I’m not certain who came up with this idea, but it’s kinda fun to see so many friends and family posting old photos of loved ones on social media. This week’s throwback is actually a post I penned back in 2012, when I first started blogging (boy, that seems like a lifetime ago). Back then, I had about 5 followers, maybe a half dozen ”likes” on Facebook and I had no idea what Instagram even was! Since hardly anyone actually saw this post, I thought I would re-share it. Hopefully it inspires you to try one too!
So, in the spirit of past memories, here is the Memory Cake that I created for my sister’s (ahem, milestone) birthday, using old photographs that I printed on icing sheets. And, if you have a faded photograph of someone you hold near and dear, don’t forget to share it!!
When it’s time to celebrate a special family occasion, such as a milestone birthday, people often create videos or scrapbooks using old photographs. This year, for my sister’s (I am not going to divulge the year she was born, but let’s just say Elvis was in the building) birthday celebration, I decided to add a sweet twist to an old idea. A photo cake!!
I have made hundreds of cakes over the years for birthdays, anniversaries, even weddings, but I have to say that this particular cake was really special, as it touched my heart, as well as my sister’s. I am not going to give you a full tutorial on how to create a cake like this. It is not simple, and you do need a basic understanding of cake decorating and using fondant. However, I will provide you with what I think are the most important things a cake artist needs in his/her “tool box” in order to create a memorable photo cake.
Let’s start with the cake. You need a good solid cake that will hold up to the heavy fondant and piped icings. I normally make mine from scratch, but when I am pressed for time, I sometimes us a box cake mix, doctored up. This is a great basic
Once you have all your layers baked, cooled and chilled, it’s time to start decorating!!
I used to freak out when my cakes weren’t level, or pieces pulled off around the edges, but then I started watching Ace of Cakes. Duff Goldman describes cake decorating as using”‘smoke and mirrors” to get the desired results. He, by the way, has a line of awesome cake decorating stuff at Michael’s Crafts. A little extra glob of frosting here, a bit of fondant there can make what initially looks like a disaster into a beautiful edible work of art.
This handy tool, a cake leveler (I know, it looks like a hacksaw, right!?) levels each layer so that they stack properly. When cakes bake, they rise and end up with a “dome” in the middle which needs to be planed down. This leveler makes a perfectly even cut, and you can use it to cut exact layers as well. I use a basic buttercream frosting recipe, especially if the cake will be covered in fondant, which is actually just sugar and water cooked until it becomes a pliable sweet dough.
You can find fondant pre-made in your local arts and crafts store, but this recipe is super easy, a lot cheaper and the fondant actually tastes really delicious! Rolling out the fondant smoothly can be tricky - you have to keep covering your work surface with confectioner’s sugar to prevent sticking.
Once it is rolled out to your desired thickness (it should be 1/8-1/4 inch thick) and size, you simply roll it right right onto your rolling pin and then transfer it to the cake. It is important that the frosting “crumb” layer of the cake be smooth, as you will see every bump and lump through the fondant! Unfortunately, they don’t make “spanx” for cakes!!
Stacking the layers is the next step. Place each layer on it’s own base! Stick dowels or sticks into the layer below, cut exactly at the level of the fondant.
Without this step, your cake could end up unintentionally looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as the weight of the higher layers will eventually sink into the one below.
Next up, adding the photos.
On this cake, the photographs were “pasted” on using a watered-down buttercream frosting. “Now where did she get those photographs, and are they edible?!?” you ask. The photos were printed on my Canon IP3600 photo printer, using special frosting paper from Icing Images (yes, its actually frosting on a plastic back that you put in your printer!) with special food coloring inks, which make for edible decorations.
(Disclaimer: on this cake, some of the photos became non-edible, as I ran out of food coloring ink at the last minute and had to switch to regular ink instead. Luckily I was there to cut the cake and remove the pics prior to serving : ). The final touch: the ribbons. I was going for a “movie reel” look, but couldn’t find ribbon or tape anywhere.
So I fused these two ribbons together to make one long continuous piece to wrap around the cake and give it a vintage look. The topper was just a sparkly plastic Happy Birthday sign from the dollar store. And, again, I am not going to divulge the actual number of candles on the cake, but there was enough heat to start a fire-lol!!!
So there you have it. Photo cake deconstructed. Now, I think there is some leftover pound cake that should go well with my morning coffee!! Have a sweet day everyone!
And a very special happy birthday to my big sister.