UPDATE: My cake made it into the contest! Please like it on this Facebook album to help me win. Contest ends on Saturday, July 20th at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. Thanks!
I’m totally going to show my age in this post. I joke that I’ve led a “culturally deprived” childhood. My parents weren’t into keeping up with the latest trends. I am a total child of the 80’s, yet I went my whole formative years without seeing E.T. Or The Goonies. I never had any of the cool toys. No cabbage patch doll. No Atari game system. No Star Wars action figures. No Lite Brite. I was entranced by the Lite Brite. So many pretty colors. So many possibilities for creativity.
Well then, why the Lite Brite Cake? And who is Brian? Let me ‘splain…
One of my favorite bands is Guster. Despite the laid back vibe of many of their songs, they give incredibly energetic performances. They happen to be currently touring with two of my other favorite bands to see live. Unfortunately, they are coming nowhere near Florida. So when Brian, the percussionist (I say percussionist because he uses a multi-percussion set up, not just the usual drum set) of Guster posted this amazing opportunity on Facebook, I immediately started brain storming of an idea for an apporpriate 40th birthday cake. I went full-on nostalgia with the Lite Brite idea. As a fellow Child of the 80’s, I’m hoping he shares similar feelings about one of the best toys from the decade.
So, how to make this cake? It takes some planning.
Step 1: sketch out your idea. Keep in mind, Lite Brites have an off-set grid, which means that the horizontal rows are straight, but the vertical rows are not. I used a hexagonal grid for my map. This was especially helpful for the letters.
Step 2: Bake a really large cake. I lopped off a bit on one end because I didn’t need that much surface area.
Step 3: While the cake bakes and cools, sort out the jelly beans. If you’re lucky and live somewhere where you can buy bulk jelly beans and pick out the exact colors you need, then you can skip this step. I was not so lucky, and had to buy three bags of jelly beans to get enough of the colors that I needed. It was an oddly calming task.
Step 4: Once the cake has cooled, frost it. Make sure the top of the cake is level and flat. Measure the dimensions of the top of the cake. Cover cake in plastic wrap. You won’t need it again until the next day.
Step 5: Dust some cornstarch or powdered sugar on a clean surface. Roll out black fondant to a 1/8″ thickness, and cut to the correct size. Slide an offset spatula under the fondant to make sure it isn’t sticking anywhere on the bottom. Using your sketch as a guide, start gluing jelly beans to the fondant. Since I knew no one would be eating the fondant or jelly beans, I used Elmer’s glue. This is normally a huge no-no, as anything on a cake should be consumable. But like I said, I knew for a fact that no one would be eating the top of the cake. If you think people will consume the image, then use black sugar cookie icing as your glue. It’s like commercial royal icing, and it’s way easier than trying to dye homemade royal icing black. As you attach each jelly bean, press it into the fondant to help it stay in place.
Step 6: Let fondant and jelly beans dry overnight. The fondant won’t harden completely. Carefully lift the fondant and place onto the cake. Fill in any gaps with additional frosting. When it’s time to serve, you’ll be able to cut through the fondant as you cut the cake into pieces.
In case you’re wondering, the image in the center of the fondant is supposed to be a bongo with some candles lit on the top. It’s based on the one I saw here. I reeeeeeeeeeeeeally hope I win the cake contest. Cross your fingers, and wish me luck!