Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dr. B's "FIN"tieth Birthday Cake

When I met my husband (crazy story involving scuba) he had a pair of 20 year old scuba fins he was incredibly fond of. I suspected he would even kiss those fins when I wasn't looking. That's how much he loved them.

Well, they finally wore out completely on one of our numerous dive trips. Can't remember where - Thailand? Burma? Caribbean? Or was it on one of our numerous trips to the Red Sea? Hmmm I am off diving now.....

Anyway, back to the cake... Dr. B was forced to buy some shiny new new fins in the last few years.  While they do the job just fine, he still misses his old ones.  You should also know my husband dives with a computer from 1987. It works. He loves it and that's that.

Dr. B is a very low tech diver. He's no Gear Head, my hubby. Not one to jump on the latest scuba toy or suit out there. Of course I am the complete opposite.

Still, between us we have six big bags of dive equipment.


Ok, five of them are mine.

I planned to make this cake for his 50th birthday and tint it the same color as his beloved former fins (may they RIP).  When he saw it, he was thrilled by my tribute to his former favorite scuba accoutrement.

This was my very first attempt at fondant. I used a marshmallow recipe. Since I am a fondant neophyte, I searched the web for instructions and tips.  Here is where I found a lot of good information, not only on how to make fondant but also on how to color and cover a cake with it. So a big thank you to Peggy's Baking Corner at What's Cooking America for her excellent information.

My apologies for the lack of pictures demonstrating the process. My main camera is out for repair and I was concentrating so hard on not messing this up, I didn't take many with the backup.

I thought a tropical theme for the flavors were appropriate, so I made
Ina Garten's coconut cake with a delicious Mango Buttercream frosting I got off the Chowhound boards. The coconut cake was perfect. Light and flavorful.  This will defintiely be my go to recipe for coconut cake from now on.

Fondant is a pain in the ass. Making and kneading was fine (ok, how skilled do you have to be to melt marshmallows in a microwave?). As suggested I left it overnight. However, rolling that sucker out the next day almost broke my rolling pin.

Coloring it was a whole other ordeal. Getting the right shade of blue green for the memorialized fins was a workout. It took quite a bit of time to work the color in properly. For the strap and the trim, I did get a break and was lucky not to have the problems other people have written about coloring fondant black. I used a very intense brown color to start and then added the black. Rubbing in a little more shortening made it shiny.

To get the fin cake shape I used a square spring pan for the top part and a sheet cake for the wide fin part. I left about 4 inches of one side of the sheet cake pan empty with no batter. After the cake was in the oven for a few minutes I reached in and tipped it slightly to the side where there was no batter. The end result was the sloping effect I needed for the end of the fin. This was totally improvised btw. I had no idea what I was doing.

I also didn't cut a pattern for the cake. I did it free hand which I normally suck at. But with over 500 dives under my (weight) belt, I've spent a lot of time in scuba fins and felt confident enough to give it a try.

Once I had a big enough piece rolled out to cover the cake it took two tries to transfer it, both times the fondant cracked and tore. Like I said, pain in the ass.

 I had to mend the cracks and tears with shortening and extra fondant. See this:

This is how you cover a big tear in fondant. Believe me, it looks better than what's under it.

The trim and strap I also cut free hand from the rolled out black fondant.  For the buckles on the side,  I cut a rectangular cookie in half, covered each piece with black fondant and stuck it to the sides. The heel pad was a long oval piece cut out of the black fondant and stuck to the strap

The ribbing on the fin and on the strap are just rolled pieces of fondant.

Crushing butterkekse (butter cookies) in the food processor provided the sand.

One great tip I found is to spray the finished cake with non stick spray to give it a wet look.

These starfish I made out of marzipan, dyed with a combo of red and orange paste coloring and shaped into starfish. I used a toothpick dipped in red food coloring and stuck a bunch of holes in it to give it some texture and then painted on some luster dust dipped in vodka (Absolute Vanilla, of course!) to make them a bit opalescent.

The other critters are just painted sugar cookies.

Happy 50th to my darling Husbandfish and many happy dive trip returns!

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