Good Morning! Happy Monday! I know, I know, I'm a day late but I have a great excuse! I was out celebrating up my 50th Birthday with family in San Jose. Two full days of fun that landed me so tired back home late last night. I figured I could give myself a break...and bring you all a special cake.
Now, as a caker, and I'm sure there are others out there that can relate, I often take on projects that I think "sure I can do that" and then when it comes time TO do that I start to wonder what in the world I was thinking. This Mahjong cake was one of those times. Now creating the "box" wasn't the hard part. I could figure out exactly what I needed to do to make it look right. But, here's the thing...I don't speak Chinese. I don't write Chinese. And all I have ever heard about writing either Japanese or Chinese is that it is really really easy to write something completely different from what you intended just because you put a blunt point on one end and a pointed end on the other when it's supposed to be the other way around. So when it came to hand painting the tiles I was really stressed that I wasn't doing it right and might insult the client rather than overjoy her. At that point I was seriously wondering why I didn't have the characters made out of edible transfer paper and just smooth them onto the fondant with a bit of buttercream! But it was too late for that so I just dove in.
The client loves exotic cake and filling flavors so this year we went with coconut cake with lemon filling. The combination was heavenly! The trick is to not go too heavily with the flavoring. You want a lightly flavored cake, not one that overwhelms you with coconut. Recently I went to Hawaii and while there found a small bottle of coconut flavoring that ended up being perfect for this process. Fortunately I have found that I can order it online so I can use it again and again if I need this wonderful tasting cake again. I used 2 teaspoons per cake layer and that seemed to be just right.
Basically you start off with a square, cover it in buttercream and then I rolled up "snakes" of fondant to go around the top edges of the square. This was to create an inset area on the top of the cake for the "felt" board. I then rolled out a thin layer of green fondant and put that on the top so that it draped a bit over those fondant rolls and then gently pushed it down into the well and smoothed it out. After that I started paneling. I cut out 8x4 inch panels for each side and then 1x8 inch panels for the trim. The trim covered the green rolls at the top to create a rounded lip on the box. Then I painted the box. Normally I use vodka with gell food colors but this time I mixed a bit of the coconut flavoring into that as well so the cake smelled divine when I was done painting! Two coats of that and the "wood" was done. I swear it feels magical how quickly the fondant looks like wood!
Now came the tiles. I rolled out a thick piece of white fondant and then turned that over so the smooth side was facing down. Then, on another mat, I rolled out a thinner layer of lighter green fondant. I brushed the white with a thin mist of water and then laid the green on top. You have to walk away at this point because the sugars need to melt together to form a bond. I waited an hour but two would have been better. Then I used a rectangular cookie cutter to cut out the tiles. I cut out 36 because I knew I needed some for the top, some for the "Dragon hand" and then some for the Happy Birthday lettering.
I let these set for another 30 minutes and then picked out the tiles I knew would face white side up. These needed to be the most perfect and smooth of the group so I picked them out carefully. Now here is where I get honest. I actually picked out more than I needed because I knew I'd mess up on the lettering. And, sure enough I did. 3 or 4 of those stacked tiles on top of the cake have failed paintings on the white side! LOL! So give yourself a little wiggle room when it comes to this part of the process.
The "Dragon Hand" is supposed to be the perfect Mahjong hand that you can get. Now I only play the online version which is basically matching things up so I know nothing of what the real game entails. I looked up several different photos of these tiles so I could stand a chance of getting them right for the cake. The "window pane" tiles are my favorites. I thought they would be really hard but they turned out looking right almost immediately! The only ones I felt confident in were the rose plant tiles on the top. So, no, as a caker, you don't feel like you are doing anything perfectly all of the time and there is a little stress, as well as excitement, when you are making a cake like this.
The Happy Birthday tiles are just piped letters so as long as you practice your piping this should be the easiest part of this cake! I decided to use a blue piping because it was a totally different color than any I had used on the cake and I wanted to try to coordinate it with the little light blue chips and the light blue "window pane" tiles. The chips are just colored fondant that have been cut out with a small circle cutter then stacked. I did use a drop of buttercream between each chip to make them sturdy. The dice are also just cubes of fondant and I used a food color marker to make the dots.
I delivered the cake to the client who was out at a Chinese restaurant celebrating with family and was SO relieved that I managed to thrill and not insult everyone there. Even the servers were thrilled with the cake. For an artist that is a bigger payoff than the price of the cake. To know that you got everything right on it and that the client as well as the Birthday Guy was very happy with your creation is a wonderful feeling.
The client this upcoming week is ME! We are celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary on Saturday so I am making a stacked cake for us. We are gathering with lots of family for this celebration and making it quite the event. I will share all sorts of photos with you all here and over at our Party Blog site next Sunday!
See you then!