Last year a co-worker asked me to make a wedding cake for his sister. Part of his gift to her was to pay for her cake. I was delighted, I love making wedding cakes and I enjoy seeing what the bride and groom have envisioned for their cake. As far as wedding cakes go, this was the most unique request I have ever had. The wedding was going to take place at the ocean and they wanted the theme of the cake to match the venue but they did not want it to look like a traditional wedding cake. The bride wanted the cake to be distinctive and playful. She asked if I could make an octopus climb a sandcastle cake.
The cake also had to be able to endure a 4-hour drive to the ocean so a lot of planning went into this cake.
Two weeks before the wedding, I made the seashells. I used a chocolate mold to shape the shells. Initially I made the shells out of white chocolate but I felt like I could get more vibrant colors from sugar paste so about half of the seashells are made from sugar paste. After I colored them with powdered food coloring, I set them in a sealed container until the cake was ready for final touches. That step saved me quite a bit of time and helped me focus on the cake in the last couple of days.
Three days before the wedding I made the “sand” out of graham crackers and vanilla cookie wafers. I just gave them a blast in the food processor then stored the crumbs in an airtight container. Next I made the buttercream frosting with my Italian meringue buttercream recipe. Then I made some white chocolate/marshmallow fondant that I would need to create the octopus.
Two days before the wedding I baked the cakes. I wanted a cake that would be able to hold up to a long bumpy car ride. I wasn’t comfortable using a light and airy sponge cake so I used a basic vanilla butter cake that would give me a dense solid texture but still be full of flavor. The tiers are 6, 9, and 12 inches in diameter. Each tier is composed of 2 cakes that I torted (split in half) and filled with raspberry mousse filling that I made while the cakes where cooling. By torting the cakes, I get three layers of yummy filling instead of one and this helps the cake stay moist.
I filled the cake with the raspberry mousse filling, stacked the tiers, and covered them with the buttercream that I made the day before. Each tier was supported with extra dowel rods to ensure a stable structure. The last step I did that day was to cover the cake in the cookie crumbs to look like sand. I’m not very fast and the process took me the whole day.
The day before the wedding, I woke up early to start the final process. I made a large batch of rice crispy treats and formed the body of the octopus. I covered the body in the fondant and shaped its eyes. The legs are shaped entirely from fondant. I rolled them out and attached them to the body then draped them over the cake. In order to keep the legs in place during the long car ride, I placed skewers into the legs and down into the cake. I made sure I warned the bride and groom to remove the octopus legs and pull out the skewers before cutting the cake. I also placed a large dowel rod down the middle of the cake. I sharpened one end of a dowel rod and pushed it through all three layers of the cake and into the base, which was a thick foam board. This was extra insurance that the cake would stay put during the trip. The rest of the day was spent coloring and decorating the octopus. I used an airbrush to spray on several layers of color to give it depth, then I used a paint brush to paint on food coloring in streaks to look like the veins on the octopus then sprayed on a couple more layers of color over the veins to make them look as if they were under the skin. I had to replace some of the sand on the cake because some of the overspray from the airbrush got on the cake. I hadn’t thought that part out in advance. I finished the octopus by covering him in an edible sparkle dust. This last day took me over 14 hours to finish the octopus so I was glad the seashells where already made and only needed to be placed on the cake.
The colors, details and sparkle dust just don’t show up well in the photos. I actually find the photography the most frustrating thing to do. The photos never seem to represent the colors and details accurately. I have a new appreciation for professional photographers.
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