My sister in law is definitely superwoman. Four kids with crazy schedules, a (wonderful) husband, a part time job, a house always breaming with extended family and a yard full of animals that are a full time job themselves. She balances it all so well. Makes it look easy even. Oh, and did I mention she is also creative? She makes so many beautiful things for her home, to wear and to eat.
She is especially talented at quilting. I'm really impressed by this skill of hers because I can barely thread a needle. Her walls are covered with things like this...
She has also made quilts for each of her daughters.
I think these are the most beautiful of all because of the gesture in itself.
What a lovely gift to pass on to someone you love. A thing of beauty that brings comfort as well.
So for her birthday I decided to make her a quilt. No, not a real one. That would take me at least 10 years with my (lack of) sewing skills. But I can definitely try to make one out of sugar...
My first idea was to make an elaborate design with patterns, stripes, flowers, etc. As I was gathering my tools and sketching out the ideas (more like scribbling - I can't draw at all but sketching sounds all impressive), it became clear I did not have the fondant tools to tackle that concept properly.
Then I thought up something better - a quilt of her life.
The idea came when I was flipping through some old photos recently from the 80's. I came across pictures from the numerous jaunts I undertook to see the AIDS quilt when it was on display.
OK I don't want to get all maudlin. The AIDS crisis in the 80's was one horrific time but looking at those pictures of the quilt now and revisiting those funny, fun, fabulous and touching panels was also very inspiring.
So I decided to create a quilt cake of Hedwig's life. (For you Harry Potter fans, yes, her name really is Hedwig)
The color palette is close to the warm decor of her home. Then I made each panel into something that represented her or something about her life - kids, marriage to her very handy husband (Seriously handy. He built our house.)
A pair of Hollywood sunglasses, a UN blue peacekeeping helmet and a garden wheelbarrow represented myself, my husband and my MIL all in one square (The "Hollywood Square" hahahaha. Which makes me think a Hollywood Squares cake would be a really fun thing to do as well..hmmm..)
The squares on the quilt present a really great opportunity to personalize a cake using many different elements of the person's life.
Here is how I did it:
I used this Egg Yolk Sponge Cake recipe from Nigella and quadrupled the recipe to make a sheet cake. This was just the thing I was looking for after my macaron trials and tribulations. When you are learning to make macarons, there are never enough recipes available to use up the leftover egg yolks. So a big thank you to Nigella for being a macaron addiction enabler.
For the buttercream frosting, I wanted to use something of home to glue it all together. So I popped open a jar of my MIL's homemade sour cherry preserves and created a buttercream with it. I loved the idea of something Grandma made being the glue holding all the elements together.
Oma's Sour Cherry Buttercream
- 1/4 cup Sour Cherry Preserves
- 1 cup of cream
- 2 sticks of butter - softened
- 4 tablespoons of Crisco
- 5 cups of powdered sugar
- Beat the preserves and cream together and set aside for at least 30 min.
- Beat butter until creamy
- Add Crisco
- Alternately add the sugar and cream to the butter/Crisco mixture until throughly blended
I made and colored my own marshmallow fondant. Basically you just microwave marshmallows up to 20 seconds at a time with a splash of water until melted and stir, then knead in powdered sugar until you get the fondant consistency. You can add flavoring if you want. I didn't.
1) Crisco both the bowl and the spoon before it touches the marshmallows
2) Add the food color before you add the sugar, making it a little darker than your desired shade as the sugar will lighten it a bit.
3) To avoid having to divide up the melted marshmallow mass (task from hell), I made each color separately.4) Crisco your hands before you start kneading. You will have to do this several times in the kneading process.
After the cake and frosting were finished I channeled my very best Cake Boss and "dirty iced" the cake with the buttercream.
Once the fondant was rolled out, I used a pastry cutter to cut it to fit,
leaving the corners a bit longer to mimic corners of a quilt.
The pastry cutter added a quilt effect on the edges.
Each square I cut in half lengthwise into two triangles so I could mix and match the colors on top the cake.
|These were part of the original color scheme.|
I kept laying the colors out in different patterns until I was happy with the way they looked. Using a paintbrush I Wet the back of each triangle slightly and adhered them to the cake.
Then it was onto creating molding all the different elements. For most of them I googled clip art, scaled them to an appropriate size for the square on a word doc and printed them out.
I glued each element onto cardboard and then cut them out again so I had a homemade cutter. I used them like a cookie cutter using a small knife to cut each shape out of the fondant. Then using the clip art photo as a rough guide, I cut and molded various pieces to create the element changing colors and pieces as I went along to customize them.
On the wedding rings, tools and Mini I brushed on luster dust diluted with a little vodka to create the metallic effect.
So there you have it- A Quilt Cake. Needless to say, it was loved and eaten by all...