Saturday, September 18, 2010

Super Mario on Icing: Our 3D, 2D, 32 bit Cake

A week before Ranger's party, Jim revealed his plans to customize this year's bakery-made birthday cake. Similar to our 2008 cake, he wanted to use marshmallow fondant. Being Jim, he wanted to up the stakes and model 3-D figures of the Brothers Plumber franchise. Though I don't doubt his ability to create a magically delicious Mario et al, I did doubt our timeline. By my estimations we should have started this grand endeavor in March.

"You realize we now have two children, right?" While the last fondant exercise wasn't incredibly time consuming, we're now dealing with sibling and toddler chronologies. In our house it seems that the new timelines are something like this:
[normal task time requirement x children] + [3 hrs x toddlers] + [1.5 hrs x preschoolers] + [1 month x newborns] = time required for task (aka reason not to start in the first place)

Sensing my subtle skepticism, Jim downgraded his vision from a cartoon sugar biosphere to something he knew I couldn't resist. Paper. Actually few things appeal to a literature major like a pulp-dressed cake. We didn't want the paper to touch the cake, so Jim envisioned posting the flat laser-printer images on clear drinking straws where they could levitate above the surface. When none of our local groceries carried clear straws, we switched to bamboo skewers since we already had a giant package languishing in the cabinet (in case of future kebab crisis).

In printing Mario screenshots, Jim realized that the standard resolution required a lot of conversions to get a decent image. As we were working near a deadline, he started looking for screenshots taken from high resolution displays. We sat down the night before the party with a stack of cardstock images, scissors, skewers, and packaging tape to create the soon to be 3D scene.

Pipes in front are attached to cakeboard.
It was faster to cut the images we wanted from larger scenes by hand than on-screen. Jim laid all the cut outs on a coffee table marked to the width of the cake and cut the skewers to appropriate heights. We used clear packaging tape to secure the images to the skewers, and it worked fine in terms of adhesion. Jim used blue painter's tape the following day for the pipes in front of the cake and found it much easier to manipulate.

The next morning I picked up the giant cake. I must admit, there's a sick thrill to ordering a white cake with white frosting and white accents. People were quizzical at best. It was even better walking through the store having people come over to ogle the cake.

"Wow, what a lovel.... cake?" recuperative silence. "What's the occasion?"

I wanted to make up some answer involving minimalism, but I realize now that the funniest answer would have been the partial truth. In retrospect, "My son's fifth birthday!" is actually pretty hysterical. But I folded like a greeting card and explained that my husband had made cake toppers. Depending upon the age of the inquisitor, that response could also be met with looks of cold skepticism. Next year, I'm going for sheer enthusiasm "Isn't it marvelous?!"

A peek behind the cake.
Jim arranged the figures atop the cake. I snapped some quick blog photos before we wrote a birthday greeting to Ranger on the clouds, and I took a couple pictures of him with his cake. News of the cake drew a lot of guests to the kitchen for an early peek.

Skewers are arranged in layers from front to back to give a 3-dimensional effect.
When we brought out the cake after lunch (sans candles as Jim and I have never really mastered fire), the kids' faces lit up in recognition and the table was swarmed with small admirers. We gave a hip-hip-hooray style chant in place of the birthday song that Ranger despises (Jim believes this is due to restrictive copyright).

The cake was surprisingly easy to serve. While Jim pulled the skewers, I was able to start cutting. With no embellishments on the actual cake there were no request for specific pieces. The cake was served in record time, and Ranger got to bring Mario home (we're going to put some of the figures on magnet backing for him).

In Ranger's opinion (as well Jim's and mine), this is his best cake ever.

***Baby Toolkit is the confession of a couple of parent hackers who try to create magic with common household items. Our end results are bolstered by our children's imaginations (for which we are quite thankful). We're Amazon affiliates, so a portion of any purchases you make through our link (need skewers?) helps support our online endeavors (thank you!). Photos (c), 2010- all rights reserved.


Veronica said...

Your cake turned out so cute! Billy and I both loved the invitations, what a clever idea. Sorry we had to miss it. Maybe next year!

Aimee said...

Holy crap, now that's a cake! Very clever.

Francie said...

Great job photographing/sharing the cake pics! Enjoyed seeing this post almost as much as eating some cake! Though I doubt I'll ever get as craft as you guys with cake, it's cool to see how you guys made Ranger's cake extra-special for the extra-special celebration!

Kim Moldofsky said...

Pure awesome!