I'm no stranger to sci-fi fans - my old housemate John was mad about Dr Who, my uncle Sean loves Star Trek and even I have been known to succumb to geekdom on the odd occasion. Recently I was asked to make a birthday cake for a local man who loves science fiction and actually self publishes his own sci-fi books and podcasts (see his website djburnham.com). Rather than make him a dalek or darth vader cake that could be for anyone, after chatting to his wife we decided that his birthday cake should be a recreation of his own books and an ipod playing his podcast. I really got a kick out of this idea as it was so personal to him, and I hoped he would really be touched by seeing his own books as the design.
I had originally planned to make two separate cakes for the books, until I was struck with the genius idea of making just one large cake and cutting it in two (see Dad - I didn't go to university for nothing). My recipe makes a 3" tall cake, but to make the books look more realistic I didn't want them to be that high, so I used the recipe for an 11" cake in a 12" tin and it turned out at a perfect height.
I levelled and filled the cake and then cut into two, placing one on a separate board cut to size and the other on the large cake board. Each cake then had to be carved slightly on one side to create the curved edge of a hardback book (20 minutes in the freezer to firm the cake up makes this job much easier). I then covered each book in buttercream and smoothed off nicely:
If I wanted to make my life easy, I would have simply covered the whole of the top and sides with black sugarpaste, but anyone who has tried it knows that the huge amount of colouring that goes into making it that black is not the nicest to eat (incidentally, I have found that black Beau paste is much nicer than Regalice). So, I resolved to work in some chocolate sugarpaste with a little extra food colouring as this improves the flavour, and I also used black only around the edges of the cake so there was as little as possible on the cake.
I started with the spine, then added a tiny strip all around the bottom of the cake to look like the back cover. I created long strips of white sugarpaste which I scored with my favourite sugarcrafting tool - my pizza slice (it's soooo handy for cutting long straight lines or used to trim sugarpaste when covering cakes as it doesn't pull the icing like a knife does). I then added these strips round the edges to look like the pages of the book (not that you can really see from my photo, sorry):
Then to cover the top, I used white sugarpaste in the middle and strips of black round the edge. It was important to get the joins very neat and the top as flat as possible so that the image went on top nicely.
To make the ipod I simply made a rectangle of marzipan and covered it with white sugarpaste. I added edible images which I made up specially to show the Ad Astral podcast and a happy birthday message.
The finishing touches were to dowel the lower cake so that it could take the weight of the upper cake and add the ipod earphones made out of white sugarpaste. I added the upper tier which I secured with some edible glue to stop it moving in transit on the way to the party.
I'm very pleased with how it turned out - it's a really bold design that's also really personal. Dave's wife emailed me specially after the party to say how much he loved it and how delicious it was too. It always touches me when people take the time to say thank you and let me know how the cake went - when you work on your own it's great to have such lovely feedback and to know that something you have made has made other people happy.