Monday, July 11, 2011
The TARDIS (cake) is exploding!
I have a wonderful friend named Tammy who has recently become a fan of Doctor Who. She is such a recent fan that her favorite Doctor is Matt Smith, because he was her first. And she joked that, for her birthday, she wanted Matt Smith to jump out of a cake the way he did in the episode “Vampires of Venice”:
Well, after I kidded around for a couple of weeks about kidnapping poor Mr. Smith and hauling him back across the Pond with me for the festivities, she made me promise not to actually do it, and I offered to make her a TARDIS cake instead. (For those of you not in the know, the TARDIS is the Doctor’s time machine. It looks a bit like a phone booth, it’s bigger on the inside than on the outside, and it goes anywhere in time and space … and sometimes even where he tries to make it go!) She liked the idea. And so began my quixotic quest to create a cake that’s bigger on the inside … using only my limited baking skills and stuff I bought from the grocery store and the Internet.
You may laugh now.
I had seen a friend make a cake that looked like the TARDIS lying on its back (a loaf pan was her friend there), but I wanted a freestanding TARDIS. Considering the pans I had at my disposal, that meant I was baking a layer cake—and cutting the layers myself.
I started with rainbow-chip cake mix, or “funfetti” as my friend calls it. It’s one of her favorite kinds of cake, the pattern sort of looks like stars, and it was the closest I could get to a “bigger on the inside” flavor (although I also considered red velvet). I baked the cake in a 9x13” sheet.
I carefully compared the height of the cake to the height of the Matt Smith action figure I purchased online (what, you thought I was really giving up on putting him inside a cake?).
Then I cut the cake into thirds and cut the outer two thirds in half. I left the middle third uncut because I was hoping to get away with only five layers, in which case I could cut my top layer from the very center of the cake. It worked out that way, luckily for me. Note the tape measure I used to get the pieces uniform.
Then I noticed a problem: the top of my cake was not flat!
So I sliced off the top of each layer to level it out.
Then it was time to start cutting out the inside of the TARDIS to create a place for the action figure. I cut a little gap in the bottom layer.
Then I made sure it would actually accommodate Action Matt.
I stacked four layers with cavities cut out of them, gluing them together with cream-cheese icing. It was tall enough that I would need only one more layer, so I could cut it from the center.
And I stuck Action Matt into his TARDIS-in-progress.
Then it was time to add the center-cut top layer, which had no hole in it, as the TARDIS’ roof. I stuck bamboo skewers into the cake to hold it upright.
Did you know it takes 3.5 bottles of blue food coloring to turn 24 ounces of cream-cheese frosting TARDIS blue?
I managed to get the cake frosted, and it looked good … but it was over 80 degrees in that kitchen on a July morning, and no matter how much powdered sugar I added to the icing to make it firmer, it continued to melt. Turns out the TARDIS is not exactly heat-proof. Even my decorations began to melt as soon as I applied them, and had to be removed.
So the TARDIS was a plain blue box by the time the birthday girl arrived to collect it, but she seemed to like it anyway.
The cake was disintegrating in the heat, so we cut it up and put plates of blue-frosted cake in a cake-safe. And we went out and hit a teahouse, where Action Matt stood sentinel on the table, occasionally trying to sonic the tea and sandwiches. We gave some of the cake to the waiter, and shared the rest with friends.
Alas, I have no pictures of the blue teeth and tongues that resulted …