I love Mike McCarey. Back when Anne was doing still doing TV cake competitions, I made an oath that the only way she was going to get me to go on as an assistant is if we went up against Mr. McCarey. It never came to be and now those shows are a thing of the past (lucky for camera-shy-me). But my admiration for him remains.
Besides the fact that Mr. McCarey is an awesome technician, he’s also a genuinely entertaining teacher. His banter is both funny and educational (and I mean it!).
So let’s jump right in with the preparation. I had my assistant tackle the modeling chocolate while I made the gelatin windshield. We don’t often work with modeling chocolate here at Pink Cake Box. There are a few reasons for that: For starters, it’s expensive, it adds weight to the cake and is temperamental in anything but moderate temperatures. On a personal note, I have extra cold hands which also doesn’t help. (I've mentioned this before in my Animation in Sugar review.) The gelatin windshield was a breeze. As a matter of fact, I liked it so much I have a million ideas for other items I can construct using the same method. I love to light things up with LEDs, and this is certainly going to come in handy in the future. I may have been just a little sidetracked by this... But I'll talk about that later.
My assistant made a few batches of modeling chocolate using the instructions in the class materials. She may have taking his warnings about over-heating and over-mixing a little too far and both her batches had small bits of unmixed chocolate in them. The white modeling chocolate I was able to condition using our fondant sheeter and ended up with a nice consistency, but the dark chocolate (I couldn’t see the sense in coloring white modeling chocolate brown and black when a dark base would serve us so much better) was a loss. I remelted it in the hopes I could save it, but alas -- it had no stretch. We made the best out of a bad situation, and by that I mean we made the BEST tasting tootsie rolls you’ve ever tried!
I waited until the staff left the shop, pumped up the French techno station on my iPhone and made three more batches. Success!
Carving the Cake:
I made a few alterations right out of the gate. First, I used the yellow cake we make at the shop for 3d carved cakes, simply because I know the texture and working with something familiar saves time. Mr. McCarey’s cake looks to be more or less the same texture and strength. Next time I am totally trying his recipe. I also baked my cake in low sheet pans to avoid having to do much in the way of torting. Again, this was just a way for me, personally, to save time. Most of the time in the shop we bake higher cakes and tort them just as he does in his class.
Using Templates for the Car Cake Design:
The idea of cutting out 2D views of the object you are carving and then working that into a 3D object is a concept I am familiar with from toy design. As I noted in my review of Animation in Sugar book review, I’m always happy to see this technique being applied to cake. It is precise and almost foolproof. Proper planning saves loads of time. Mr. McCarey is meticulous and it pays off. I may never approach a car cake again without templates (...says the queen of “winging” it).
Working with Modeling Chocolate:
I’m going to be terribly biased here and proclaim my dislike for chocolate plastique right out of the gate. About 70% of that is personal -- I have such cold hands that it tends to be crumbly even if I warm it up in the microwave (which is dicey as it is so easy to overheat and ruin it). Because it works through conducting heat, I can’t wear gloves the entire time and it gives me hives after prolonged exposure. I’m also not crazy about the way it looks when it sets up (a little waxy). The other 30% is all about stability. Modeling chocolate can bloom in the refrigerator, it can get soft and collapse in on itself in a warm room, it takes color differently than gum paste and fondant. Lots of people find it easier to work with than gum paste, though. So I encourage you to explore all angles and decide for yourself. A lot of the things on this cake can be done with or without it.
The Secret to a Great Car Cake - Gelatin:
The gelatin work is my favorite part of this. I haven’t worked extensively with it by any means and I have to admit it is pretty cool. After pouring my windshields as directed in the class, I colored some of the mixture with white gel and made some lace sheets. I added glitter and poured some butterfly wings. This is definitely a medium I am going to use again and again.
Back to the class -- I made it all the way up to the wheels and the grill when I had another car to sculpt...
So I took my new car-cake-skills and set about making 007’s 1950 Aston Martin. I applied all the same techniques to this project and had pleasing results.
The template array that Mr. McCarey uses works just as well scaled down as it did on a full sized cake. Using the templates even speeds up my sculpting pace. Instead of having to eye angles and curves I am able to cut down into the cake and produce a pretty close approximation to the shape I want in mere minutes.
Not wishing to risk another bout of hives, I swapped out modeling chocolate for fondant and proceeded with the class. I made a few changes because of this including making the fenders out of foam core instead of poster board. The reason I bring this up is to emphasize that the class is very versatile. While one can do the methods exactly as Mr. McCarey directes, it is just was easy to modify to suit your comfort zone.
My car is far less detailed and accurate than Mr. McCarey’s, though I do think future car cakes that I work on will be more true-to-life as a result of doing this project. Sculpting vehicles can be tedious and stressful especially on a deadline. Mr. McCarey has it down to a science, which anyone -- professional or hobbyist -- can benefit from.
I did consider picking a different style of car rather than doing the class project as demonstrated, but this one reminds me of my uncle’s MG. It was a lot of fun, and a very attractive design choice.
All in all, I would say that this is the definitive car cake tutorial, but even if you are never going to make a perfect model of a vehicle out of cake, the skill set offered here, from gelatin work to icing with meringue buttercream, is incredibly valuable and the principles can be applied to several different forms of sculpted cake.
Keep in mind that this is an advanced class, though even a beginner can benefit from it. I also recommend watching it all the way through before starting the project so that you can decide what you want to prepare in advance and what changes you may need to make rather than having to change gears part way in.
Does Classic Car Timeless Techniques with Mike McCarey sound right for you? Purchase it here for 25% Off! Not ready to purchase? Then we recommend starting with one of Craftsy's free mini cake decorating classes!
Craftsy Class: Classic Car Timeless Techniques with Mike McCarey
Skill Level: Advanced
"Must Have" Tools for Craftsy Class
- Bamboo Skewers
- Clay Sculpting Tool
- Craft Knife
- hot glue gun
- large serrated knife
- Luster Dust
- metallic powder
- modeling clay
- Small Knife
- Small Paint Brushes
- wires (assorted)
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Anna is a classically trained sculptor and illustrator who started her career in cake decorating with Ron Ben Israel in 2000. Since then she has worked for a number of well known cake studios in the New York area doing complex sugar work and design. Her specialties include freehand painting,...