Sunday, May 1, 2011

Approaching the Sumo...

For no discernible reason, I chose to make a Sumo Wrestler cake for Uncork a Cure, an event that happens annually here in Atlanta. I usually do a fun cake, because they don't care what I do, so it's my chance to do what I want to do. 

I don't know how or when this Sumo popped in to my head, but he must get out. He's much too big to stay in there, it's crowded enough. So Sumo cake it is.

Last year I did this cake:

I call it the "Pink Madame" cake. Joshua insists on calling her "Beatrice Magillicutty". He likes to name things.

To launch my Sumo, I need to start with a sketch. Sometimes my sketches are super detailed, and sometimes they look like I brushed my dog over a piece of paper.

This is a heavy cake, so planning supports is essential. It also has to travel completely assembled. It's actually a fairly simple structure, for such a big guy!  I'll have three pipe and flange "legs", under a 1/2" board. then one pipe and flange on top, with a 90 degree angle, another pipe, a "T", and a copper wire loop to hold his big fat head on.

Now for tons of cake. I mean tons. All told, this beast took up 14 layers of 1/2 sheets!

I usually pipe a "sketch" on the cake, just to keep track of where I am as I'm
 adding cake. This cake is a yellow cake, soaked with coconut and filled with a dark chocolate buttercream infused with espresso. Yeah. I went far beyond quality control with the tasting. Once filled and stacked, he spent the night in the walk-in, because carving a frozen cake is much much easier.

His legs and hands are modeling chocolate. To me, it's the best way to get the shape and detail  want. I did use rice cereal treats under the chocolate, but ONLY to save on chocolate. I'm not a big fan of the RCT's, I find them unreliable. They split and sag and make me scream bad words. Covered in chocolate, they can be somewhat more acceptable. This is about 12 lb's of chocolate. I roughly sculpted the face in chocolate as well, but ultimately will cover it with fondant. I do this because fondant is easier to paint and airbrush.
Next, I recruit Joshua and Heidi to help me cover Sumo in fondant. Joshua insisted it could be done in one piece. I did not believe him, so he had to prove it. I'm glad I didn't put money on it.

He was right! Except for the feet. As they placed the fondant, I smoothed it and started sculpting while it was still pliable. ( Looking at this picture, I feel the need to explain that we are currently working in a temporary space, while our fabulous new cake shop is being renovated! More on that later...).

Working quickly, I start sculpting the features and other details. As cake people know, this is a game of Beat the Clock, as fondant begins to set up and get the dreaded elephant skin within minutes of exposure to air. Most important is the face, since he's mostly roundness and curves everywhere else.

Now the color! I LOVE MY JOB!!!!

I follow up the hand painting with airbrush. All told, I worked about a day and a half. He needed to be delivered at 5, so I arrive promptly at 6:15. Now this NEVER happens at weddings or events where someone has ordered a cake, but if I have any flexibility, I'll stretch it to it's breaking point. In my defense, every restaurant there was still setting up. I swear. So here he is, fashionably late...

People always ask how I feel about cutting and serving a cake I've done, and the truth is I LOVE IT! There are always people who don't realize it's a cake, and that's the most fun. Plus, I know my cake is DELISH!!!! And I can't wait for people to eat it, because I ALWAYS hear or read comments like "Well, it may look good, but it can't possibly taste good". The reason I work so fast is to keep the cake fresh! It's the same cake we serve in our restaurant and bake shop, and we get "Best Bakery in Atlanta" all the time! SO THERE! You're gonna EAT THAT SUMO, and you're going to LOVE IT!

And there you have it, Sumo Cake, sketch to crumbs! 


  1. Yay!!!! He was so good....and heavy as crap! I love the post:))))

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this process, it just makes me look forward to your class in Kitchener next year all the more. Not only do I love your work, I love your writing style too and congratulate you on your new blog.

  3. Thanks for sharing! This is such an interesting and insightful post! Mr Sumo is so awesome! You are amazingly talented!

  4. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. I love your work and Joshua's. I love how you described the process. It definitely helps those that are just coming up into this wonderful world. I look forwad to seeing more of your fantstic designs and reading your blog. Thank you! You rock!

  5. Love the cake, and love the writing. Behind the scenes cake blogs are my favorite. I have one where I like to share my in process pics, but they are nothing compared to this. Love it and thank you!!

  6. This is totally amazing. Thank you for letting us have a peek.

  7. Amazing work Karen! And your blog is great! Welcome to the blogiverse

  8. Loved Mr. Sumo! Your cakes are our "celebrities" at Uncork A Cure! Everyone is always guessing what you will cook up and we are never disappointed! Thank you for your generosity in supporting the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta with Mr. Sumo, Pink Madame Beatrice Magillicutty (I like the name, Josh!) and the cast from the past! We love our Karen!

  9. amazing post and work!! really looking forward to more blog posts like this! I LOVE the sumo's face! You are such an amazing artist :-D

  10. You just answered something I always people actually eat the cakes ? And there you are serving it up with a smile. Absolutely amazing.

  11. Thank you so much for the detailed post. You and your team's work is beautiful and I've always hoped to gain some insight into how you do it. What brand of modeling chocolate and fondant do you use? Or do you make your own in house?

  12. That is beyond amazing! I have always assumed that the more sculptural cakes would taste horrible, but you've definitely put me in my place.

    The floating head looked spooky, tasty and wonderful.

  13. Thanks for posting the process! So many people DO NOT realize how long it takes to create a custom cake. You're so awesome!

  14. Lovely, amazing, I'm in Awe while viewing every one of your masterpieces in cake art.

  15. It´s a fabulous cake. Thanks for sharing