Monday, November 13, 2006

Sweet Harvest

This, my latest project, is the bounty of the season executed entirely in sugar. The harvest board includes a cornucopia filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables which are interspersed with grape leaves. A ten inch cake, covered in chocolate fondant, is included in the harvest tableau.

All fruits and vegetables were first sculpted in styrofoam, covered in a gumpaste/fondant blend, then handpainted with food-grade powders. I also sprayed each piece with a food-grade lacquer to give it the slight sheen seen in the real-life model. The cornucopia was made by weaving long strips of sugar paste as one would a reed or willow basket; the grape leaves are gumpaste.

This piece was made for a corporate party and the top of the cake has the appropriate company name and message executed in gold; a sugar rope wreaths the cake bottom. The cake is my signature "Diva" cake. The bottom tier is a rich chocolate cake topped with a layer of bittersweet chocolate buttercream. Another layer of chocolate cake follows. The center filling is a chocolate ganache embedded with fresh raspberries. Next comes a butter cake tier, then a raspberry buttercream followed by another butter cake tier. The raspberry buttercream is made with a puree of fresh raspberries, a bit of sugar and a light dose of raspberry liqueur. It is wonderfully tart and offsets the sweetness and richness of this cake perfectly.

The entire cake is then encased in a "spackle" consisting of left over cake crumbs, ganache and chocolate buttercream. This paste is not only tasty but fills in any spaces in the cake and provides a perfect undercoat for the rolled fondant. And unlike a buttercream undercoat it dries firmly to the touch. I owe this "spackle" technique to Toba Garrett as described in her book "The Well Decorated Cake". Every time I "spackle" one of my cakes, I give thanks to the brilliant and talented Miss Garrett! Fondant requires a near perfect surface to which to adhere or else the final effect will be lumpy and bumpy and less than perfect. The traditional British fondant covered cake is a rather heavy fruit cake covered in marzipan then finished off with a final covering of rolled fondant. This is not a popular option in America. So the "spackle" coat is a perfect substitute for marzipan. I do occasionally use an undercoat of marzipan especially if the cake is a dense almond one.

As mentioned earlier, the cake covering is a chocolate fondant (one of my prizes from the Oklahoma Sugar Show). And it tastes just like a Tootsie Roll!