Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My First Dowel Job

So I decided I wanted to make a 3D SpongeBob cake for my son, Ian's, second birthday. He loves that little yellow dude and I love a challenge. Especially one that will make me insane and stressed out down to the minute. And did this cake deliver.

My mother-in-law was kind enough to allow me to bring all my cake decorating supplies over to her house (where we were having the party) the day before so I could assemble it there and not worry about transporting it. (Thank goodness because I shudder to think what would have happened if we had to drive it 30 minutes to her house.)

Ian was in a summer camp that week, and he was in school from 9-12. My plan was to pick up the rest of the last minute supplies I needed, then pack up the car in time to pick him up and head north. Magically, I had it all in the car (and I mean that car was packed full) with literally a minute to spare before I had to go pick him up. As I was locking the door to my house, congratulating myself on getting 'er did, I thought, "This is too good to be true. Something is going to go awry."

And awry it did go. After picking Ian up, hitting two different Party City stores and getting my gas tank filled, we were finally within spitting distance of my mother-in-law's when I realized I had forgotten the cake itself. So we dropped off all our stuff, turned around and went back home for the cake – an hour-long round trip.

Luckily, I was smart enough to pick up an extra cake mix, eggs, and the pan "just in case" my cake turned out to be too small. Which, of course, it did.

Anyway, let me backtrack. When I first saw the cake I wanted to make, there were a few assembly notes provided by the artist, though not nearly as many as someone of my experience requires. She mentioned using a 9 x 13 x 4 pan, which I had to order from Fat Daddio's (a cool online professional baking pan and tools store). Even though she also mentioned cutting the cake and using dowels, I didn't really put two and two together because I'd never made a stacked cake before.

I just kind of thought that, after the cake was baked and cooled, I'd stand it up on its end. But once I saw the cooked cake, it didn't look thick enough to hold up – it certainly wasn't 4", which surprised me since Beth, the artist, led me to believe a 2-layer cake was all she made. Of course, I'm sure she wasn't relying on Duncan Hines, either, so I guess I'll cut her some slack.

Anyway, when I saw it wasn't going to go as planned, I called over to Cincinnati Cake and Candy Supply and the helpful young lady who answered the phone got me to understand that you cut the width of the cake into thirds, then stack those on top of each other and insert the rods to build the cake. O-------h! I get it...Sort of.

For whatever reason (maybe because I was in the school of Journalism and not Engineering), it seemed like a good idea to put the dowels in kind of a diamond formation in the middle of the cake. After I was pretty far along into decorating, the cake started to lean forward, so I put a few more dowels into the corners. The next morning, the cake had started to lean backwards, so I wound up having to put a few shims under the cake plate. Thankfully, SpongeBob had the good taste to stay erect long enough for us to cut into him.

A post-consultation with my friends at Cincinnati Cake and Candy enlightened me to the wisdom behind putting the rods into the corners in the first place, with a couple more in the middle for extra support. The pro I spoke with explained that too many dowels can cause just as many structural problems as not enough; so I learned the importance of placement. Hopefully, I'll do better next time.

Overall, I was out of my league with this cake. While I got a lot of compliments, I was disappointed. It didn't look like the picture. But Ian's reaction made it all worth while – he loved it and it showed. So I'm trying not to be too hard on myself and give me credit for pushing my limits, getting creative and finishing what I set out to do. Someone please remind me not to get so crazy next year.


  • At 10:21 PM, Blogger Cara said…

    I was impressed. SpongeBob was awesome!


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