Making a Star Wars BB8 cake
Tom’s 8th birthday was last Saturday & he had asked for the new Star Wars droid, BB8, for his cake. I took pictures while I made it & thought it might be interesting to see the process, considering just how many questions I get about my cakes. Please note that I have no training at all, & have just worked it out in my usual ‘dive in at the deep end’ way. There may well be much better ways to do it out there…..please let me know if so! I made my first 3D cake a good few years ago for Jamie, our eldest’s 5th birthday. He was completely obsessed with the Disney Cars film at that point (honestly I could recite pretty much the entire film back then!), so I thought I would try making Lightning McQueen in cake form. It turned out good in the end, but there were tears & vast amounts of wine drunk in the 3 nights it took me to make it in secret! The biggest lesson I learnt was to always buy/make enough icing, so you can roll it thick. Too thin & it keeps ripping & making a big mess, as you can see in the second picture below. (excuse old messy phone pictures…..they were taken late at night/early in the morning in a desperate cry for help from Facebook friends!) This then set the standard & each birthday the boys are planning on what cake they want months in advance & get so excited about them. I do love making them & seeing the joy on their face as I bring them out with the candles burning & everyone singing Happy Birthday. It’s worth all the hours they take to make, but they do stress me out a little too! I’m not great at working to deadlines, so get a bit manic at trying to get them made in time, usually late at night to keep them hidden until the big day, plus also fighting my huge perfectionist streak. Quite often people ask me to make cakes for their kids & so far I have always declined. If I was charging for a cake, my perfectionism would mean I would likely never get it finished, as there would always be little tweaks & bumps I would want to sort. So for the love of cake, I only make them for my family so far. I stared by baking five chocolate sponges. To make 3D cakes, you need a nice firm sponge that can handle being carved. If it is too fluffy, it tends to crumble. I used the recipe from Lindys Cakes & further down the page in the comments was a recipe for the butter icing too. It was a really nice, fudgey & moist sponge, that was perfect to carve. I will definitely use it again in the future. I stacked four of the sponges, with a layer of butter icing between each.
Next I carved off the corners to start to get the sphere shape I needed for the body.
I then started on the head, using the fifth cake.
I was not happy about the shape of the head, so then added to it using off-cuts from the body & sticking it together with the butter icing. I was much happier with the over all shape now. Oliver was also much happier with it too……or maybe because he kept stealing crumbs. Who knows?!
Next I covered the entire thing in a layer of the chocolate butter icing & put the whole cake in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. This is called a crumb coat, & when chilled makes it so much easier to add the layer of fondant icing next. It means you can lift it up & adjust it slightly without huge chucks of your carefully carved cake breaking off when it sticks to the fondant icing. After it has been chilled you can smooth any lumps out with the back of a spoon.
We had no space in our home freezer for a cake this tall, so I took it to one of the community big chest freezers. I found these two cheeky ones on my return!
Next was to roll out the white fondant icing & cover the body & cut off the excess icing. I had forgotten to smooth out the butter icing layer & you can see how lumpy it is here! To fix the joins I just smooth out the icing with my fingers or the back of a spoon, using circular movements. You need to work quite quick, as after awhile the icing starts to set & gets crumbly. You need to get the joins nice, while it is still soft. On this note, always keep the spare icing wrapped in cling film or similar, or you will have trouble making the details later.
You know how above I said my biggest tip is rolling the fondant icing thick, so it does not keep breaking as you try to smooth it? Yeah, well, I didn’t & had to do a second layer! I did this just to help & show you all why it’s important……honest!!!!
After this, I covered the head in the same way & then went to work on all the details. I used the tangerine/apricot paste concentrate by Sugarflair Colours to colour the orange icing needed. Although these colours are more expensive than the cheap liquid food dyes you can get in the supermarkets, they make really nice bright colours & as you only need a really tiny amount they last years. I have a big collection now, after so many different cakes over the years & even the first ones I brought are still in date. We have made some great rainbow playdoughs over the years with them too! I have not got many pictures of making the details, as I went & hid in a community members house (so I could work on it in the daytime without Tom seeing it……much better than some of the 3am stints I have done in the past!) & forgot to take my camera. The next stage was to paint the relevant silver bits with the metallic silver Rainbow Dust. When I first bought this (to make an R2D2 cake!) the lady in the cake shop sold me an expensive small bottle of Rejuvenator Spirit to mix the powder with, but she told me that vodka works just as well. At that particular time, I was making the cake while on holiday (I even took my beloved Kitchen Aid on holiday with us to help make it!) & had bought some silver spray from a supermarket that had not worked at all. In a panic I found this cake shop & was so grateful I could save the cake, I was happy to pay anything, plus I didn’t know the area & where I could buy vodka in a rush. So the rejuvenator spirit ran out & I used the vodka. I have a paint brush I bought specifically for painting cakes. It has nice soft bristles, so does not leave any brush marks. I mixed a tiny bit too much vodka with the silver powder, so had to let it dry & do a second coat, to get a really good metallic silver colour.
To stick on details, I just wet the back with a tiny bit of water on my finger or the brush & it acts like glue & sticks it to the base icing.
I also bought a black icing pen, that had a thick & thin end & used that to draw on some of the finer black detail, but most of it I just used a sharp knife to indent the icing & a straw to make the rivit holes. I held the head on with 4 cocktail sticks & took a big breath of relief that another cake was done in time!
The birthday boy was ever so happy with his cake & claimed the entire head as