Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to make a Lego Cake

I have been wanting to make a lego-type cake for a very long time.  I am not sure why I love Legos so much but I do.  I used to have a Lego school set when I was little, played with it for hours and I LOVED it.  Even before getting this cake order I would research how to make a Lego cake.  I always wondered.  But I didn't have much luck finding any tutorials out there.  So when I got this order the situation was still the same - there was little to no instruction out there. So here we are!

Most of what I found, if I found anything at all, referenced the "cut out a lot of little circles" approach, where after you cut your little rectangle you individually place every little Lego nub on top of it.  Sorry, but this was NOT what I was willing to do.  There was NO way I was going to make hundreds of itty bitty nubs to put on top of each Lego piece and in so many colors.  Not to mention it really wasn't going to look super neat... and that is always the goal - a PERFECT looking cake.

So yes, I was up for spending the better part of two days but not a whole week on the cake project. Call me lazy, but I am an engineer, and that's just what we are... lazy.  We create things to do the work for us.  So how was I going to accomplish that perfect look?  I really wasn't sure... good thing I got this order about a month in advance because like most of my cake projects their procedures ruminate in my head until it's cake time.

So I wanted a mold.  Something where I would NOT have to cut out little nubs.  Something that looked JUST like the building block pieces.  I searched and searched but could not find a Lego mold that would work ANYWHERE!  I had even ordered one that turned out to be the size of big Lego ice cubes! (these are the big yellow and blue ones on Amazon)  So if I wanted to get that perfect Lego piece look this meant I had to make the mold.  I scoured my daughter's block toys and found the perfect little piece.  For mold making instructions see materials below or you can buy them from us on our Etsy account:

Keep in mind this cake is all about prep work.  If everything is well prepared putting it together will be the fun part!  So here we go with the materials and steps to make the building block cake.  For a cliff note description check out our youtube video:

Key Decorating Materials

1.  The Mold: make your own or purchase from our Etsy HERE.  To make your own use a lego piece and silicone (there are a variety available from  Secure block piece on glass with buttercream and with a cookie cutter around it.  Work air bubbles out at each lego 'nub' with a large pin.  Apply buttercream at edge of cookie cutter.  Weigh and mix mold media, pour, let cure for required hours.

2.  Marshmallow Fondant (MMF) in primary colors:  Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue (but omg just imagine a pink, purple, and white block cake!! Sooo cute:)) You can make your own since there are various simple recipes online!  Or use Wilton fondant in a pinch, or you can even buy our Cake Couture fondant recipe online here.  Whatever you do DO NOT use Satin Ice.  This fondant doesn't fill each cavity very well and lacks firmness to make nice pieces.

Note: I LOVE using marshmallow fondant for any type of mold and cutout.  This fondant has the right firmness, flexibility, and texture to hold its molded shape and creates nice sharp cut outs (make sure you let it dry rolled out for about 10 minutes prior to cutting with a template).  It is especially best for these applications when the MMF has sat for a day or two (this increases firmness which is great for molds).

3.  Name Topper:  make your own with fondant and the font template (available on our Etsy and included when you purchase the mold).  Here is our tutorial on how to make a 2D topper.  It is a Mickey topper but I use the same techniques!:)  In sum, roll out your fondant to thickness, let dry for about 10 minutes, then, using pieces from your cut out template cut out each letter.  With the letters cut out the surrounding areas.  The font template is available on our Etsy here.

4. Your cake - I used a 1/4 sheet cake (9"x13").  This gives you an extra block-y look

5. Chocolate Ganache  Your favorite ganache recipe will do, however you can also see gananche instructions on our post here.

 Decor Steps

1. The Blocks (for the top only) - minimum 2 days before for a really sharp look

  • A couple of days before you want the finished cake make a number of block pieces for the top using the block mold and your different fondant colors.  TIP: Firm marshmallow fondant works best.  Achieve 'firm' fondant by making and coloring your fondant at least 1 day before making these pieces.  If your fondant is sticky try adding a dab of shortening or powdered sugar (avoid, corn starch, doesn't seem to work well with MMF).
Roll about a 1" ball of fondant (roll it enough to get all of the creases out), then push the ball into the mold cavity real well with your fingers (not a roller). Then using a sharp knife cut off the excess on top so that it is flush with the mold. If this gets to be too sticky sometimes it helps to rub a little extra powdered sugar on top before cutting the excess fondant. Then just bend the mold back with your fingers and pull/peel the fondant piece out of the mold slowly (do not use anything else but your fingers so as not to damage the mold or your piece). Re-square the soft pieces with a knife or spatula on a large flat surface dusted with powdered sugar.  You should be all set!  
  • I recommend starting with the lightest fondant color and working your way to the darkest (I would do yellow, green, red, then blue).  This way you can keep from cross contaminating your fondant colors and save yourself from dry hands due to over washing. The reason you want to do this well in advance is to allow your pieces to dry and therefore create 'sharp' looking blocks.  Drier fondant is sharper looking fondant and sharp looking fondant always looks cleaner and gives a more finished look.  But if you are out of time last minute is OK too!!
  • Next get a rough idea of how many pieces you need per color by estimating how many you will need to cover the top of your cake pan and cake board.  
  • This cake size is a quarter sheet and for the look I wanted it requires about
    • 50 green mold pieces
    • 23 yellow mold pieces
    • 13 blue mold pieces
    • 13 red mold pieces
  • Let the pieces dry for a full day or two (minimum overnight).  You can save time by not fully drying but the pieces will have a softer look to them.  Store them on your trays in a cabinet or drawers out of sunlight and bulb light to prevent them from fading or changing color. 
  • Notes on storage: DO NOT store them in an air-tight condition, this will cause the fondant to sweat and stay soft, however, if drying out for about a week or so you can do this, however, I would test it.  You might be able to store them in a paper box (anything but air-tight) but the lack of air might affect piece integrity.
  • Once they are fully dry cut the block pieces evenly into 3 smaller pieces.  DO NOT cut all the green pieces since you need a good amount of those for the cake board.
  • They are now ready!

2.  The Name Plate Topper

  • Since you have just worked with all of your colors you can make this easy peasy;-).  The hardest thing here is to get that font!
  • A block font template is now included in all mold orders OR for download at our Etsy shop. 
  • Cut out your letters, roll out the fondant layers, cut the name, and cut the black, yellow, layers and the red and black backgrounds.  For a more thorough steps check out or How to make a 2D Topper Tutorial Here.

3.  The Cake

  • Bake and cool your cake completely.  Slice down the center of the layer for the filling and then freeze.  You can wrap or not (with plastic wrap or foil) it might depend on the types of other food items in your freezer.  For instance I had a cake-only freezer so I never needed to wrap when storing short term. Short therm freezing will incorporate more moisture into your cake so don't worry about it drying out:)!
  • When you are ready to start the decorating process pull the cake out of the freezer.  Next separate the layers carefully and fill with your desired filling.  
  • Use your chocolate ganache to coat sides and top of cake with a spatula.  If your ganache is too firm heat in the microwave for just a little bit and apply.  Use a bench scrapper to achieve nice clean sides and top.  Once your ganache is on if you want to 'fix' the smoothness with the bench scrapper, heat a pot of water to dip and heat the bench scrapper.  
  • Refrigerate your ganached cake for about an hour for a good firming.  While this is refrigerating let's start the side blocks!

4.  The Side Blocks

  • Roll out wide pieces of 4 different colors preferably using a pasta roller.  I use a kitchen-aid one that attaches to my mixer.  Tip: To get a thicker piece than the #1 setting reverse it (back the knob up).  It will work just as well and give you a nice thick piece.  
  • Let your pieces dry preferably for about 1/2 hour to an hour.
  • While these are drying create your cutting guide.  Using graph paper or engineering paper draw lines using a straight edge using the same width and length of your small molded block pieces (the dimensions of the final piece after you have cut it into 3).  If you bought a mold these templates are now included with each block mold order!:) For Block Mold including templates click here.
    • AFTER drying cut out these pieces using a small knife, a straight edge, and your paper guide.  You will cut a lot faster this way (I told you I was lazy;-)).  If you do not wait for proper drying the pieces will not cut as easily and as firmly.  
    • These I like to cut as I need them.  I found these hard to estimate quantity.

    5.  Put it all Together!!

    • Ok so this is what I think is the fun part!  Apply a thin film of shortening to get your block pieces to stick.  I like to use shortening because you can move your pieces around later if you find you need some tweaking.  But if you want to make a fondant sugar glue (If I recall correctly I used this for the green board pieces).  Here is how to make Fondant Sugar Glue:
      • Mix about 1/2 water and 1/2 fondant
      • Microwave in 10-30 second increments
      • Let sit for 15 minutes to set
    • Next, start playing building blocks!  Create your own block pattern on top of the cake.  Overhang the border blocks just a tad so the side Lego's will meet flush just under them.
    • Match the side pieces of the first row to the border pieces with the appropriate color.  Cut side pieces where necessary
    • Fill the remaining rows of the side freestyle!
    • Position your green block pieces on the board next to the side pieces of the cake and fix securely with sugar glue.
    • After it is all together cut the cake board to fit (so no cardboard is showing beyond the green board pieces) and place the name topper on the cake.
    That is it!! Yes I know it is a TON of work but it is such a beautiful looking cake!  Your little one (or big one) will LOVE it!

    Happy Lego Cake Making!!


    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

    Wedding Cake Shopping

    Shopping for all things wedding can be so much fun but at the same time, yes, it can also be stressful.  You start down the list: rings, venue, dress, photographer, flowers, music, and on and on the list goes.  So many choices and so many decisions and not to mention the budget you are trying to stick to.  So with all of this how do you shop for a wedding cake?  It's not a venue you can see or a dress you can try on.  It's a vision or an image that requires a deposit!  And to top it off it's toward the end of your wedding list where by then your wedding budget has been exhausted.  So how to shop with a clear head for your wedding cake?  Here are our 5 wedding cake shopping tips:

    5 Wedding Cake Shopping Tips

    1. Know what you want.  Pinterest is the go to tool here.  You can narrow down ideas when it comes to your special cake.

    2. Get quotes.  Quickly obtain rough quotes by emailing various bakers with images of cakes you like including servings needed.  Check out their work online to see if you are comfortable with their cake making skills for your wedding cake.

    3.  Budget.  To keep costs down stick to simple designs.  Sometimes simplicity is not obvious so get your baker's input.  Ask about a discount if you stick with one cake flavor and one filling flavor.  Also, consider having someone pick up your cake.  This is more feasible with smaller two tier cakes for sure.  

    4. Consider finding an up and coming cake maker through a cake supply shop, they will be more competitive with prices, however, they may not be as experienced with wedding cakes.  

    5. Plan ahead.  A well planned cake is a good cake.  Try to plan your cake at least one month before the event or more.  Specialty cakes sometimes require special order materials and long prep times.

    Happy Wedding Planning!!