Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sherlock Holmes Cake

For quite a few years I was making fondant cakes. I made them for all of my girls' birthdays, nieces and nephews, and sold some as well. But about seven or eight months ago I had decided I had enough. Cakes really stress me out. They take me a very long time to do, and I actually end up losing money because I don't have time to do my transcription work. However, a couple weeks ago a neighbor asked if I'd be willing to make one for her son and it just so happened that he likes Sherlock Holmes (love!) so I was excited to make a cake again. Unfortunately, it was late in the evening when the hubster and I started on the cake, so this is not a full tutorial. But I will walk you through a few of the finishing touches, including my first attempt at plaid. So here's where I started out this morning, the bottom tier was covered in a brick red fondant. We then cut out little individual bricks and stuck them to the side. Fondant usually sticks to itself quite easily, but from time to time you do have to use a little bit of water with a small paintbrush. My hubby covered the cake board with gray fondant and carved in some stone pavers. Then he hit all the edges with black using an airbrush. He also did that to the bricks to give them more dimension. Meanwhile, I made the door and covered the top tier with fondant.

The top tier is going to be the Sherlock Holmes hat, so I baked the cake in a metal bowl and then carved it down to the shape I wanted.  The fondant color was supposed to be a dark khaki but when I pulled it out of the fridge this morning it looked a bit mauvish to me so I decided I would airbrush over the whole thing.

I rolled out more fondant and cut out brims for the front and back as well as the ear flaps ("Is it some kind of death frisbee?")

Next I got out the airbrush again.  I usually make my husband do this part because he is much more artistic than I, but he was at work so what's a girl to do?  I also wanted to do a dark red to coordinate with the brick layer but I didn't have any red airbrush color, so that was out.  I went with green instead.  I painted green checks on the hat and flaps.

I filled in all the gaps with brown

Then I went over all the intersections with thick black lines

And to finish, I went through the middles with smaller black lines.

I added some details to the door by rolling out little tiny snakes of fondant.  This is tricky because it is ridiculously small and the fondant wants to stick to your hands, so use toothpicks or fondant tools to manipulate and place your details.

Ever wonder how to get colors like gold or silver on your cake?  You can use this amazing powder called luster dust.  It comes in a tiny little canister, and when you mix it with alcohol (I use pure lemon extract), it turns into paint.  So awesome!  You can find luster dust at cake specialty stores or online.  It is kind of pricey at around $4-5 a piece, but you will love it.

Now my door details are a beautiful shiny gold!

Now it is time to stack the cake.  My trick?  Or actually it was my cousin's trick that she taught me ;) Straws!

I vividly remember the very first stacked cake I made.  It was my third daughter's first birthday.  I thought I could just make a three-tier topsy turby cake and stack them on top of each other.  I didn't use cake boards or support or anything.  Needless to say, it didn't turn out so great.  As you can see in this picture, I actually had to have my hand behind it to brace it for the photo or it would have fallen right over!

Super cute baby....not such a cute cake!  After almost seven years and over 100 cakes, I've learned a thing or two.  Support is vital!  So what you have to do is stick your straws in (you can also use wooden dowels) and then cut it.  Don't try to cut it level with the cake top because you won't have enough space to get your scissors close enough.  Instead, push the straw all the way to the bottom and then pull it up an inch or so.  Your frosting will leave a line on the straw and tell you where to cut.

Now you can push the straw back down so it is level with the top.

I slid the top tier (which is on a piece of cardboard) onto the bottom tier using an offset spatula.  I added the brims and ear flaps to the hat.

I added some black trim to the hat.  The rolled up stuff is wax paper and I just have it in there to help keep its shape while the fondant hardens.

What Sherlock Holmes cake is complete without Sherlock himself and his trusty Mr. Watson?  My oldest daughter is quite a talented sculptor and she and I worked on these guys earlier in the morning before school. I assembled Watson first.

I still haven't found the best way to do figures.  I've tried modeling chocolate, and really like it, but I didn't make any for this project.  For these guys I used the same fondant as I made for the cake and added Tylose powder to it.  I haven't perfected this technique, and these guys are still quite soft.  I think you have to plan ahead a little more than I do and give your figures a day or two to set up in order for them to be firm.  So I just helped them stick to the cake by putting a toothpick through each body.  I hid Watson's under his scarf.  Here you can see the toothpick sticking out of Sherlock's body:

And here he is with a head!  I covered his toothpick with a magnifying glass.

My final step was to hot glue some ribbon along the edge of the cake drum to give it a clean, finished look.
Voila!  A finished Sherlock Holmes cake.  Has it brought me out of cake retirement?  I'm not so sure.

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