|Wookiee Hut D.I.Y. presents:
Cake From the Boss
by SuSu, Diana, MaceVindaloo, Zeedot, Diasala
It is important in a war to observe rituals of normal life, if for no other reason than to remember what it is the brave troops were fighting for.
Admiral Ackbar had had a long life by Mon Calamari standards. But as an old Mon Cal, his health failed him due to his devotion to a lifetime of war. He'd even been enslaved by Grand Moff Tarkin during the construction of the first Death Star. He'd had no time for family or children. In fact, he had only two known relatives, two nieces: Jesmin had died while a member of Wraith Squadron, and Cilghal served as a Jedi master healer. Alas, even Cilghal's formidable skills could not turn back infirmity and old age.
However, he would not die alone, for Ackbar had many, many friends, even among his officer corps who affectionately referred to him as "the Boss." Princess Leia's aide, Winter Reltrac Celchu, had spent much time with Ackbar during the civil war, and she was his primary caretaker in his fading years. The Solo-Skywalker family all adored him, especially young Anakin, who often swam with him in the pools of Ackbar's flagships. When the Admiral's "little fish" was killed on Myrkr, it was the catalyst which gave Ackbar the energy to come out of retirement and plan strategic victories over the Yuuzhan Vong.
The Admiral succumbed to old age in 30 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin) before Coruscant was re-taken in the Vong war. The outpouring of grief was understandable. There were memorial services for the great one on the capitol and on his home planet. But those close to him commented that the most beautiful one was a smaller, later visitation in the newly created Admiral Ackbar a Victory class star destroyer which would prove critical in the upcoming Swarm War with the Killick nests.
For that party, Wedge Antilles had in mind to create a tribute to the Admiral, but to his dismay, he found that all the details had been taken care of the food, drinks, services ... even set-up and clean-up were completely accounted for. Feeling left out, Wedge wracked his brains for a fitting contribution. He couldn't do nothing, he had to do something! Wedge had spent most of his life under Ackbar's command, and had even been bullied into accepting a promotion to General by the Mon Cal!
Wedge spoke with Tycho, Wes, and Hobbie, his closest friends in the starfighter corps; they likewise wanted to contribute. "It's not right that no one asked us to help!" Hobbie was pouting. "He was our Boss!"
Tycho, as usual, stayed silent and thoughtful during the whinefest before him. "You know ... there was something the Boss loved, which wasn't typical for a Mon Cal."
Wes snickered. "Hopefully, it's something we can enjoy on his behalf, being that he's not corporeal anymore."
Wedge smacked Wes on the side of the head, "Be nice!" Wes shrieked loudly and made a big show of his perceived pain.
Tycho laughed, enjoying seeing the aging heroes of the New Republic acting like immature idiots. "Oh, yah. For sure we can. You know on those Mon Cal cruisers, how humid they always are, so that the Boss and his folk would be comfortable?"
"Ooh yes!" Wes was excited, "We can turn on all the sprinklers and create pools, and float the buffet so everything is a swim-to ... ow!" Wedge had smacked him again. "Gee, Wedge, stop hitting me!"
Hobbie's normally mournful looking face brightened up. "I think a pool party would be dandy! If we make things deep enough, I know a way to get the pistons to simulate a wave pool! We could surf!"
Tycho was laughing pretty hard now. "Not bad, not bad! What do you think, chief?" He turned to Wedge, who was really not amused.
"Why do I talk to you guys ... you're all morons!" Wedge was deciding if he should just leave them to their giddy mirth and try to think of something else.
"Oh, stop!" giggled Wes, "You wouldn't have us any other way!"
"I would," declared Hobbie. "I would like to see you set out this way " as he leaned back and rotated his arms from the shoulder, to simulate swimming " I could put my drinks on your flabby belly ..."
"Flabby??" Wes yelped in protest, "Oh yeah? When you're like this " Wes was simulating what Hobbie was doing, " your gut is too round to put drinks onto ..."
While Wes and Hobbie were harassing one another and showing what a backstroke is supposed to look like, Tycho explained to Wedge. "The Boss, do you remember any time he was off-ship in a dry place, the first thing he'd eat?"
Wedge wrinkled his brow, and remembered that Ackbar would head for a diner and look at ...
"Dessert! He'd order something from the pie and cake case in a diner!" The memory surprised Wedge. "I had forgotten ... but what are you on about?"
"Don't you think it odd that the Boss would like cake? And he always ordered chocolate layer cake, by the way." Tycho leaned in, since it was getting harder to hear with Wes and Hobbie yukking it up beside them.
Wedge turned the idea over in his mind. "So you're saying we should bake a cake?"
"Cake, did you say cake?" Hobbie was distracted by the mention of baked goods, since he rarely got to eat them if Wes was around. "Me first, me first!"
"You think I wasn't listening, but I was," crowed Wes, "and I have a better idea. Let's do a cake shaped like a tidal wave and decorate it with animals and a bunch of us having a good time!"
Wedge frowned, "It's not for us, Wes!"
"Yes it is, yes it is!" protested Wes. "Ackbar is dead, long live Ackbar, for in his memory he provides chocolate cake for the masses! We can even put the year on it, so everyone will remember the year the Boss gave us cake!"
It really wasn't a bad plan, and after some more arguing and fighting, they agreed to make a big ornate decorated cake, shaped like something from the briny deep of Mon Calamari. The decorations would be cookies, which would add more interest to the cake than decor piped straight onto the cake itself, and they could decorate these in advance, rather than decorating the cake on the spot. They even decided to make another cake, for those who may not have liked chocolate layer cake.
And they'd do it to remember "the Boss," but really, a memorial service is for the living. What better way to prove and improve life than with chocolate cake from the Boss!
* * * * *
Things you need to construct this cake:
- Several batches of Basic Gingerbread
- Cookie cutters, or very sharp knife
- Several batches of pre-made sugar cookies
- Frosting, chocolate and vanilla
- Cake mix, devil's food cake
- ¼" / 1 cm diameter dowel
- Cinnamon Graham goldfish crackers
- large bag of M&M's
- Vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar
- Egg whites
- Food coloring
* * * * *
Gingerbread and Sugar Cookie Tips can be baked a week ahead and decorated three days ahead
- The dough needs to be covered and chilled for at least an hour before you can roll it out. You should divide the dough into smaller portions, it's easier to handle in smaller batches.
- Use flour on the board and on the pin to keep the dough from sticking. Roll out the dough to about ¼" / ½ cm thick.
- Whether you are using cutters or knife, dip in flour to prevent sticking. Cut straight down into the dough.
- You can re-roll the scraps. Cover and refrigerate before rolling them out again. Beware that re-rolled dough makes a tougher cookie, but ti will still be tasty. You can plan on re-rolling the scraps twice before they will come out too hard; but they still can make good decorations.
- Place the cookies on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, and bake according to recipe instructions. The gingerbread cookies are ready when they are firm to the touch, but not get really hard. The sugar cookies are done when they turn a sandy brown.
- Allow the cookies to cool before moving them to a rack to cool completely. Let them "cure" a couple of days before decorating them.
- To decorate, use royal icing, which can be made a day ahead before decorating, as long as you keep it covered and refrigerated, so that it doesn't dry out.
- If you wish, you can color the icing with food coloring don't do the whole batch, and a little royal icing writes quite a lot.
- The icing for writing / piping should be quite stiff. If you prefer to "flood" the icing over the cookie, you can outline your area to be flooded with stiff icing, and then fill in with thinned out icing.
- Use simple designs for best clarity, but you can plan on writing as if you are using a thick felt-tip marker
- After decorating, allow the icing to dry overnight or longer, especially if you used the more watery flood icing. It will become quite hard.
- Store the decorated gingerbread cookies in air tight containers till you need to assemble the cake.
- If you need to transport the cookies to their final destination before assembly, you can wrap them individually in giftwrap tissue paper or bubblewrap, then cover in plastic wrap to seal them, or ziplock baggies. Pack them carefully, you don't want them to break!
- If there are key parts to the decoration, you may want to make two of the same cookie, just it case they break.
* * * * *
Chocolate Cake can be made ahead and frozen
NOTE: For Yellow Cake, decrease the vegetable oil to ¼ cup. All other quantities should stay the same.
- Use any chocolate cake recipe you wish, or use box cake mix. BUT ... use the following proportions instead of the box instructions:
- 1 box devils food cake mix
- 1¼ cups of water
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or any other flavoring extract you like ... such as rum, or banana)
- Don't combine more than two boxes worth of cake at a time.
- Each batch of cake mix yields about 5½ cups of batter. Estimate how many boxes you will need by measuring the volume of your baking pans.
- Don't bake in pans deeper than 3" / 7½ cm, and plan to bake them no deeper than 2" / 5 cm.
- Grease and flour the pans well. For a large cake or if using a pan not usually used for cake, grease the pan, line with parchment paper, the grease and flour the paper as well. This will ensure the cake can come out.
- When the cake is baked, let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before turning it out onto a rack.
- Use the rack to support the cake as it comes out, to avoid breaking it.
- The cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for a month. In fact, the cake is easier to split and fill and decorate when its frozen.
- Tap the pan when you've put the batter in, to level out the batter. But don't worry if the top domes up you can always trim it off or utilize it as part of the construction.
- Split the cake and fill them a day or so after they are baked it will be much simpler to handle.
- Some shapes simply cannot be made with cake. For that, you can cut styrofoam, cardboard, etc. to make the shapes you need, which can then be iced.
- Cut a piece of cardboard exactly the same size and shape as the bottom of each cake. Cover the cardboard in foil and place the cake on it. Wrap the whole thing together and chill or freeze. This will make handling the layers much simpler.
* * * * *
- Use store-bought icing. Buy any white or lightly colored flavor if you plan to color it.
- Use a mixer and spatula to combine the icing and food coloring. Some food colorings have a distinctive flavor, so start with less food coloring, mix it in, then evaluate the color.
- Your colors will be "pastel-like" shades, so be realistic about what sorts of colors you want to use.
- To pipe, use disposable piping bags or gallon-sized ziploc baggies. Have decorating tips if you want to do that.
- Add a flavoring extract to your icings to make them less "store-bought" tasting. For instance, add vanilla or raspberry extract to chocolate icing, or champagne extract to vanilla. Match the extract flavor to the cake flavor.
- The cake should be chilled, but the icing should be at room temperature when you use it.
- Spread the icing on the cake sparingly at first, then scrape off the excess. This is the crumb-coat, which you should allow to harden a bit before going on with the decorative layer of frosting. It will minimize the cake crumbs in the outer coat of icing.
- To spread icing, put a big glob of it in the center of the cake. Using a palette knife, spread the icing from the center outwards, and coat the sides with the excess.
- Do not add icing back into the source bowl, lest you contaminate it with crumbs or other colors.
* * * * *
- The cake layers cannot support more cake atop it, and will collapse if you try. Cut dowels or drinking straws to exactly the height of the cake, and insert as many as needed to provide good support. Place the next layer atop the dowels. Be sure to wash or wipe off the sawdust before inserting into the cake!
- To minimize the next layer sticking to the one below it:
- Allow the icing to dry and crust over a bit.
- Sprinkle the area being covered with powdered sugar.
- Cut the dowels or straws a bit taller than the cake it's going into.
- Pipe icing between the layers to cover the gaps and the foil-covered cardboard beneath each cake piece.
- Do as much of the cake construction and decoration on-site. But if you can't show up too much ahead of time:
- Put no more than three double-layers together before transporting.
- Toppers and taller layers should be put together on-site.
- Bring extra of each color icing to do touch-ups.
- Have a "plan B" if the cake should collapse or get dropped! (Our plan B: ice it over anyway and cover with cookie fish, and make it a sea-bottom cake instead of a sea surface wave.)
- Use icing to stick decorations to the cake, and to elevate them off the cake if necessary.
- Bring trimming knives, extra dowels, and knives and servers. It's amazing how many people forget that a cake needs to be cut and served, and what utensils should we use?
- Bring towels and clothes to cover the table or to drape over impromptu platforms.
- Bring boxes to create height platforms for the cake, depending on what's around it.
- Know when enough is enough, and step away from the cake before it gets overdecorated!
* * * * *
- It's easy to get so stuck into decorating the cake that you forget the table ... we found it's very useful to have a big bag of M&Ms or other colorful candies separated into their component colors. This way, you have the freedom to create "mosaics" on the table, which is a quite and simple way to make the table look festive.
- Cookies can also be laid out in patterns for this cake, they were laid out like surf waves.
- Consider having a smaller, simpler second cake for those who may not like the flavor of the main cake. You can decorate it as well. Our second cake was a lemon poppyseed cake, decorated as a "dessert island" (sic) with bar / cabana, beach umbrella, etc.
* * * * *
Cutting the Cake
- Assign someone to cut the cake, preferably someone who knows how.
- If you are letting the catering staff, etc. cut the cake, be sure you let them know how to deconstruct it, the location of dowels, etc. You don't want your guests biting into wood or plastic or foil!
- Any disguised non-edible materials like toppers should be indicated to the cutter (unless, like our crew, the cardboard and duct tape topper became part of a ridiculous but funny practical joke).
- Have wet paper towels on hand to wipe the knife, so that clean cuts are possible.
- Take home leftovers it's really a very good cake!
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