A friend of mine was throwing a “beef and beer” fundraiser for her non-profit, Potential Inc., which provides support services for the autism community. The spouse and I were already happily attending (beef? beer? – each of us really likes at least one of those!) when she asked if I would prepare a “special” cake for the event.
She gave me complete artistic license. She was even open about the number of guests it should serve; at 50-100 people, I had a pretty broad target to swing for. The freedom was giddying, if a bit terrifying.
Eventually, I landed on the beer keg theme. Being very “old world” in my design aesthetic, I chose wood over steel for the look.
Research revealed that a great many people had gone before me in this enterprise. There have been several awesome keg cakes, but this is the one that inspired me the most: http://meandmyinsanity.com/2012/01/the-keg-cake-instructions.html
From the start, I knew that mine had to differ in several ways: I wanted it all to be edible (partly because I had more people to serve and partly because that’s more my style), I didn’t want to work with rice crispy treats, and I didn’t see a need for it to dispense a beverage (though that was unspeakably awesome and is a trick I will remember for the future).
The Heart of It
I had some great successes along the way using new (to me!) recipes for genoise and a more european buttercream frosting, so production began en masse for both of those.
Since they don’t exactly sell keg/barrel cake molds to serve ~100 (and if they did, it probably wouldn’t be a logical investment), I baked five double-batch layers of sponge in a high, straight-sided roasting pan, with the intent of carving it into the shape I wanted.
I made rice crispy treat-based “feet” and wooden dowels (because even I’m not crazy enough to trust mere gravity for things like this) as a support structure.
When I had it all together, it reminded me of a pudgy, anthropomorphic critter, much like the footstool in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I had gotten a little punchy by then.
Of course, I later slathered it with a crumb coat of frosting – for which I adopted the molasses flavoring from a recipe I found (I thought it would pair well with the beer, though it just reminded me of pancakes, in the end) and set it to chill.
After a more than healthy amount of inner debate, I chose modeling chocolate to make the wood grain finish.
Apart from wanting to learn something new and being a little, inexplicably, tired of fondant, I reasoned that it would be far, far easier to make the wood grain from something that was already brown.
I borrowed a page from my inspiration cake and made nails separately ahead of time. I needed to poke little holes to stuff them in, but I’m so glad I did it because I really think they added a lot (keeping them in the freezer until adding them to the cake was definitely handy).
The wood grain was achieved by simple marbling of the milk and semi-sweet chocolates.
The Finished Product