Arms Urban Gothic Cake

As a friend of mine was approaching completion of her dissertation, we got to talking about the party she wanted to have. In that conversation it came up that while she'd love a cake from Charm City Cakes she knew that 1) She lived too far away, and 2) She couldn't afford one of their cakes. So I offered that while I wasn't nearly in their league, I'd be happy to make her a cake.

To complement the theme of her dissertation, the plan for the cake was to make it a Victorian street scene. So as the date of the party approached I began my research into Victorian architecture. But I found I was having difficulty finding the sorts of images I needed. So here I must thank the wonderful people at Victorian Life, as they pointed me to some wonderful resources that really helped.

If you'd like to leave any comments, see this cake at my Flickr Portfolio

Window and Storefront Outlines 1 Magnify I decided to make all the windows and storefront sections for the cake out of color flow icing. Here you can see the outlines of all 60 windows and 4 storefronts. (I actually only needed 54 windows. But I made a few extra just in case of breakage.)
Window and Storefront Outlines 2 Magnify Here's a shot showing a better view of the windows and Storefronts.
Completed Windows Magnify After allowing the outlines to dry overnight, I filled in the windows with white.
Completed Storefronts Magnify The storefront windows also got white, while each store's door and paneling got a different color. For the signs, I filled those areas in with white as a base. Then after it was dry I painted over them with washes of the same colors as the store paneling. Then when that coat was dry, I painted the text of the signs.

The names of the stores, by the way, were chosen to represent my friend and some of her friends who were key to her work process. For the primary storefront, the emphasis there is on "Dr." Ms. Wandrei helped with copy editing of the dissertation, so she got to be a bookseller. While Marta and Ms. Humphrey offered places to stay for various writing retreats, so they got to be room and board type businesses.

Batter Bowl Magnify While the above elements were drying, I worked on mixing the cake batter. I was actually in such a rush to get that mixed and into the oven that I forgot to take a photo of the bowl of batter. But here's the empty bowl afterwards. That mixing bowl, my largest, is a 13 quart bowl. Or if that number doesn't mean anything to you, it's 14" across and 6.5" deep. I filled it twice, with a total of 9 batches of cake batter, as I needed a lot of cake for this project.
Slab Cake Magnify Here's one of the two cake layers I baked, in a 12" x 18" pan. The bowl next to the cake is filled with the scraps left over after I cut off the dome of cake that rose in the middle as it baked.
Frosting Magnify Here's that mixing bowl again, filled with 4 batches of chocolate cream cheese frosting. I could only mix two batches at a time in my stand mixer. So once all 4 were made I had to hand mix in the food coloring I used to tint it to a brick red color.
Raspberry Seeds Magnify Next I made a triple batch of raspberry filling. I didn't take a photo of that, as there's nothing terribly interesting about a saucepan full of red goo. But I was very amused by the mass of seeds left over after sieving the raspberries. So here they are, in a 6" cereal bowl.
Cake Filling Magnify After trimming each of the two baked cake layers into two pieces each, the next step was to layer them. I piped a narrow band of frosting around the edges of each layer before adding the filling, to help hold it in place until it had a chance to chill and set.
Stacked Cake Magnify Here are the four cake layers all stacked up, and you can see I've already stuck a clear template onto the end of the cake to help me see where I'm going to need to carve it.
Carved Cake Magnify Here's the cake all carved, with the roofline and dormers now showing.
Frosting Crumb Coat Magnify Next, I applied the world's messiest crumb coat of frosting. You're supposed to apply it a lot thinner, to seal in the crumbly cut edges of the cake. But as this was my first carved cake, I was having difficulty achieving a smooth finish. So I just slathered the frosting on, and let it chill in the fridge for a while.
Frosting Finish Coat Magnify Once the frosting had firmed up, I was able to scrape and cut the excess away to get the true shape I wanted. Then I added the finish coat of the frosting.
Roof Shingles and Sidewalk Magnify Here I've added a sidewalk around the base of the building, and roof shingles. Both are made of fondant.
Painted Shingles and Sidewalk Magnify Next I applied a thin wash of black food coloring to the shingles and sidewalk, giving them a lot more depth.
Cobblestone Road Magnify The last bit of fondant work was to roll a bunch of tiny rocks with which to pave a cobblestone road.
Finished Cake Front Magnify To finish the cake, I applied all the window and storefront elements I had made at the beginning.
Cake with Scale Reference Magnify Here's the cake next to a one liter bottle of soda, to show scale.
Cake Front and Side Magnify If there's one thing I've learned from watching Food Network Challenge, it's that your cake should be finished on all sides. So here you can see the windows extend around the side of the building...
Cake Back and Side Magnify ... and onto the back as well. As it turns out, The windows were very popular once the cake was served. So it's good I included so many, as that way almost everyone was able to get one on their piece of cake.
Shingle Detail Magnify Here's a close-up of a section of the roof, showing the shingles in a bit more detail.
Sidewalk and Road Detail Magnify And here's the sidewalk and cobblestone road.
Cake at the Party Magnify Lastly, the cake at the party, ready to be eaten!

© 2009 Jessica I. Clark
Permission to print a copy for your own use freely given. Please contact me for permission to reprint or distribute.
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