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Themed Cakes

Relaxing Through Edible Art

By Dawn SaloisPublished 3 years ago 10 min read

I have never really thought of myself as being artistic. I can’t draw very well and I don’t feel like I’m particularly creative when it comes to visual art. However, When I create a cake for a member of my family a side of myself that I don’t often see comes out. I enjoy doing cake decorations because, unlike drawing, I can make things turn out the way I want them to look. I also find that I have a lot of ideas that turn out really well and end up looking really good.

My earliest memories involving cake decoration were of my mom decorating cakes for people she knew. She had taken some classes and she made all sorts of character cakes and pretty cakes with flowers made out of frosting. She had a container of dried yellow and purple pansies she had made out of royal icing that my sister and I used to eat whenever we got a chance. There was also a container of flowers with little blue petals with white centers. Some of the character cakes I remember are a Superman cake for my cousin’s birthday and an Oscar the Grouch cake for my sister’s birthday.

Even though I found the cakes my mom decorated to be fascinating, I never dreamed I would be able to make anything like them. I liked to bake, but my version of cake decoration was restricted to covering the cake with frosting swirls like I had seen on cake mix and frosting commercials. I used an old yellow plastic spatula my mom had to make the cake look as swirly and pretty as I could.

Eventually I learned how to use icing tips with bags of frosting to make different shapes. I bought magazines that had pictures and explained how to make the designs. After a few years of practicing different techniques I offered to make a cake for my sister’s wedding. I spent quite a bit of time planning the cake before the wedding. She liked a cake I found in one of my magazines, so we bought a cake topper, staircases, pillars, flowers, and ribbons. Luckily we were able to rent a fountain and I used food coloring to turn the water blue. The project was so big I had to have some help from my mom at the last minute to finish all the borders and decorations, but the cake was miraculously finished on time.

For the first few years after making the wedding cake I stuck to making character cakes. I liked them because the pan made the cake into the desired shape and I just covered it with icing stars. I didn’t have to worry about drawing anything and it was difficult to mess up. I made birthday cakes for my nephew and my son using the character cake pans. I was able to vary from the pan’s design a little bit when I needed to (like using the Batman cake pan to make a Spider-Man cake when I couldn’t get a Spider-Man cake pan), but I mostly followed established parameters when I made cakes. I liked to have clear directions that told me exactly what to do to make the cake.

After getting used to the character cakes I graduated to three-dimensional cakes. I was able to customize them a little bit to suit the interests of the person I was making the cake for.

Eventually I got brave enough to try copying some cakes I had seen in different magazines. I really didn’t vary much from the directions, though, and it never occurred to me to come up with my own designs and ideas. I was just really excited when I was able to make my cake look just like the one in the magazine.

My cakes were a way for me to be artistic, but I didn’t really venture into the realm of creativity until my nephew wanted a castle cake for his birthday. I made him a castle cake three years in a row and I’m going to be honest--they didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. He was a very mature and polite young boy, so he never expressed any dissatisfaction with his castle cakes, but I felt like I could do better.

After the castle cake attempts I was determined to design a cake myself that my nephew would love. He enjoyed playing video games and he asked for a cake based on one of his games. He wanted a cake based on the Valhalla map from Halo 3 for his birthday the next year. I started working on his cake as early as possible. I studied the map in his game very closely and did the best I could to recreate it. The map had two bases for the soldiers in the game. I made the bases out of cardboard and then painted them silver. I bought small toy trees and used toys for the Marines and Elites and their weapons. I found a toy airplane to use to re-create a crashed vehicle on the map, too. I was able to design the landscape with icing,using different decorator tips for the different textures. The cake turned out even better than I had hoped, and I felt like I had finally found an art form that I was reasonably good at and enjoyed doing. When I designed the cake I became lost in the world I was designing and the problems and concerns in my daily life seemed far away. The experience was similar to reading a really good book, except I wasn’t just reading the story—I was creating it.

The Halo cake turned out much better than the castle cakes had, and I found that I loved the challenge of designing the cake myself. I enjoyed the opportunity to study my subject and notice all of the details I would have missed if I wasn’t trying to make a replica of it. The puzzle of figuring out the best way to make miniature versions of everything allowed me to open my mind to new possibilities and really think outside the box. When I was working on the cake I could feel my mind expanding.

The next cake I tried designing myself was my son’s 4th birthday cake. He had an interest in trains, so I bought a toy train set and designed a cake around it. I wanted the cake to go through a tunnel, so I made a big cake for the base and stacked a couple of smaller cakes to use as a “mountain.” My experience with dowels from making my sister’s wedding cake came in handy, because I needed them to support the mountain. The toy train set came with little trees and a small boat and man, so I decided to use those in the cake. I made a “lake” out of blueberry gelatin and put the boat in it and added a dock for the man to stand on. I found a set of toothpicks with flags from different countries and decided to put those on the mountain with the tunnel. I added several bundles of plastic balloons to give the cake a festive appearance. I turned the toy train on and it drove on the tracks in a circle around the cake and through the tunnel. It was pretty exciting for a four year old boy.

After the success of the Halo and train cakes I was inspired to try designing other cakes. My son started kindergarten and his school had a fall festival. One of the donations requested of parents was a cake for the cake walk. I decided I wanted to make a cake for the festival that would allow me to use materials and techniques I had never used before. I had seen fruit made out of marzipan and I had the idea to make a cornucopia on top of the cake and make fruit and vegetables out of marzipan to go with it. I thought about drawing the cornucopia with frosting, but I wanted everything to be three-dimensional. I also decided I wanted everything to be edible. I was able to find a cornucopia candy mold online and I used it to make a cornucopia out of white chocolate that I colored with food coloring to look tan. I bought marzipan at the grocery store and used it to make multi-colored leaves, fruit, and squashes to go on top of the cake. I was able to make all of the items for the top of the cake ahead of time, so I just made the cake and frosted it the morning of the festival and put everything on top. I was pretty happy with how the harvest cake turned out and I had a lot of fun making all of the tiny fruit to go on it.

The next creative cake decorating project I decided to try was a Lego birthday cake for my son. He was a huge fan of Legos, so I modeled everything off of his Lego collection. I bought ice cube trays from the Lego store to make Lego bricks and minifigures. I made the bricks and figures out of white chocolate using candy food coloring. The minifigures were replicas of the ones my son owned. I cast the figures in the molds and then used very thin paint brushes to paint details on them using melted candy. I made all of the bricks and figures in advance, but I didn’t want to use white chocolate for the house on the cake, because I thought it might be too stiff and heavy. Then I learned about modeling chocolate. White chocolate could be mixed with corn syrup to create an edible clay. I made the house out of cake and used modeling chocolate cut into rectangles to look like lego bricks on the house. I really liked how the Lego cake turned out, and my son and his friends seemed to like it too. The ultimate compliment was when one of the fathers told me he was shocked when his kid took a bite of one of the minifigures, because he thought it was a real toy.

My nephew’s next birthday cake was simpler. He was a fan of the Naruto anime series and he asked for an “Akatsuki cloud” cake. The Akatsuki cake didn’t present as much of a design challenge as some of the other cakes, but I enjoyed making it because I also love the Naruto series and I loved the way the black and red icing colors looked together.

I followed up the Akatsuki cake with an Xbox 360 cake. The Xbox cake was quite possibly my biggest challenge. I decided to not only make everything on it edible, but I wanted it to taste as good as possible. I knew I wanted to use fondant to cover the cake, but I didn’t like the taste of fondant. I did some research and learned about marshmallow fondant. Marshmallow fondant doesn’t look as smooth as regular fondant, but it tastes a lot better. The most challenging part of the cake was the controller. I didn’t want to make the controller out of cake, because I wanted it to be sturdy enough to sculpt and work with. I had the idea to use crispy rice cereal treats. I shaped the controller out of the cereal treats, covered it with marshmallow fondant, and used modeling chocolate to make the joysticks, D-pad, and bumper buttons for the controller. The other buttons on the controller were different colors and translucent, and I decided to use gummy candies to make those.

After all the years of self-teaching and innovation I finally decided to take some cake decorating classes. I learned to make roses, leaves, and some new border styles out of icing.

I also learned how to work more with fondant and how to make flowers from gum paste.

I even learned how to do basket weave with an icing tip and how to make flowers with royal icing. They reminded me of the flowers my mom made when I was a kid.

I enjoy coming up with new ideas to make my cakes look and taste great. Each cake I make is an opportunity to live in the world that the cake design is derived from. Using my imagination and creativity to design a cake that my family will like makes me very happy.


About the Creator

Dawn Salois

Mother of a wonderful son. Writing is a relatively new passion of mine. I love to create my own images. Self-published author of Shadow and Flame.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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