Construction and Deconstruction of the Construction Cake

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Last weekend I decorated a cake for the first time.  I thought I’d share it with you.  Yeah, this is a little off-topic for a blog that is primarily oriented toward weight loss.

These days, extensively (and expensively) decorated cakes are the fashionable and somewhat expected thing to do for your kid’s birthday party.  Before Jacob’s first birthday, Natalie and I decided that we didn’t want to buy in, literally, to this trend.  Even if we could afford it (we can’t), paying big money for a birthday cake is just against our principles.  But, we (read: she) wanted to do a little more than just bake a 13×9 cake of whatever flavor, slop some buttercream icing on it, and stick the appropriate number of candles in it.  I, personally, have no problem with that.

The cakes for Jacob’s first couple of birthdays, as well as Isaac’s first, were handled by Natalie with various other expert parties’ assistance.  I got lucky those times, and they created some really nice cakes.  For Jacob’s third birthday, the fortune, or misfortune, fell to me.  I’d made the mistake of volunteering way back then, but hadn’t gotten stuck with it until now.

The chosen party theme was construction, which is pretty big on every 3-year-old boy’s list of favorite things/toys.  I’m just an overgrown 3-year-old myself, so I thought it might be kind of fun to make a cake depicting a construction scene.  I spent some time looking at Pinterest, which offers no shortage of construction cake pictures (apparently it’s a popular theme), some really “professional” looking, and some not so much.  I took ideas from a few of them but didn’t want to clone any of them.

My original plan called for a backhoe or dozer digging in the “dirt” of the cake, so that mandated the cake be chocolate, since it looks like topsoil.  Natalie made the cakes from a Paula Deen chocolate pound cake recipe (grab it while you can before Food Network yanks it down, because even the name might be offensive to someone after the recent “scandal”).  The caloric content of this thing is offensive to my weight loss plan, however.  Natalie made the chocolate buttercream to “dirty ice” the cake, and a batch of homemade white fondant.  We also bought some Wilton’s fondant in white and black, on sale at Hobby Lobby.  With those raw materials at my disposal, I was left to create whatever I could.

The fun part is carving the cake.  I carved a road up the mountain and shaped the whole thing like a 3.  The hardest part of cake decorating, in my newfound experience, is dying the fondant.  Not just getting the color right, which I never really did, but the strength required to knead the coloring into the stuff.  It made my hands hurt.  Only later did Natalie tell me that you’re supposed to heat it up just a bit to make it softer.  I dyed the Wilton’s fondant greenish to make grass and the homemade fondant gray/black/brown to make rocks out of.  Some mini Caterpillar toys and a few road signs that I printed off and stuck to sticks rounded off the cake.

Here are the pictures.

All Jacob really wanted to do was play in his cake.  So we dedicated the front portion for him to construct (or, deconstruct) and served up the back portion with ice cream.  He had a lot of fun playing in the cake; I think it was the highlight of the day for him.

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The deconstructed cake:

IMG_1945That’s it for now, and the boys’ birthday parties are over for this year.  I may have another couple of cakes to share next year, unless I can pawn it off on someone else!