Sunday, October 9, 2011

Otto's Robot Cake

Our little Otto Riot turned one year old a few weeks ago. We had decided that we were going to have a simple first birthday party for him. We didn't want to get caught up in a whirlwind of party planning and the associated stress, so we agreed on a backyard barbeque with family and friends. Easy enough.

So I thought.

With a robot-themed birthday party in mind, I designed and printed the most adorable robot invitations, and sent them on their merry way. Then the real work began. I decided, I was going to make Otto's birthday cake myself. Initially, my goal in doing this was to keep cost down, and keep it simple. Well, let me just say. . I accomplished neither of those goals. You see, I am not a baker. Sure I can throw together a boxed cake mix, but that is about the extent of my baking abilities. But I was determined. And those that know me will attest that once I set my sights on something, I do not settle until it is accomplished. One might say, I get mini-obsessed.

The vision for Otto's robot cake was big! It was fun and cutesy and colorful, and it was...well, big! And it just had to be fondant. Sure fondant isn't the tastiest confection around. Sure I had never touched the stuff before. But it is so smooth and lends itself so perfectly to the robot form, that I just had to have it!

As I began to sketch cake designs and research cake decorating, it became clear that I was going to need to practice.

A lot.

Three weeks before the party, I armed myself with an arsenal of cake baking and decorating tools and started making test cakes. I baked cake type after cake type until I found the firmest, most full-bodied cake that could withstand the weight of fondant, and the stress of being manhandled by a novice.*  I rolled out fondant ball after fondant ball, until I figured out just how to work with this stuff without it tearing or pleating. My family was soon sick of eating the products of my baking experiments, but guess what? In the end, I figured it out! I had taught myself how to work with fondant, and how to successfully decorate a big ol' cake!

The final Robot Cake was almost exactly what I had in mind. He stood (err...sat) a little over a foot tall. He had doughnut and marshmallow arms and legs, rock candy antennae, lollipop ears and gumball eyeballs. I had envisioned him a little more metallic, but I had not mastered the shimmer dust well enough to create such an illusion. And so he didn't quite shine, but he did glimmer. And that was fine by me.

Robot Cake was not perfect. There were technical flaws that were very obvious to me. But don't get me wrong. I couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome. And the day of Otto's party, the guests all loved him too! In fact, everyone loved Robot Cake except for Otto, who couldn't have been more indifferent.

But then again, what did I expect?!
He is, after all, one year old.

* Confession: I did NOT bake Otto's cake from scratch. Homemade cakes are a lot of work, and when I make one, it's invariably crumbly and doesn't taste very good. I knew it would have to be a box cake. I tested a variety of brands and flavors, and found that Duncan Hines French Vanilla plus one box of Jello Vanilla pudding, produces what is literally, the best tasting cake I've ever made. 

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