It's time for Sweet Times in the Rockies 2013! Last year I did not enter because I had another event and was unable to do that and a competition cake. So I was very happy to have things work out this year so I could enter again!
People who know me know that I get a lot of inspiration from my daughter Charlotte's dresses, because she's an awesome little fashionista with way better taste in clothes than I have. This cake came straight from her First Day of First Grade Dress.
The dress is basically a pattern of very deep, bright chevrons. It always reminded me of New Mexico colors because of the turquoise and orange. When planning for this competition, I didn't know what I was going to make until I was getting Charlotte dressed one morning and the dress pretty much jumped out at me from her closet. A chevron cake, with the coolest of all desert plants-succulents.
I did a ton of research and drew a lot of sketches to try to hit the right tone. I compiled most of my inspiration here, which was a huge help to have something to continually flip back to. http://pinterest.com/summerrippe/stitr-inspiration/
As for my sketches, I was pretty lucky to have a group of friends that I could ask questions and advice from, and had them vote on which sketch they liked best. Huh-looking at those four pictures now I realize I went with none of them.
Then the work began. And let me tell you: Chevrons. Are. Hard. And maybe it's just because I am out of practice (can I blame that on the pregnancy, too? Like being unable to run three miles anymore?). But seriously, hard. I decided to individually piece them onto the cake, which I really liked in the end because it made the cake look more like hand made pottery.
One thing I will note here is that if you chose to do a chevron cake, you should carefully check your math before embarking on decorating the cake. I actually did not do this in the beginning and the chevrons did not meet up in the back. So I had to recover that tier and start again, basically losing a couple of hours worth of work. The math is pretty simple-just take the circumfrence of the tier, divide it by the number of chevrons you will want, and then you get the length your chevron should be.
The leather band around the middle tier was fun, but I had to get creative with the texture. I have some impression mats, but none of them were right to make the fondant look like tooled leather. So? I used the covering from our florescent light (washed first, of course). The texture was pretty spot on. Next, I took some vodka mixed with brown food coloring and stippled the surface. This part is important, because at first I painted it with regular strokes and it came out dark and heavy handed. This resulted in me needing to take off all the fondant, recover the tier and start back at the beginning (more labor lost, le sigh). Stippling got the color on in just the right amount and I think helped with the worn leather look.
The turquoise gemstones were really fun! These were made from gumpaste. I hand molded them into the shape I wanted and let them dry. Next I painted them with two coats of Confectioner's Glaze (check online cake suppliers), drying between the coats, and then let them dry overnight. When I got up the next morning, the gumpaste had cracked a little bit. This turned out to be in my advantage because it gave me a natural pattern to vein the turquoise. Taking a very fine tipped brush, I painted the veins with black food coloring and vodka. Following the cracks both masked the imperfection but also made the turquoise look more natural. I made the coral stones pretty much the same way, but did not vein them.
I ended up following this tutorial for the succulents that went on the cake but tweaked it a little. http://www.pixel-whisk.com/2012/04/succulent-cupcakes.html Since I did not have the cutter she used, I had to draw out my own templates and then use an exacto-knife. Also, I used different colored petal dusts than she used-I chose Chartreuse, Moss Green, and White. These turned out well and I was able to just place them on the cake with some edible glue.
Which brings me to the edible glue, something else I had not used before. It's pretty cool actually and made from Tylose and water. Take 1/4 tsp of Tylose, mix it with 2 Tbsp of hot water. It will be clumpy, and that's fine. Cover, put in the fridge over night. When you get up you will have a clear, sticky gel to work with that won't show up like royal icing will. It seemed to work just fine.
One of my most favorite parts of the cake is the base. In my Pinterest inspiration board, there is a cake on a wooden board that I just loooooved. I looked at a lot of stores for something similar. I even went to a wood working shop and scoured the internet for cheese boards. Nothing was right. One afternoon I serendipitously ended up at Williams and Sonoma, and this was on a display table at the very front of the store. I measured it-the cake would actually fit! Being from Williams and Sonoma it was over priced, and I thought and thought about it for a couple of weeks before finally buying it. By then it was on sale. I have to say, it's pretty perfect.