Norwegian Birthday Cake for Arlene

August 23, 2011

Before designing this cake, I've never heard of a pastry called Kransekake, let alone pronounce it.  It's a traditional Norwegian almond cake that consist of a tower of rings, drizzled in icing.  This became a major element behind the cake design, along side with a figure of the birthday girl.  Penny approached me a few months prior to the cake delivery date with plenty of resources at hand.  She came prepared with a family recipe book that contained photos, notes, and a good glimpse into her family's heritage.  This book gave me a personal perspective, and allowed me to sketch up some ideas for her mother's birthday cake.  Oh yeah, did I mention that this cake had to travel 8 hours in a car?  That also came into play when I designed the cake.

From the very beginning, we decided on a sheet cake based upon the number of servings and the dangers of traveling for such a long time.  I wanted the cake to look like a landscape where the miniature Kransekake stood as a monument that Arlene was approaching with a Norwegian flag in hand.  I began by forming the ascending rings of the traditional cake out of a 50/50 mixture of gumpaste and fondant.  I printed out a template of rings to make sure I had the right sizes and that the increments were consistent.  Using a small ball tool, I created small indents to replicate the texture of the real cake.  Once the rings were completely dried, I stacked them and attached them together with a bit of melted candy coating.  No Kransekake would be complete without the icing, so I drizzled skinny threads of the candy coating down the tower of rings just as if it was the real thing.  I placed the Kransekake aside to set while I moved onto modeling a figure of Arlene.

Using a photo from the recipe book,  I began shaping a miniature Arlene.  I created each part separately and attached them using some gum glue or a toothpick for support.  Once the body was firm enough, red fondant was rolled out thinly and hand cut into pieces of clothing just as if I was going to sew together real fabric.  These were draped and adhered to her body and shaped for a soft flow.  I tucked a little tissue under skirt to give it some fullness until it dried.  I gave her salt and pepper hair by marbling a bit of gray and white fondant together and ran a veining tool through it several times to create strands of hair.  I made it slightly long enough to peek out from underneath her traditional red hat.  Her glasses took a little effort to create.  At first I tried making it out of gumpaste, but I was not convinced by the results.  It was hard to create something so small and thin.  I opted for some floral wire and a small needle nose pliers instead.  I twisted the wire to create two loops for the glasses frames and snipped off the excess.  With a the help of a little drop of piping gel, I adhered the glasses into position.  To complete little Arlene, I printed out a Norwegian flag and wrapped it around a toothpick and inserted it into her hand with a drop of piping gel to secure in place.  I placed a styrofoam cup below it for support until it dried.

With the two major elements done, it was time for the cake.  I baked a 11x15x3 sheet of french vanilla cake and filled it with bavarian cream after leveling and torting it.  Once the cake settled, I crumb coated the sheet cake with vanilla buttercream.  The cake then received a smooth blanket of green fondant.  The trick to covering a square or rectangular cake is to work on the corners first, and then smoothing out the sides.  A strip of chocolate fondant was then rolled and imprinted with a cobble stone pattern for the road.  This is where the miniature Arlene would be standing on the cake.  "Happy Birthday Arlene!" was cut out of white fondant and adhered to the cake with a dab of water.  The Norwegian translation was provided by Penny, and I thank her for it.  I wouldn't have known if what I found online would be correct or not.  The Kransekake and Arlene were then attached to the cake with the help of some gum glue and wooden skewers to secure.  I dreaded the idea that Penny would arrive at her destination only to find the tower of rings on its side.  I made sure that wouldn't happen.  For a finishing touch, royal icing flowers were placed in various areas of the cake, and accented with a bit of green leave cutouts.  The result?  A lovely Norwegian theme cake for the birthday girl!

P.S.  The cake made it in one piece!

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