TBT: Baking Cakes Ain’t Like Dusting Crops, Boy!

A cake decorated to look like the Millennium Falcon, resting on a bed of brown sugar and surrounded by Star Wars action figures.
Yes, it is a crappy quality picture. It was 2010 and I took it with my OG Motorola Droid phone. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Out of all the cakes I’ve baked for the kids, this is still my favorite. Originally published April 25, 2010 on my old A Frayed Knot Knits blog. Also, this has been sitting as a draft on this blog since 2015, idk why.  But it’s Thursday, and reading through this I was proud of myself all over again, and it’s still my favorite cake I’ve ever decorated, so:

Somehow, my daughter has become a huge Star Wars fan. I know, right, how could this possibly have happened? She has recently:

  • cried when watching Darth Vader’s body burned on a pyre at the end of Jedi
  • told me that I shouldn’t be watching Fanboys because “We don’t watch other Star Wars movies! Only Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi!
  • declared that she wants Darth Vader to be her father instead of Luke’s because “Luke is a bad boy and doesn’t deserve him.”
  • announced that she wants to be Han Solo when she grows up
  • requested demanded a Millennium Falcon cake for her 4th birthday, with Han Solo, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia, but not Luke, “because Luke is too whiny.” Because I’m a sucker for the Millennium Falcon, and a challenge, and my little girl, I said, “Sure! How hard can it be?” And then I found out:

The party was Saturday at 4pm. Giant props to Kit for handling every detail of the party, from scheduling the space (Build-A-Bear) to taking care of the invites to greeting the parents and filming the party, leaving me free to concentrate fully on the cake.

I had originally thought to do gum-paste figures, but the tiny little sane part of my brain said, “Hey, dummy — they make perfectly good action figures, and then the kid will have a bonus birthday present, too!” So I went out and got everything but a Leia (because the Toys’R’Us I was at didn’t have one, but she was not terribly missed, so it’s okay). I had already ordered the most awesomest birthday candle EVAH for her: Darth Vader holding as his lightsaber a red candle.

After some hemming and hawing, Becky settled on both chocolate and vanilla for the actual cake. I do not particularly enjoy actually baking cakes, which means I don’t do it often enough to get really good at it, which means I bought mixes. My mom’s in town (hi, Mom!) and she helped me get the mixes all mixed and into the oven. One large (13×9) chocolate rectangle for the bottom, and two 9″ vanilla circles for the top + accessories. They came out fine, and we were ready to carve them Friday.

Now that I think about it, perhaps “ready” isn’t the right word…I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of carving cake, and got pretty frustrated, especially with the cockpit. I finally ended up with something I thought would work, but it was clearly unstable and would need to be attached just prior to putting the fondant on, which I had planned for Saturday morning. Here’s what it looked like Friday night when I was done:

Bright and early Saturday, Kit took the kids for a walk, and I started putting it together and getting it ready for frosting. I had done the carving on a board, but wanted to transfer it to the actual presentation board before frosting. This necessitated planning the layout, so we opened up all the action figures and the candle, which promptly broke at the ankles. All attempts to repair it failed, and actually broke the base even further. Lacking the time to panic, I decided to just set it aside and deal with it later.

We decided where the ship should be on the board, and I commenced frosting it (in case you’ve never worked with fondant before, you put a thin layer of regular frosting on to “glue” the fondant). This meant it was time to attach the cockpit, which promptly disintegrated. You can see in the picture above that I had originally carved the cockpit piece out of the vanilla cake, and as it turns out, the chocolate cake holds together a little better. So I quickly re-carved it out of a piece of chocolate cake that was in my big bowl o’ cake scraps, and skewered it on. And then the bottom fell off, and I panicked.

While part of my brain was panicking, the other part was applying frosting and considering the situation. I finally came to the conclusion that the solution was to cheat. So I went upstairs and got some styrofoam and carved my third cockpit. This one didn’t fall apart, and I moved on to the actually fondanting.

There were a couple of tricky things about applying the fondant, mostly because the shape has a lot of nooks and crannys and this is only the second time I’ve ever used fondant, so I’m not particularly well-versed in manupulating it. But I got it on the cake with no real problems, and despite some cutting errors and a little bunching on the back, I thought it looked pretty good. It was, at the very least, the right shape:

Oh! Before I did the big fondanting bit, I decided it would be a good idea to practice a little and remind myself of how the fondant moves and acts. So I built the sensor dish, which ended up being my favorite part of the cake:

Now that I had the fondant on, it was time for the decorating. I cut out the dots that are a recognizable part of the top of the MF, with the plan of spray painting them with the black frosting I’d purchased for the dual purposes of painting said dots and also dirtying up the finished ship. It turns out that the “black” spray frosting is really more of a “light silver gray,” even after several applications. So it was off to Michael’s for emergency black frosting coloring…and where I found food-safe markers, including black. Win!

Back home, I set Mom to the task of coloring the dots, while I began applying the details with white piping. Then I changed my mind and decided most of the lines should be scored, with a very few details sticking up. So I scraped it down and started over, and let the sane part of my brain convince the panicky part that we had plenty of time as long as we didn’t get too carried away. Applying the blue of the engines to the back was considerably less stressful than I had thought it was going to be, and it improved the lines of the back of the cake quite a lot.

Now, Becky had specifically requested that we included the red/rust detailing — it’s on the real thing, and it’s on one of her toys but not the other — so I used the red marker to color that in, and then went back and piped in a few details here and there, using her two MF toys for reference (incidentally, I highly recommend having a 3D model on hand when doing something like this — much better than trying to find pictures with the right angles on the internet). I redid the cockpit a couple of times, and never was quite happy with it, but finally I had to declare it finished. I took it outside and gave it a quick spritzing with the “black” spray frosting, just to scunge it up a little.

I have to say, I was pretty pleased with the end result. It’s not the best looking Millennium Falcon cake I’ve ever seen, but I think I did a pretty good job for someone who doesn’t really decorate cakes:

I was a little annoyed about only having the foil for it to sit on, but then I had an idea while I was in the shower (yes, I finished in enough time that I was able to shower and even iron my skirt before we had to leave for the party!)…on the way I grabbed a couple bags of brown sugar and when we set the cake up, I think it looked a lot like it was parked on the sands at Mos Eisley:

And look! I solved the Darth Vader problem and the gun turret problem (at some point I realized that I should have guns up there and I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to do) in one fell swoop! Yay me!

Next time, I’m going to make someone else cut the cake — it was a lot harder emotionally than I expected it to be. It took about 5 minutes to go from the above to this, and I really felt like I needed a good lie-down afterwards:

(Incidentally, when you stack cakes on top of one another, don’t forget to put a layer of frosting in there — you’ll thank yourself when it’s time to serve.)

I have to give tremendous thanks to Kit and Grandma Tedi for all their help and encouragement and keeping the kids out of the kitchen/dining room/my way. And especially thank you to Becky, who told me at every stage how awesome her Millennium Falcon cake looked, and made me remember why I was doing this even when I was so frustrated with the cockpit that I was seriously considering sending Kit to the A&P for a plain old sheet cake. Love you all!

Gettin’ the Blog Back Together

It would be a tremendous understatement to say that a lot has happened since the last time I posted here. The tl;dr version is: finally found a fantastic new job, worked real hard at it, company got slammed by virus fallout*, and here I am with time on my hands.

I’ve done more baking and crafting the past couple of months than I did in probably the previous two years, between hard-core job hunting and then ramping up into the new job in a new field (construction and renovation!), and I’d been starting to think about getting back to blogging. Now it’s time to stop thinking about it and start doing it.

One of the first questions Kit (that’s my amazing husband, in case I haven’t mentioned him by name before) asked me when I delivered the sad news about being on the dole was, “when does the therapeutic baking start?” The answer is tomorrow, but with a twist: I’m going to (mostly) be making things I’ve never made before.

I’d already started doing this a little the past couple of weeks – I’ve been working remote with this new job since last June, but with nowhere to go it seemed like I had a lot more time on my hands. I also started a rewatch of GBBO – so relaxing! – which may have influenced me a tad. So I’ve already made a roll cake:

Lemon cake with lingonberry jam and vanilla buttercream. Paul Hollywood-style critique: – Sponge is over baked and a little rubbery – Flavors are good together, but vanilla frosting is so sweet it almost overwhelms the lemon flavor – Frosting is a little thick, although proportions are right. Might have been better with a thinner layer inside, then frosting the outside.


a couple of challah loaves

You can’t really see the crumb on this, but it’s super dense. It was tasty, but very crumby. I suspect this is because the recipe was from my no-knead book, and also my water might not have been warm enough to get my yeast super activated. Going to try again with a traditional recipe.

and some meringue cookies (not pictured – they were the right shape and  consistency, but the bake went badly and they were just…off, in a bunch of different ways. I’m going to retry them at 200° instead of 225°, and a half batch instead of crowding the oven). Oh, also zucchini bread, not pictured – it came out fine, but was underspiced. Will definitely make again.

I have a pretty lengthy list of things I still want to try, including but not limited to:

  • carrot cake (maybe cupcakes)
  • Olive Garden style breadsticks
  • chocolate swiss roll cake
  • naan
  • pitas
  • tortillas
  • treacle tart (blame GBBO for this  one)
  • lemon meringue pie
  • GF lemon cookies
  • pineapple upside down cake
  • puff pastry
  • cheesy garlic monkey bread

This is by no means an comprehensive list, but it’s a start. And that’s just the baking. Tomorrow, I’m planning to bake a big pan of brownies and that cheesy garlic monkey bread from the list. I’m also going to make some 3 Bean Taco Soup – that’s not a new dish, and I’ll snap some pics and get the recipe up for y’all next week.

Next week I’ll also talk some more about my non-kitchen oriented crafting plans, and we’ll get this blog thing rolling along again. It’s good to be back — I’ve missed being here!

Lola’s back, tell a friend…

*Sweeten is the company, and it is truly a group of wonderful people providing a service that really helps people through the construction and renovation process. If you’re planning to do any serious work on your home when things ramp back up, I encourage you to go ahead and list your project at Sweeten.com to get a head start. And if you’re a general contractor, let me say first that it is so cool that you’re here reading my blog, but also, go sign up to join Sweeten’s network – it’s free to join, and there’s no fee unless you’re successfully awarded a project.