WARNING: Topsy turvy cakes are not for the faint of heart.
The visual trickery accomplished with a topsy turvy cake is impressive but the optical illusion can turn into a headache because the cake’s stability is compromised by carving and by its top-heavy design.
Venturing into topsy turvy cake territory
When tackling my first topsy turvy cake, I did a lot of research and read many accounts of collapsed, crumbled cakes. Apparently, these cakes are notorious for disasters.
Connie, a friend and super easygoing customer, requested a topsy turvy cake for a bridal shower, inspired by the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. To keep my cake layers soft and moist, I opted out of using a pound cake recipe in favour of a modified cake mix recipe and I’d later regret that choice.
Although the cake seemed structurally sound by the time it was stacked and picked up for delivery, it leaned overnight. Connie smartly improvised by using a teapot to support the cake’s weight and keep it from toppling over.
Unleashing creativity with cake decorations
I had lots of fun creating the White Rabbit and Alice figures out of gum paste and fondant and I positioned the figures to look as if they were climbing into the cake. I used a grass tip to add some texture to the white rabbit’s tail.
Painting the roses red was a fun task too, simply achieved by mixing red food colouring gel with a bit of vodka and then applying it with a food-safe brush. The playing cards are made of gum paste and I used an edible-ink marker to draw on the clubs and numbers.
Edible gold shimmer dust helped bring the stopwatch to life and a large gum paste teapot tops the cake. I stenciled some designs onto the teapot to give it some flair and although the pot slouched a bit while drying, I think its imperfect appearance works well with the Mad Hatter theme. It’s a forgiving theme if ever there was one.
When fondant’s really an F-word
I faced major challenges with fondant while working on this cake. Because the larger cake was 6” tall with a 9” diameter, I needed a very large piece of fondant of at least 22” round. Kneading and then rolling a huge hunk of fondant proves difficult for me with my skinny twig arms. But it’s a terrific workout.
I started out using a silicone rolling pin but later found it was much easier to use a traditional wooden rolling pin that allows me put more of my weight into its handles, stretching the fondant more quickly.
But the fondant just wasn’t cooperating. I rolled a piece out six times before covering the top cake with it. First it was too dry. Then it was too soft and stuck to the counter. Then it was too thin and tore. Then it was too thick. You get the gist. Fondant wasn’t my friend that day.
So I used plenty of fondant decorations to cover up the cracks, rips and bumpy areas where I couldn’t work out the fondant’s pleats.
This project was another fine reminder that when cake-decorating problems happen, strategic placement of decorations works wonders.