Monday, July 12, 2010

Defying Gravity-- Royal Icing Style...

Fortunately, this cake is a dummy (i.e. it has styrofoam innards) so I don't have to cut it!  The styrofoam is coated in buttercream then covered in black fondant.  All of the decorations are piped royal icing, except for the little ribbon/ bow going around the bottom of the cake, which are white fondant.  The flowers/ leaves are actually suspended over the cake using royal icing strings... a true feat of engineering. :)

There are a lot of different elements on this cake, and I drew a lot of inspiration from Earlene Moore, Nicholas Lodge, and Melanie Judge.

Let's start with the rings, since I did those first.

1.) Make royal icing.  This starts with 2 tbsp of pasteurized egg whites, and a lot of swearing at them until they start forming peaks.  Note:  royal icing with real egg whites is easier to work with and stronger, so if you're doing anything that needs to be free standing like string work or lace points, I'd recommend it.

2.) Make a rectangular pattern and pipe the lattice-- QUICKLY!  I  used tip 2 because the tip 1 strings dried too quickly.

3.)  Gingerly wrap your ring around your ginger.  You think I'm kidding:

Your spice rack is full of identical diameters!  :)

4.) Let dry overnight, and carefully slide of the rings.

Let's move on to the flowers on the top of the cake.  I made them using a kind of brushed embroidery technique (though I tried to cover the whole space pretty well) and then let them harden on parchment.

Then, I couldn't just place them on the cake; that would be boring and pro-gravity.  So I used the floating collar technique to suspend the flowers at different heights and the leaves at different angles.

I cut little pieces of foam to hold the pieces the way I wanted, and started piping vertical strings to hold the pieces in place.  This is tricky and requires planning-- you need to be able to get the foam out when you're done, and if you're crazy like me and doing multiple pieces, you have to make sure that one piece doesn't prevent you from piping the strings on another piece.

Once the strings set up, you remove the foam with tweezers or a toothpick, and pipe the remainder of the strings.  During this process, it was hard not to rest my hand on the cake, and I definitely punctured the fondant with my knuckle at least once.

The collar elements I piped carefully by hand and let them dry.  GENTLY remove from parchment.  Really gently.  Especially if you're crazy like me and decide to do free floating cornelli lace.

One final gravity-defying element:  Bridgeless Stringwork.

Yup, those are pins.  Then you carefully drape your strings so they are supported by the pins.

Then, you painstakingly pipe extensions in some kind of line or a pattern:

Let dry overnight, and remove your pins!

See how it's not touching the cake!  See, who needs gravity anyway.  Totally overrated.

For the final touches, I attached all my pieces with a little royal icing, and added the little stitching in the top design to give it more of an embroidered look.  To finish the bottom, I added a thin fondant ribbon and tiny bow, then piped matching little white stitches over the top of it.

I also covered my board in black fondant, and covered the edge with that perfectly coordinating ribbon which I had the brilliant foresight to buy at JoAnn's months ago... :)

The top view is my favorite:

See all the fun you can have with royal icing?!

Now to plan my Threadcakes entry...


  1. This cake (and technique) is *amazing*! And the white on black is the perfect way to show it off! Great job!

  2. Awesome! I agree, the black is the best color to use to display such a beautiful and I'm sure time consumming technic.

  3. Awesome job, Roxanne! Wow. Now I am inspired to listen to the sound track of "Wicked" (get it?)

  4. Thanks, everyone! Oh, and totally get it on the Wicked reference. I was singing to myself as I wrote the title... ;)

  5. Go Roxanne! You've hit another high note.
    Love, the pit crew

  6. WOW! Just wow! That's all I have to say!

  7. Beautiful blend of artistry and engineering!
    Can't wait for the next project.
    Love,Aunt Aileen

  8. i just happened to stumble on to your blog when I googled "birthday cake for an engineer". I'm guessing that your background as an engineer had MUCH to do with the incredible level of detail in your work.
    You should be SO proud! It looks great :)

  9. may i know what , icing recipe did you use and what nozzle?


  10. I just came across your blog also & enjoyed them all. Amazing stuff. I did notice this comment "GENTLY remove from parchment. Really gently." on your defing gravity cake & thought I'd share a trick with you. The pieces you have on the parchment paper can be gently removed by putting the parchment paper on a straight edge of a counter, table, book, etc (no round or beveled edges)....under the straight edge put a piece of foam or bubbled packing plastic. Take ahold of ends of the paper and move it across the straight edge. The royal icing will separate from the parchment paper & fall on to the foam/bubbled packing plastic. Having another person "catch" the item works also. U probably already know this, but thought I'd share it anyways......

  11. Simply amazing and beautiful!

  12. Your work looks amazing i've being looking everywhere to find out how to do this old school way of piping thank you for giving your secrets to this art have you done more of this style and how did you learn it

  13. I'm absolutely amazed by your work, I almost cried.

  14. Just found you.. this is great!! thanks for taking the time to put it out there. :)

  15. wow the cake looks so amazing. the details are super neat and it shows that you have put alot in your work. i havent seen such king of cake before.

  16. What recipe of royal icing did you use, cos I tried few designs on paper and when I try to remove them after when there were dry all design got broken.