Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The Next “Ace of Cakes” Star…
My best friend (and roommate) Jon is an avid collector of Jordan sneakers, and has been for as long as I have known him (since we were about 14-years-old). Jon’s birthday is three days after Christmas, and coming up with one gift for him is always a struggle, making figuring out the second gift nearly impossible. So this past December, I was brainstorming gift ideas for him, and it came to me: Make him a birthday cake that looks like a Jordan!
My baking skills are pretty much limited to Betty Crocker mixes, mostly due to the fact that I don’t have the patience to measure everything to the exact degree that baking requires. I’ve never used fondant before either… but I figured it couldn’t be too hard, seems like it would be like playing with Play-doh.
So I got to work planning my creation. I went online to Nike.com and navigated to a site completely devoted to Jordan’s. After looking through the 23 different styles, I decided on Jordan 3’s, and found a color combination I thought I could re-create:
The bulk of the shoe is white, meaning I would only have to color the detail parts of the shoe. The red struck me as a little problematic, as red is a really hard color to get right. Also, the grey parts of the shoe have an “elephant skin” effect, which is a major design component for this style of Jordan.
I did a little Googling on how to work with fondant, for some background info. Then I spoke to baking guru (and my mother), Dilphia De Los Santos. We promptly got into an argument about it, because I’d read that you should use shortening as a lubricant for the surface that you are working with the fondant on, and my mom laughed in my face, managing to sputter something about powdered sugar. Typical De Los Santos stubbornness at it’s best.
After arguing about it for about 20 minutes, I finally conceded to my mom, and listened to what she had to say. Under her instruction, I mixed up two Betty Crocker “Golden Vanilla” cake mixes, poured the batter in a cookie sheet, and tossed (ok, gently slid) it into the oven. After it baked and cooled, I cut it into thirds and put a layer of frosting between each of the three layers of cake, using 1/4 inch wooden dowel rods to hold the layers in place. Then, I wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the freezer overnight.
The next day, I took the cake out of the freezer, and, with several images of the sneakers I wanted to re-create in front of me for reference, used a paring knife to carve the frozen cake. I’ve always been pretty artistic, and I’m good at visualizing things, so it was, well, a piece of cake.
Next up, I covered my sneaker shaped cake in a layer of frosting (also of the Betty Crocker, pre-made variety), and set it on a foil covered cake board and put it aside. I rolled out a box of Wilton fondant on my powdered sugar sprinkled work surface (a large flexible cutting board), and rolled it up onto my rolling pin once it was about a 1/4 inch think throughout. Then, I rolled it from the rolling pin over the cake:
After smoothing it out and trimming off the excess, I took my leftover fondant and divided it in half. Half remained white, for laces and other plain details, and then colored 1/4 of it blue, and 1/4 grey. It takes a while to knead the food coloring in, and it most definitely can stain your hands (note to self: wear gloves next time).
I used a little tool Wilton makes to cut and shape my fondant details, which basically is a miniature, plastic, pizza cutter. To attach them to the cake, I rubbed the wrong side of each detail with a little water, starting with the bottom-most pieces first. After about an hour and half of creating and attaching the details, piece-by-piece, it began to look like a real shoe. For the elephant skin effect seen on the grey details of the shoe, I “sponged” on dark grey colored frosting over the grey fondant details using a crumpled up paper towel.
The last pieces I made were the laces, but realized that I needed to pipe the Jordan symbol on before doing that. I used the tiniest decorating tip my mom had, and practiced it a few times before attempting it on the actual cake. I used a tube of prepared red frosting for the symbol on the tongue of the shoe, since red is one of the hardest colors to get bright and vibrant. I used the dark grey colored frosting to create the elephant skin effect on the grey pieces to make the symbol on the back of the shoe.
After attaching the laces I decorated a small, 4-inch layer cake for the “birthday cake” aspect of my design, with blue frosting. I put it on the cake board, piped some little rosettes around it, and then wrote “Happy Birthday Jon!” in red icing on the board.
I managed to get the cake to our apartment safely, and put the red “24” candles on the mini birthday cake. I knocked on Jon’s bedroom door, told him there was something he “had to see” in the kitchen, and dragged him downstairs with me. He loved it, and I think I’m going to be making a different style of Jordan cake every December 28th for the years to come!