The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

I traveled to Seattle last Sunday to attend a three-day intensive cake class with Kaysie Lackey.  Almost all my fellow students were experienced cake artists and had their own bakeries or cake companies, as the class required advanced skill.  Regardless, we were all there to learn from a master cake engineer and artist.  Kaysie has appeared on the Food Network many times, and has competed in several Extreme Cake Challenges (two of which she won - Paranormal Cakes, and Extreme Villain Cakes).  She is an incredibly upbeat, energetic, creative person with a knack for teaching.  Most of all, she was really good at getting us (her students) to overcome our fears and start to push the limits of what is truly possible with cake and sugar as artistic media.  I attended the class because I wanted to improve my skills in creating good internal structures for complex cakes, as Kaysie had promised to share her proprietary method for making 'balance' cakes that seem to defy gravity.  I also know that I will always be learning new things in this profession, so it's wise to seek guidance and training from those I admire most.  I have all kinds of ambitions to take lessons from the most talented people out there (Ron Ben-Israel's sugar flower classes are next on my list... someday!).  Kaysie is one of those super-talented souls, and I learned more from her in three (long, exhausting, FUN!) days than I would've been able to teach myself in half a year.  The product of my efforts, using some good equipment and my own two hands, and under the fantastic guidance of Chef Kaysie, was a balancing tea-set cake that surprised even me in how well it turned out.

The 'table' is a 12-inch round cake (I used Kaysie's recipe for vanilla pound cake), covered in a 'tablecloth' of fondant, shaped by hand to resemble hanging fabric.  The teapot was carved from four 9-inch rounds of pound cake, covered in fondant, and secured to a foamcore base that was trimmed with gumpaste.  The teapot lid is half a Styro ball, also covered in fondant and trimmed with gumpaste.  The teacup was carved from a 6-inch half-sphere of pound cake (baked in my Wilton Sports Ball Pan), covered in fondant, and secured to a foamcore base.  All the plates you see on the cake are made from gumpaste, using actual plates as molds.  The little cookie treats on the 'table' tier are actually made from marzipan, filled with strawberry 'jam' made from tinted piping gel.  Everything was painstakingly hand-painted using petal and luster dusts, mixed with lemon extract.  The tea 'splash' coming from the teacup is painted with bronze luster dust and carefully wired into the cake.  The cake's base board was covered in black fondant, and I then applied pieces of grey marbled fondant to resemble cobblestones.  The board was airbrushed with different hues of petal dust to resemble the speckles you would find on natural cobblestone. 

The other thing I should share here is that this cake was transported, in its stacked state (minus the teacup on top, which was temporarily removed for the trip), the 300 miles from Seattle to Eugene, in the trunk of my car.  It arrived pretty much intact, minus a few tiny smudges of gold luster dust here and there, and a little crack in the white fondant of the tablecloth, all of which can easily be repaired!  That is the most amazing thing about the structure of this cake - the whole arrangement looks so precarious, but really, it is solid!

Here's Kaysie (on the left) and I with my finished cake:

And a beauty shot:

And here's a phone photo of me (kinda fuzzy, but you get the idea), stacking the body of the teapot, to give you a sense of what went on behind the scenes...