Probably more than any other cake I have done to date, my Giant Octopus Cake has gotten a bit of attention. It was recently in National Geographic Kid's, and will be in their upcoming book "Weird But True". Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to see my name associated with that title. A picture of it also went viral, a phenomenon I learned about when my Flickr account suddenly had 113,000 hits over night.
I have a thing for Octopuses. Or Octopi. I should look that up.
I have a tattoo of one on my left wrist, which has been there for 20ish years. I just think they are the most unusual creatures on earth. They fascinate me. So when the Georgia Aquarium asked me to create a cake for their annual benefit "Aquavino", and gave me no restrictions, I went straight to my fave.
For those of you who haven't seen her, here she is...
Awwww...she's pretty, right? Well, as her Cake Mother, I think she's lovely, anyway. Because she's a giant! Octopus! Cake!
Making a giant octopus cake is, as you might imagine, complicated. Love them as I may, there were moments I was wishing I were more passionate about manatees.
To begin, I had to visualize the octopus on the board, and try to figure out which tentacles would need support, and which would not. And if I could get away with saying she was sitting on three of them. But probably not.
Once I had a good sketch, and a buttercream outline on my cake board, I affixed the copper tubing to the base. The next step was to pile on 9 full sheet cakes, being careful to lower each one over the armature. I wanted the octopus to be sitting on cake, to ensure enough servings.
Next comes the layers that will be carved. I ordered all kinds of layers from our pastry team; half sheets, 18" rounds, on down to 7" rounds. Then I began layering and filling, being careful to keep in mind the ultimate shape I was hoping to achieve.
It helped to carve a bit as I went along, because it was a big cake. The tips of some of the tentacles were rice cereal treats. Finally, I had a basic shape, filled, carved, and ready for fondant.
You may have noticed that there was sunlight coming through the windows at the start of this cake...
Now the fondant. While I tried my best to use the biggest pieces possible, one of the advantages of this complex shape was lots of nooks and crannies to hide seams!
One of the goals in this design was to have the octopus holding a few select bottles of wine. My idea here turned out to be a bit too ambitious, as the copper tubing I had chosen would not support a bottle full of wine. And unlike in my studio, I supposed they were not going to let me empty a few bottles there at the event. REDESIGN! A cake decorator values her ability to stay flexible! (She values it even more in her clients, am I right? Did I just hear an Amen?)
Now the good stuff...I've had a little sleep, and so has Large Marge, and now I get to airbrush! (This, by the way, was my old work area. This is why we are now in MAJOR RENOVATIONS! YAY!)
I added the suckers. They were like giant Smartees.
AAAANNND...Octocake! Now for a shower and some lipstick, and I will be back to immediately deconstruct her...
So there she is, coming and going! And though she lived a mere 30 or so hours, she will always be one of my favorites.
Farewell, Large Marge!