Last October my grandma turned 90.
It also happens that in the same year my aunt turned 60; my brother, my cousin, and my cousin’s husband turned 40; another cousin’s husband turned 30; another cousin’s kid turned 20; and yet another cousin’s kid turned 10. (I have a big family. This is just on my dad’s side.) So we had a party, and I offered to bring a cake celebrating these 330 cumulative years.
Cakes On a Plane: The Sequel
I live in Georgia and the party was in Illinois. So just like with the wedding cake a couple years ago, I would need to fly with a couple of kids, no spouse (again away on business), and this time 6 layers of cake: one for each decade.
I sketched out a plan:
1929: A simple art deco pattern, and cut into a hexagon to be more interesting. (From 8″ cake rounds)
1959: Poodle skirt, music, maybe a couple records or a car. (6″ cake rounds)
1979: The Rubix Cube went to market around this time (invented in 1974, but close enough). (8″ square pan, baked thin, cut into 4ths and stacked)
1989: The Game Boy was released, with the hit game Tetris. (4″ rounds)
1999: The Matrix (cupcake)
2009: The smartphone (again, iPhone was release a couple years earlier in 2007, but integral enough to the generation, and a device that has been around this kid’s whole life). As of the point of sketching, no idea how I would pull this one off.
I decided half the layers would be chocolate with dark chocolate ganache and half lemon with white chocolate ganache.
The lemon cake I’ve used a few times with great success is from Ina Garten.
I wanted a new chocolate cake recipe. Some I have are too dry, and some don’t taste chocolatey enough. The Most Amazing Chocolate Cake by The Stay at Home Chef certainly had the right name, so I gave it a shot. Test cakes came out great — this recipe is a keeper!
I got to use more interesting tools in this cake than usual. For the 1920s I decided on a hexagon, so I got out my old protractor to measure the angles.
I had gold dust already, so I just needed to add the black art deco accents. I am terrible at straight lines, so I decided to try sugar sheets. As long as I didn’t smudge the colors around while applying the pieces, it worked great.
The 1959 layer was a jukebox theme. I covered the layer with pink fondant in Atlanta and took it without decorations to Illinois and then freehanded a jukebox and dancers based off vector files I found in a Google search. No photos exist of this process, but it turned out nice (see pink layer below).
The next two layers both involved primary colors. For sure part of the logic in the design was multi-use fondant. To make the cake I used some square stickers I had hanging around as a template, both for the sides of the cake (black fondant) and the colored squares.
I cut the squares and applied them to the cake as evenly as possible, but of course the fondant stretched (and I’m not that accurate anyway).
The Rubik’s cube layer was for my brother, who I felt confident would inspect it and call out any factual inaccuracies (i.e. impossible color placements), so I modeled the cake layer as a replica of my husband’s authentic 1979 cube. And I adjusted the uneven edges with a flat edged fondant tool.
The next layer was a 4″ round cake for Tetris. I used the same colors as the cube and needed a way to cut even pieces and give them the texture. I realized the feet of a Lego man were perfect for the job.
This Lego man stomped a bunch of Tetris pieces in all the primary colors, and I put them onto the 4″ round covered in white fondant.
The top layers were 1999 and 2009, and as of when I got on the plane I had absolutely no idea how I’d make them. The plan for 1999 was a Matrix theme, which all of my grad students were enthusiastic about when I described it, but given that this layer is a cupcake and I’m not that precise with icing, I wasn’t sure it would read. Fortunately one of my students had an alternative very 1999 suggestion: Furby. So that happened.
The final one was the iPhone layer, which I put off until the last minute, as in the night before the party. I asked my sister-in-law, whose is the famous Cooking with Carlee (and is awesome and you should read her blog) if she could bring some cookie dough to my mom’s house where I was staying. I made a few roughly smartphone-shaped cookies and picked the one that had the best proportions. After multiple trials and errors (no photos available), I ended up with a plausible smartphone with a birthday emoji. My nephew was the one who suggested how to affix it to the top — three skewers to hold it at just the right angle.
And ta-da! 330 years in one cake.