils.
I was up all night decorating, so I was still awake when Sam woke up at 6:30 am and saw the finished cake for the first time. He was super excited and even more so when I showed him how to operate the teleporting Endermen.
The party was at Kidizens, a Lego play place, and we invited Sam’s entire kindergarten class, plus several other friends from his old preschool. The party was an absolute madhouse and a huge success.
Icing Smiles is a great not-for-profit that arranges for volunteer cake decorators to provide special cakes for critically ill children and their siblings. This is the first cake that I’ve had the opportunity to make through them. I actually was pretty nervous about it, because this is the first cake I’ve ever made that wasn’t for family, friends, or a nationally televised competition.
I’m told Moises was really happy with it, so I’m happy, too.
My nephews are very into Minecraft, so of course they wanted to go as Minecraft characters for Halloween. Nathan chose to go as a wither and Sam chose to go as a mutant enderman. I spent the better part of week staying up late to build their costumes out of foam core, duct tape, and LEDs. It was totally worth it.
Sam at his kindergarten Halloween party. He ran around showing everyone with great delight how he had four arms.
Nathan ready to go trick-or-treating. He got tons on compliments on his costume and the lights made him very easy to spot.
In my totally unbiased opinion, Nathan, Sam, and our friend Isaac (who was dressed as My Hero Zero, lavishly adorned with EL wire) had the best costumes we saw all day.