I’ve been baking for years now, but recently have begun to really challenge myself with each project. Each baking project starts with taking a specific trait or preference of the client and then exaggerating it. My favorite creation– so far– is this cake, which I made for my good friend Marla, who is addicted to collecting all sorts of make-up, particularly M.A.C. cosmetic products.
Recognizing that Marla’s love for make-up as a really great cake-decorating platform brimming with many opportunities, I created a list of all of the cosmetic products I could think of to create the themed cake. I must admit that I did lean on the vast knowledge of my wife to move my list past lipstick and eye shadow. Once I had 5 or 6 items, I started to consider the options for their construction.
Knowing I needed to have enough cake for 50-60 people, I made a 16 1 x 16 1 base layer, which I covered with a dark chocolate and Kahlua ganache.
Baking Tip: Ganache is great for big surfaces like this because it dries and set’s up almost as solidly as fondant, but tastes infinitely better.
Next, I baked up a top layer of cake (12×12) and frosted it with a butter icing that I’d added pink food coloring to create a bright background for the make-up products.
Since I’d decided that I wanted the entire cake to be edible, I baked a very thin-layered brownie on a sheet pan and then using some cookie-cutters, and other various shapes, carved out the items. For the eye-shadow tray, I snagged 4 tiny packs of jelly (usually accompanying toast at diners), and after removing the jelly and washing them, refilled them with melted white chocolate (each one a different shade, using food coloring). I used a tiny breadstick, bathed in melted chocolate and then crowned with a mini-marshmallow for the applicator.
The compact was a circle of brownie, covered in melted chocolate and then topped with a colored white chocolate for blush and a cut-out of foil to represent a mirror. Using a store-bought chocolate mold, I created the lipsticks and gave each a different color of icing on the tip to give a variety similar to Marla’s personal collection. Then, I layered half-round cut-outs of brownie on to a rectangle and then covered the whole thing with melted white chocolate.
After the base solidified, I used melted chocolate in an icing bag to draw the false eye-lashes onto the white base. And finally, as main focal point, I attempted to recreate the M.A.C. font to dedicate the cake to Marla. All in all, the process took about 8 – 10 hours (spread out over 2-3 days) and was certainly worth every minute of work!
Growing-up in quite humble circumstances, I was encouraged to imagine limitless worlds and to always believe things could be whatever I wanted them to be. At the time, I would have preferred the new toys and cool clothes that all the other kids got, but in retrospect I would not change a thing. In fact, I now recognize just how lucky I am to have discovered my creative side so early in life. Baking cakes is the ultimate manifestation of the “Things can be whatever I want them to be” concept for me. Enjoy!
–November 26, 2008