i had a grand plan to make an actual-sized wii cake for larry's recent birthday. i needed sharp edges, so fondant was out... i decided to make my first attempt at sculpting with modeling chocolate (white, in this case). and everyone knows when you're doing something for the first time, be sure to make the project as complicated as humanly possible.
it started out well. without referencing a recipe, i made up some cherry filling (larry loves cherries) and it turned out really well. i adjusted the buttercream and cake to be almond to complement the filling. i sculpted a kick-ass wii remote and nunchuck out of white modeling chocolate (with a few marshmallows in the middle to reduce the amount of chocolate needed, something i won't do again -- the springy marshmallows kept trying to burst out, making little bubbles on the surface). i went a little nuts on the details, imprinting tiny letters "c" and "z" on the buttons, adding the one-two-three-four dots above the blue lights (makes sense if you've studied a wiimote), carved out the little plastic latch for the battery cover, added the crimping where the cord is attached to the nunchuck, etc. that part was fun.
then i boldly began to form the wii itself out of cake. i knew this was a bad idea, but suffer from some overconfidence in my ability to do things i've never tried before when it comes to making stuff. i sliced my little two inch wide layers, and stacked nine of them up to reach the height of the wii standing in it's base. that all went okay. i inserted wooden dowels to give it some structural support, but alas, the dowels had nothing in which to anchor. (hmm, have i hit you over the head with foreshadow yet?)
i rolled out and cut and carved all my wii chocolate panels. (no problem.) i attached the pieces for the base of the wii. and painted it with luster dust to achieve the metallic-plastic finish of the real thing. (easy, lovely.) then i attached one giant side panel (hmm, okaaay...) then the other side. now working as quickly as possible so i could get the damn thing back into the fridge to harden up the chocolate, i managed to get the front panel in place. sensing disaster, i called for larry to come take a photo before things went horribly, horribly wrong. the weight of the chocolate was pulling the cake, dowels and all, over to the side. i tried propping up the edges in various ways, all to no avail. sadly, the ultimate outcome was pretty clear. (apparently there's a reason people don't routinely make 9-layer cakes that are 2 inches wide.) damn you, laws of physics!
at this point, it was nearing 3 a.m., but i was not ready to accept defeat, since i'd put about 10-12 hrs into the cake *that day* (that didn't include the earlier full day of baking the cake and making the filling, royal icing, and buttercream). in one last desperate attempt, i pulled off the chocolate panels and tried to affix them to a styrofoam-and-cardboard base i quickly mocked up. it was soon apparent that this plan could work (yes!) -- if i had about 3-4 more hours to work on it (no!). in the old days, i would have gone for it (unable to just let it go, eager to throw good money after bad, so to speak), but that's not a great plan when you're responsible for a toddler, i suppose. after much frustration and a few tears, i painted a smiley face on the side of the failed cake, stabbed it with those useless dowels, and went to bed.
i'm used to biting off more than i can chew and having to redo parts of my projects, or work through some serious frustration. what i am not accustomed to is catastrophic failure. i was really bummed by both the failed cake and all the wasted hours, but my reaction was clearly colored by fatigue, because i felt more-or-less fine about it in the morning. by then it was funny (mostly).
the next morning, i pulled out the low, round turquoise cake (which was to have been the pedestal for the grand, tall wii), and contemplated "plan B". while i had been throwing spatulas and bits of chocolate the night before (just briefly :), larry had the foresight to salvage the front panel from the wii, so i used that to make a wii sort of popping out the top of the cake. turned out a bit dorky, but it was an homage to the "plan A" cake, so i'm okay with it. i attached my wiimotes up on some luster-dust painted dowels to get at least a bit of three-dimentionality out of the flat, flat cake, and used one of the big side wii panels as a palette for a wii logo. i threw all this onto a cake and called it a morning.
it's a shame, because the way it was shaping up, that wii was going to be awesome. after the fact, i can think of about twenty things i could have done differently to prevent or fix the problem, but you know... that's why they call it a learning experience. oh, wii cake...
but, it was tasty. eva loved it, overexcitedly calling for "more papa happy cake papa happy birthday papa cake" (with a "please mama" tacked onto the end for good measure). it makes a good story. so, all in all, it turned out okay.
(see my flickr photo set for a bit of extra commentary.)