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Modern Cake

In this cake, the cantilevered tiers are a tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright. Styrofoam separators supporting the tiers are hidden behind undulating walls of fondant inspired by the work of the contemporary architect Frank Gehry.

  • Servings: 180

Photography: Jose Picayo

Source: Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2001

Ingredients

  • Rich Chocolate Cake
  • 1 10-by-14-inch piece of 1/4-inch-thick tempered Masonite, glued to corresponding-size 1/2-inch-thick foam board
  • 1 12-by-17-inch piece of 1/4-inch-thick tempered Masonite, glued to corresponding-size 1/2-inch-thick foam board
  • 1 14-by-20-inch piece of 1/4-inch-thick tempered Masonite, glued to corresponding-size 1/2-inch-thick foam board
  • Corn syrup or honey for coating
  • Cornstarch, for dusting
  • 25 pounds rolled fondant
  • 1 8-inch-diameter piece of 3-inch-high Styrofoam glued to a corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam board
  • 1 6-inch-diameter piece of 2 1/2-inch-high Styrofoam glued to a corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam board
  • 1 8-by-12-inch cake layer, 2 inches high, set on a corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam board
  • 1 10-by-15-inch cake layer, 2 inches high, set on a corresponding size 3/16-inch-thick foam board
  • 1 12-by-18-inch cake layer, 2 inches high, set on a corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam board
  • 1/2 recipe Royal Icing
  • 1 18-by-24-inch piece of 1/4-inch-thick Plexiglas
  • 1/2 pound long silver dragees
  • 18 2 1/8-inch-long 1/4-inch-diameter wooden dowels

Directions

  1. Prepare the tops of the cake boards (do this two days in advance to give the fondant enough time to dry): With a pastry brush, lightly brush the Masonite tops and the sides of the foam-board-and-Masonite cake boards with a little corn syrup or honey; do not allow liquid to drip. On a clean work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll out approximately 2 pounds fondant to about 1/8 inch thick, making a rectangle large enough to cover the smallest board. Quickly lift the fondant, center it over the board, and gently lay it on the board. Smooth over the top with your hands, working down over the sides. Trim away excess fondant using a pizza wheel. (The excess fondant may be rerolled and used for the next board.) Repeat this process (see Fondant Amounts, below) until all three of the foam-board-and-Masonite cake boards are covered with fondant. Set the covered boards aside to dry completely.

  2. Prepare the separators: Lightly dampen the tops and sides of the 8-inch Styrofoam separator (do not dampen the foam board attached to the bottom). On a clean work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll out approximately 1 1/2 pounds fondant to about 1/8 inch thick. Working quickly, lift the fondant, and lay it on the Styrofoam. Gently smooth the fondant over the top and down the sides, making sure that the fondant adheres completely to the Styrofoam. Trim away excess fondant with a pizza wheel. (Any excess fondant can be reused; store it, unrefrigerated, in an airtight container.) Repeat the process to cover the smaller piece of Styrofoam.

  3. At least one to two days ahead, make the decorative bands: To make the bands, you will need two sheet pans, the Plastruct template, the curved plastic trays, and a ruler. Lay the curved plastic trays side by side on a rimmed baking sheet so the first curve is concave and the second is convex. (Altering the sizes of the curves makes for visually interesting bands.) Lightly dust the trays with a little cornstarch. On a clean work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll out 1/2 pound fondant to about 1/8 inch thick. Dust the top of the fondant very lightly with cornstarch; lay the Plastruct template down on the fondant. Quickly, gently, and firmly pass a rolling pin evenly over the top of the template to imprint the fondant. Remove the template; with a ruler and a pizza wheel, cut bands of fondant measuring 3 inches wide and 4 to 8 inches long. Immediately lay the fondant bands over the curved plastic trays to dry. Make 8 to 10 fondant bands, which will be used to hide the bottom Styrofoam separator. With the remaining fondant, make more fondant bands with the template, ruler, and pizza wheel in the same manner; make these fondant bands 2 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 8 inches long. Leave all fondant bands to dry overnight, or until they become firm enough to stand on their own.

  4. Prepare the cake tiers: Trim the tops of the cake tiers to be level; cover them as desired with a thin layer of frosting to seal in any crumbs. If, before coating the cake tiers, you find them to be too dry, brush them with a simple syrup (made with equal parts water and sugar). This syrup can be embellished with a little liqueur, such as Kahlua, Grand Marnier, Frangelico, or Cointreau. All cake tiers should still measure 2 3/16 inches from bottom of foam board to the top of the frosting crumb coat. Transfer all cake tiers to the refrigerator to chill.

  5. Cover the cake tiers with fondant: On a clean work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll enough fondant to cover the respective cake tier (see Fondant Amounts, below). Roll the fondant into a large rectangular shape approximately 1/8 inch thick. Working quickly, lift the fondant, center it over tier, and gently lay it on cake. Starting from the top of the tier, smooth the entire surface with your hands. Neatly trim any excess fondant from the bottom edges using a pizza cutter. Immediately set each tier on its prepared fondant-covered cake board, gluing in place with a smear of royal icing in the center. Repeat the process until all three tiers have been covered and glued with icing to their corresponding-size fondant-covered cake boards. The cake tiers do not need to be refrigerated once they are covered with fondant.

  6. Attach the long silver dragees: Smear about 1 tablespoon of royal icing onto the middle of the Plexiglas. Center the largest cake tier on the Plexiglas, and set it down with one long side of the cake tier facing the front. Cover two large sheet pans with waxed paper, and set the remaining two cake tiers on them. Fit a pastry bag with a coupler and a #2 tip, and fill the bag one-half full with royal icing. Pipe a 6-inch-long line of icing along the lower edge of one cake tier where the cake tier meets the larger board. Immediately attach the silver dragees to the royal icing. Repeat the process until the entire perimeter of the cake tier has been decorated, then similarly attach more dragees to the lower edges of the fondant-covered board, working with a 6-inch-long strip of icing at a time. Allow the decorations to dry completely. Repeat the process with the other cake tiers.

  7. Attach the Styrofoam separators to the cake tiers: In the middle of the left half of the largest cake tier, place the larger fondant-covered Styrofoam separator. With a toothpick, lightly trace several points in the fondant just around the separator's edge. Remove the separator, and place 10 of the wooden dowels within the marked circle, pressing them into the cake tier and making sure they are flush with the surface of the cake tier. Smear a few teaspoons of royal icing in the circle, and replace the separator on the cake tier, positioned as before, using the toothpick marks as a guide. In the middle of the 10-by-15-inch cake tier, attach the smaller separator, marking the placement of the separator with a toothpick as before, inserting the remaining 8 wooden dowels within the circle, and gluing the separator in place with royal icing.

  8. Assemble and finish the cake: At the reception site, center and place the Plexiglas with its cake tier and separator onto the cake table. Smear a few teaspoons of royal icing onto the top of the separator. Immediately, using a small offset spatula, loosen a small section of the 10-by-15-inch cake tier with its Styrofoam separator from the waxed paper. Once you can get your hands under the cake board, gently pull away the waxed paper. Because the balance is delicate, having another person help you is best. Center and place the cake tier onto the Styrofoam separator, with one short side facing forward. Do not release your grip on the tier until you are sure that it is perfectly balanced on the separator. Repeat the process with the remaining cake tier, with one long side facing forward. Add the finishing touch by standing the shaped fondant bands in front of and around each separator in a freeform pattern, allowing some of the bands to extend beyond the edge of the tier above them. If you find that some of the fondant bands are too high to fit under the tier above, they can be carefully trimmed with a utility knife. If any of the silver dragees break off from the bottom, reattach or replace them using a small amount of royal icing.

  9. Fondant Amounts: 10-by-14-inch Masonite, 2 pounds; 12-by-17-inch Masonite, 2 1/2 pounds; 14-by-20-inch Masonite, 3 1/2 pounds; 8-inch-diamete Styrofoam, 1 1/2 pounds; 6-inch-diameter Styrofoam, 1 pound; 8-by-12-inch cake tier, 3 pounds; 10-by-15-inch cake tier, 4 pounds; 12-by-18-inch cake tier, 5 pounds.

Cook's Notes

The specialized tools you will need include a number 91513 Plastruct template and curved plastic trays from a gum-paste flower-making kit.

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