June: Cup Cake

As I mentioned in the Lactation Cookies post a couple weeks ago, this summer has been intensely busy, and June’s cake was complex. And I finally learned SketchUp to make a model of it so I can include a fancy animation of its construction! But it’s now September, and I am three posts behind, so let’s just do this.

So about this cake…

As soon as my Chicago Blackhawks clinched a berth in the NHL finals, I knew the June cake would have to pay tribute to the grandest of all sports trophies, Lord Stanley’s cup. A Cup Cake.

It’s the Cup. It’s a cake. It’s a Cup Cake.

Game 5 was a Saturday night. My in-laws would be in town, and we decided to have a watch party with them and some of our hockey-loving friends.

What’s up with the Cup?

The Stanley Cup. Photo courtesy nydailynews.com
The Stanley Cup. Photo courtesy nydailynews.com

If you’re not a hockey fan, let me take a moment to explain the tradition of the Stanley Cup. Unlike most championships where a new trophy is made every year for that year’s winning team to keep, there’s only one Stanley Cup. It is passed along from one club to the next each year, with each winning team engraving the names of its players (and coaches and owners and staff) onto the trophy. I’ll spare you the full history (you can read about it here), but let’s just say it’s kind of a big deal.

Crafting the Cup

Most of my cakes are somewhat flexible when it comes to dimensions: as long as the proportions are close enough that the object reads, I have some leeway in the actual sizing. The Cup, however, needs to be more precise.

The structure of the trophy (since its 1947 redesign) is 5 large bands forming the main barrel, topped with 3 smaller bands and some scalloping leading to the cup itself on top. To select the scale, I needed to determine what size cake pans could be used for the 5 barrel bands. Under other circumstances I might consider cutting down a sheet cake to appropriately sized circles, but the height of this cake was going to make structural integrity important, so I was constrained to common cake pan sizes: 4″, 6″, 8″, or 9″. (Any bigger than that would have just been too much cake.)

I first attempted modeling it in SketchUp but soon defaulted to Illustrator, where I pasted in a photo of the Cup. Then I made rectangles to represent the various pan options and played around with the scaling.stanleyCupCake_scratchwork-01

I settled on a 6″ base, 1 1/2″ deep per band (as illustrated in red above on the left figure), until my husband suggested that more cake would be better, so I upped it to 8″ x 2″ (green band, right).

Obviously the only appropriate flavor for a trophy cake is champagne. After browsing a few, I went with Champagne Cake I from allrecipes.com. The recipe was delicious, though this recipe is for one 10-inch pan. I doubled it, which filled two 8-inch pans with a little leftover. I refrigerated the extra batter and added it to a second double recipe, eventually giving me five 8″x2″ cakes, all of which took way longer than the 25-30 minutes to bake than the recipe suggested. I lost track of how many times I reset the oven timer, but they baked at least 45 minutes, and one layer was so undercooked as to be inedible. I put that one on the bottom. (Sometimes this is art more than science.)

The smaller top bands needed to be varying sizes, lightweight, and strong enough to eventually hold the bowl, so I made a combination of Rice Krispie treats and gingerbread cookies.

I spent way too much time and effort trying to precisely measure them…

I dug through all my glassware to find the right size templates and trimmed the cookies precisely.

…because by the time I glopped frosting on top, they were less than precise anyway.

Left: Glopping on the royal icing, with help from my sister-in-law; Center: It didn’t look quite how I planned; Right: Obvious answer, just smooth on some more white chocolate frosting.

Now it was time for the bowl. We baked the cookie on top of a metal mixing bowl. In hindsight the cookie was a little too thick. I think we would have had more success with a thinner cookie and if we’d suspended the bowl over a cookie sheet as it baked (set it on a glass, maybe) so any excess could drip down and be trimmed rather than make an even thicker cookie.

A brief attempt was made to separate the cookie from its bowl, but ultimately we figured it wouldn't survive the procedure. So I covered it with royal icing, adding some embellishments by using my gum paste tools.
A brief attempt was made to separate the cookie from its bowl, but ultimately we figured it wouldn’t survive the procedure. So I shaved away some of the excess, covered it with royal icing, and added some embellishments by using my gum paste tools.

I tinted the royal icing, the frosting, and the white chocolate gray using my black gel food coloring. Obviously they all turned out different shades, but it made easier work for the Wilton Color Mist shimmering food color spray, which evened it out nicely.

2015-06-13 15.35.15Then I spent way too much time trying to smooth out all the bumps, which was an exercise in futility. We decided that anyone who thought it was too bumpy didn’t deserve any cake anyway.

Structural note: We made an appropriately-proportioned top band, but the weight of the cookie bowl was just too much. A slightly inaccurate cake was much better than a toppled cake, and this certainly would have toppled. So we cut that layer, which makes the top look a little wonky.

<In this spot there may have been a photo of me carrying the cake from its construction site in the kitchen to its presentation spot in the dining room, but my sister-in-law quickly saw that helping me carry the very heavy cake was more important than getting a photo … of it inevitably crashing to the floor.>

2015-06-13 18.53.57

Once in place, I balanced the bowl on top and secured it with some extra frosting. Then I took a bunch of pictures and tried to leave it alone until my guests arrived.

2015-06-14 13.50.13

We served the cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.

I’m happy to say that this cake, like the Chicago Blackhawks, reigned victorious.


Did you read all that?

Great, now watch the video (which may or may not have been worth the wait).


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