Our son's Minecraft birthday cake was the sincerest form of flattery - idea stolen from a recent Facebook post from a mother friend.
Usually, my talented sister artistically bakes and decorates all our vegan birthday creations, but this time life got in the way. But she let me use all her gear, for which much thanks.
I searched for a model - one problem is that Minecraft itself has a cake object (mines, cakes, I'm sure you see the link at least as well as I do), and that cubical cake was the most common example. But I wanted to make a piece of the Minecraft block world for my little Minecraft addict.
Sadly, most of the pictures of Minecraft world cakes were messy-looking and not very inspiring. I naturally feared that I was about to add another such example to the Minecraft mixup, but I pressed on.
My son picked the right birthday to love Minecraft - I imagined I could design a 7 into the blocks of the cake. I wouldn't have aimed for any other digit. Except 1, and even in our house, the 1-year-olds aren't hooked on computer games.
I graphically designed the blocks, discussed my plan in a special session with another friend (recently graduated from a short decorating course), then redesigned the blocks.
You could use this basic stepped design for any year. Grass on the ground, 1 level of rock blocks, and one level of grass blocks. My aim was for big blocks and a simple structure, so I had half a chance of succeeding.
And the bit I cut out from the first layer could be the second layer! What could be simpler?
I made a chocolate cake, because:
- Chocolate is the only cake worth making
- Chocolate was the dirt for the grass blocks.
And of course, I used the Vegan 101 Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe (good for cake or cupcakes).
I used a professional "snow creme" icing product, and thinned and tinted it (pale gray and grass-green). I knew that you get a better look from pre-formed layered icings, but I wanted it to taste good.
I thought I'd borrow some big pans from my expert sister, but for the size I planned I used my own worn medium sized roasting pan (the only one left in my decluttered kitchen because our oven is so petite).
I baked a full day in advance of the party, since I knew that for cake sculpture, cool cake (or even cold cake) is a must. I mixed up loads of chocolate batter and several cups of icing (just in case.
Luckily, each step went pretty well to plan.
Lesson #1 - lots of batter gangs up on you and escapes.
Whew, successfully out of the pan in one piece!
Constructing and Decorating
I didn't take any pictures of these stages, because my hands were covered in icing the whole time. And because I was too busy thinking "Oh sh*t!" and "this looks awful."
Moving the cutout bottom layer onto the presentation platter was a two-person job and was still nerve-wracking.
Lesson #2: The cutout was geometrically simple, but because of the 7, it was structurally very weak (one long skinny arm of cake hangs on by just one cake square). But it survived.
I iced the whole rock level first.
Lesson #3 - in shaped cakes, allow for the thick layer of icing that will wreck the measurements of your precision design.
Then I placed the second cake level (the cutout) on top. Scattering chocolate crumbs all over the icing on the first level. I iced the second level and the ground level with green, plus more green from a grass nozzle.
The rest was damage control, adding more and more icing to the rock layer until it looked respectable.
Lesson #4 - large spaces of plain pale icing are like white clothes; every spot shows.
The steadier hand got the detail work done.
I had not planned the green grass line around the base of the rock layer, but it was crucial. As well as completing the illusion of the ground grass level beneath the rock, it also drew the eye to the deep colour and away from the many imperfections in the pale rock level. Rock's meant to be a lumpy and spotty, right?
While I got compliments on the cake, and it was delicious, I was totally stressed during the process about how many things had to go right for it to work.
I'm definitely hoping big sis is back on the job next year!