I want to make an Unknown Pleasures album cover cake.
July 29, 2014 3:13 AM   Subscribe

One of my very best friends is turning 40 and the theme for his party is Madchester. He and I are big Joy Division/New Order fans and bonded over music many years ago :) I am making his birthday cake and would like some help with the decorating.

I'm making great big slab chocolate cake and want to decorate it with this image, the beautiful star pattern cover of Unknown Pleasures.

My intention is to pour a high-couverture-content ganache (dark chocolate) over the cake then put this design on when the ganache is set. By set, I am intending room temp. so it can stay glossy but am willing to give this up if I should have a firmer canvas. I'm thinking white chocolate, piped slowly and carefully straight onto the set ganache but I'm worried about wrecking the whole thing with one slip of the piping bag! So this is what I need help with.

Does anyone with decorating experience have tips or tricks to help me get this right? Maybe I should do it in parts that I assemble on the cake?

I am very good in the kitchen, and with cake, but don't have much piping experience.
Your expertise is much appreciated. Thanks.
posted by stellathon to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you haven't piped before and with the design you're using, be prepared to suffer multiple heart attacks. It is bloody difficult. If you want to be careful and take too long, your white chocolate would melt. So if your going this way, please practice beforehand. You could do this on a plate and reuse the chocolate.
Another way you could go is using cake stencils. Since the original design has intersecting lines, you will probably have to make two different ones. Good luck, all this sounds like a great plan
posted by ouke at 3:44 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think white icing would be easier to handle and pipe than white chocolate. Definitely practice with different icing sugar to water ratios to find out which gives you the consistency/precision you want.
also if you are using a plastic (freezer) bag for piping, without a special nozzle, cut much less off the corner than you think you should, better to start off with the hole too small than too large.

Also maybe practice piping your icing/white chocolate onto a ganache surface that is as set as you want the final cake surface to be - to check if your white runs or reacts otherwise unexpectedly when it hits the ganache.
posted by runincircles at 4:06 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's a little blurb that talks about photo images on cakes. Ask at your local grocery bakery to see if they'll do a photo for you.

Forget using white chocolate, that way lies madness. Use regular white frosting. Get a few cans from the store, it's meant to be out at room temperature.

Using a piping bag and tip (now is not the time to screw around, especially if you don't do this often) practice your piping on a cookie sheet. Do it a few times. Once you feel proficient, go for actually doing the pattern on the cake.

You may not get it perfect, but you can get it darn close.

Another option is to make a copy of the cover, and then cut a stencil out of it. Use powdered sugar.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:28 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could you create a thin chocolate base (spread melted chocolate on a flat surface like a baking pan covered with parchment, and set it), pipe your icing or white chocolate on to that, and then slide the whole thing on to the top of the cake? That would allow you to start over without ruining the cake.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:03 AM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would pipe the lines in white chocolate ahead of time, one by one with actual tempered chocolate that sets, then assemble the pieces on the cake when the ganache is wet so it glues them on. Then you can have as many goes as you want making each of the lines and it would give a cool 3D effect at the end.

Drawing them directly on the cake is madness.
posted by shelleycat at 6:29 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can order a custom topper made from your image.
posted by Mchelly at 6:30 AM on July 29, 2014

I'd do what Ruthless Bunny suggests - stencil with powdered sugar. Getting the stencil right will be hard but you can check and correct before you commit more easily than with icing
posted by slow graffiti at 6:50 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is pretty labor-intensive, but: Print out the album artwork at the same size it will be on the cake and slip the printout beneath a sheet of parchment paper.

Pipe the lines onto the parchment template with white chocolate, like so, let the chocolate cool, carefully peel each line off and reassemble the design on top of the cake.

If one of the lines breaks, since you have a template set up, you can recreate it with barely any fuss.
posted by divined by radio at 6:53 AM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can't offer any tips or tricks, but needed to comment that bar none, this is the coolest birthday idea EVER. Even if it doesn't turn out perfect, your friend will be completely awe-struck.
posted by thenewbrunette at 7:59 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

here's the directions for how to do a frozen buttercream transfer, which sounds like it would work perfectly.

You print out your design backwards, tape it to a flat surface, then cover that with wax paper. Pipe the white lines first, then fill in the black in between them. Put it in the freezer until solid, flip that over onto the top of your cake and peel away the wax paper.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:54 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Or: ditch this and go for something easier to attain, like maybe mimicking a Factory Records cassette box?

They're all the same, different bands had different colours (New Order white, A Certain Ratio blue, Joy Division purple). The font is Bembo, the catalogue number you can make up and is in Bembo Italic.

*Way* easier, plus you can personalise it...

posted by genghis at 9:43 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

genghis, they're beautiful! I can't believe I've never seen those before. But stuck with Unknown pleasures, it's a special album for us.

Thought i'd post a follow up in case anyone else wants to do something like this.
I used a combination of the ideas everyone posted. Thank you for all the input!

I printed out my Unknown Pleasures picture in reverse, lay baking paper over it, then piped melted callebaut over the design. It sticks well to the baking paper and is pretty hardy so can withstand a little movement and bending of the paper.

I put it in the fridge for 5 mins to firm up quickly and then flipped it onto my cake. Was no problem, bits didn't fall off or anything when I flipped it, it stayed put on the baking paper well and I could do it slowly. I did this while the ganache was still a bit soft, but mostly set. It was set enough that I could move my design and straighten it up after laying it on the cake. Then pressed it on firmly, rubbed away any air bubbles. Left it alone for a couple of hours til the ganache was fully set. I’m in Sydney, it's winter, everything firmed up easily at unheated room temperature. Then I peeled the baking paper off carefully. A couple of bits of white chocolate snapped but I didn’t care. It looked amazing. Birthday boy loved it. My best cake ever. Here is a picture. The party was amazing, other friends turned a room in a bar into the Hacienda. Such a good night!

Thanks everyone for all the tips.
posted by stellathon at 5:24 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Holy crap that looks amazing.
posted by shelleycat at 9:13 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

nice work! that looks delicious and stylish!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:44 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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