Thursday, March 28, 2013

Treasure Chest Cake with Mermaid
We first met the parents of Nicholas and Reagan six years ago, when Rick made their three foot tall wedding cake and a surprise groom's cake. The couple returned to us for birthday celebrations, always bringing us fun, sometimes crazy, themes along the way - like a sculpted Palmolive bottle cake! They adore cake - the taste of it as much as the appearance - and we always look forward to making their special cakes! When they started having children, Rick began making cakes for Nicholas and Reagan who, for the past couple of years, have celebrated birthdays together. Last year, Rick made them each their own cake. This year their interests were combined into one cake with a Pirate and Mermaid theme, represented by a treasure chest filled with jewels with a pretty mermaid on the side. It was so much fun to do and we were excited about it as soon as the order was placed!

Given our long history of making cakes for this family, Rick wanted to go the extra mile
and FILL their treasure chest until it was overflowing with pretty, all edible jewels.  He started working on their cake days in advance, first making and painting the mermaid then making the jewels and sculpting the treasure chest. The treasure chest was sculpted out of vanilla cake and had a delicious caramel cream filling. Rick estimates 15 hours was spent making the cake, and once again, his work area and hands looked like a color explosion had occurred!

After the party was over, our clients sent us an adorable photo of their son Nicholas, in his Pirate costume holding a sword. This little cutie captured our hearts and made all the hard work and time spent on the cake completely worth it. Happy Birthday to Nicholas and Reagan! We hope to see them and their family again next year!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Inspired by ... Books!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Books are never far from our mind. Especially these days, now that we have written one of our own and understand how involved the process is from conception to publication. We have complete respect for authors who put in a great amount of effort to share their knowledge, making many sacrifices along the way. Books have long inspired the creation of art and have brought people together. In the cake industry, books have been a continuous source of inspiration for designers.

We have assembled some of our favorite themed cakes made by cakelava and inspired by books. Many of these books are classics and included on lists of people's favorite books of all time.  Each cake included was made by Rick. All decorations were handmade and painted and the art was done freehand. The client gave Rick creative license to design the cake as he felt best, and as with most of our celebration cakes, we didn't know what the cake design would be until he was actually working on it.

We want to acknowledge each of the book authors, whose timeless words and art inspired us to create!

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Thomas the Tank Engine

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Sandra Boynton books theme

Piglet from Winnie the Pooh

The Wealth of Nations

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ernie Santiago, Mr. U.S.A. 1983!
One of our favorite perks of owning a business comes from building a relationship with clients that goes beyond making their cake. This is especially true of clients that return to us repeatedly. With each cake they order, we learn a little more about them, whether it is an interest we never knew existed, or getting to meet the newest addition to their family. In the case of the Santiagos', who are regular clients of ours (and some of the nicest people we know), we got quite a surprise when they ordered their latest cake - a sculpted partial body of bodybuilder Ernie Santiago, Mr. U.S.A. 1983. Mr. U.S.A. 1983? We never knew Ernie was a famous bodybuilder, much less won such a fabulous title! We were so excited to make a likeness of Ernie circa 1983 to honor of his 60th Birthday, another milestone event! The cake was as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, as Ernie is still very committed to bodybuilding and is preparing for his next competition!

This was a really fun design process! First came the photos - Ernie on bodybuilding magazine covers, in competition, and at the beach posing. I couldn't believe my eyes! "THAT'S our Ernie?!!"
My jaw dropped, practically hitting the floor when his wife sent the photos. It was one of those awesome moments where you learn something so surprising about someone you would never look at them the same way again. Seeing our client Ernie with a totally ripped body, 30 years earlier was pretty mind-blowing! We knew this was going to be some cake!

Friday, March 8, 2013

cakelava Loves Nutella!

cakelava Loves Nutella! Apparently, so do the students at Columbia University. A recent article emerged on and was also featured on The Today Show this morning, stating that Columbia University Students love their Nutella so much they are consuming up to 100 pounds a day in the dining hall, racking up a bill as high as $5,000 a week! That is a lot of chocolate hazelnut deliciousness!

I had a meal plan in college - and they don't run cheap! Having to partake in the usual cafeteria food fare can be a real crap shoot. I looked for recognizable brands so I knew what I was getting into. I can see how having gourmet comforts, especially premium items like Nutella, not covered by many college students' budgets might cause some chaos. I'm sure if Nutella was served at my college dining hall that we would be hoarding it and taking jars of it back to our dorm rooms. That is exactly what is happening at Columbia University. Students are filling cups full of Nutella and stealing jars of the stuff. At $5,000 a week, 52 weeks in a year, that could add $250,000 plus into the food budget of the dining hall! When students are paying $15,000 to $40,000 a year for tuition, and more for a dining plan, they might feel entitled to take as much as they want.

Maybe Columbia University should keep the coveted product locked up, having the dining hall ration it to the students. This is how my chefs used to dispense the Saffron (the world's most expensive spice), truffle oil, truffles,  Fleur de Sel or aged balsamic vinegar we used in our dishes. We had to ask for it and it was kept under lock and key. An inconvenience for sure, but we learned the value of the products and didn't waste them! The University could employ someone specifically to oversee the Nutella station. It would give someone who needs a job easy employment and the cost would be way cheaper than a quarter of a million dollars a year!

Nutella isn't as high a cost as the gourmet items on my list above, so maybe it doesn't merit being locked up, but it is expensive. cakelava has had Banana Nutella cake on our menu almost since the beginning and long before the chocolate spread became trendy here. It was a flavor Rick and I came up with together after I was inspired by the Banana Nutella crepes while in Paris. We have purchased a large amount of Nutella and understand why the Columbia University students are hoarding it. The fascinating part of the Columbia University story is even though the cost for keeping the coveted Nutella in stock is so high, the dining hall is planning to keep offering it, and may limit other in-demand foods like ... lobster tails. Lobster tails or Nutella? This is a no brainer! Bring on the Nutella!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

USS Hawaii Change of Command Submarine Cake

On Friday, March 1st, we were honored to make a submarine cake for a Change of Command celebration for Cmdr. Stephen Mack, who was the commanding officer of the Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) from 2010 to 2013. Cmdr. Mack's wife ordered the cake from us as a surprise for her husband as he celebrated his last day as the commanding officer before passing on the ceremonial Hawaiian warrior spear

Rick has made other submarine cakes but it was the first time he had Diamond Head in the background. Our client requested to have Diamond Head on the cake, remembering a photo taken one day of the USS Hawaii passing by Diamond Head. We loved the idea and having the iconic crater and Hawaiian plumeria flowers really added to the composition. Rick sculpted the submarine, Diamond head and ocean out of our delicious chocolate cake. The celebration was held outside at the Hickam Officer's Club. After the party, our client sent us the photo of her husband enjoying his cake. We didn't have an opportunity to meet the Cmdr. in person so it was great to be able see him. She also gifted us with a special coin (shown below) when we delivered the cake. It was a treasured and unexpected gift! 

Congratulations to Cmdr. Mack on 3 years of amazing service and dedication!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! ... Here's a Cake for You!

 Theodor Seuss Geisel, who is better known as Dr. Seuss would have turned 109 on Saturday. Dr. Seuss is one of the most influential authors of our time and his wonderful world of whimsy is celebrated daily across the world. We honor Dr. Seuss' influence by remembering our collection of books - some of our earliest exposure to literature was Dr. Seuss' Cat In the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and so forth. We've seen the movies, both live action and animated, and the Dr. Seuss theme has been popular for designers across many disciplines. It has especially resonated within the cake community. Some of our favorite cakes made at cakelava have had a Seussian theme.

This fun and colorful Dr. Seuss themed cake was made by Rick and featured Cat and the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and Horton Hears a Who characters as selected by our client. The cake was made in March 2012 and was never shared on our blog that month because I didn't have an opportunity. A quick look through our 2012 archive and you'll note we don't have a single post in March. We traveled for part of the month, then immediately had a photo shoot for 'Extreme Cakeovers" book, then were occupied with cakes for the rest of the month. I had meant to share it after March because we were proud of the cake and the client absolutely adored it, but the cake got filed away. Then, over the weekend Rick and I were talking about Dr. Seuss' birthday and he brought up the cake.

It was one of our favorite cakes that Rick made in 2012. Each of the characters were made and hand painted. It was a super cute topsy, turvy design with each tier done in a different color scheme. I really like the truffulas and playful pieces sticking out of the cake and theme lends itself to many different approaches for the design. On a previous Seuss themed cake, our client wanted the cake with a sculpted Cat and the Hat on top, which Rick made out of cake. Each version has its own special qualities and we love them both! Happy Birthday to the late Dr. Seuss! We are grateful to this visionary for creating a magnificent world where anything is possible, filled with positive messages that makes us feel great, and reminds us what it is like to be a kid again!

Friday, March 1, 2013

NEW! "Discover Your Inner Artist" Hibiscus Cake Class in Boston

Image by Rachel Robertson Photography

The hibiscus and bamboo cake was originally designed by Rick several years ago for a televised wedding show. It was then featured in the premiere issue of "Get Married" Magazine and on a number of internet websites. The hibiscus cake has generated a crazy amount of interest and decorators all over the world have contacted us to ask how Rick makes it and where they can purchase the hibiscus cutter. I mention that Rick did the pattern completely free hand without a cutter and their response is often disappointment because they don't feel comfortable working without one.

The hibiscus cake, originally made in sunset colors, has resonated with so many people, and at the same time left them bewildered how the design is made. Rick decided for his first "Discover Your Inner Artist" class in 2011 that he would teach people how to make his hibiscus cake. The class was a huge success! Rick has taught his hibiscus cake class, originally paired with a clownfish cake, to well over 100 students in 4 different countries, and only once in the United States.

As his last classes of 2013 before our book is released, Rick will be teaching a pair of 2-day classes in Boston at The Cake World, a cake school dedicated to bringing world class instructors to share their craft. Rick is honored to come teach at The Cake World and is looking forward to his newest class, the hibiscus cake!

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