Hamburger cake!

I offered to make a little cake for some friends who were getting married, just for the formality of cutting a cake at the reception – they were having a very informal wedding and potluck reception, and didn’t want a big fancy cake. The bride deferred to the groom on type of cake, saying she liked anything and he was more particular, but said he’d probably want a hamburger cake because he’d been quite taken with some at the grocery store. He was not present for that conversation – when I asked him what kind of cake he’d like, he said “hamburger cake.” No hesitation. So hamburger cake it was!

hamburger cake!

Clearly before the protective strips of parchment were removed. Those bottles contain red and yellow icing for people to add to their slices.

The hubs did at least as much work on this as I did, I should say. I started with a Food Network cheeseburger cake “recipe”, though I couldn’t find a 2.5-quart bowl, only a 2-quart bowl, and we decided to make only the burger patty chocolate.

A couple of weeks ahead I did a dry run. I thought I would make a finished, decorated product, but I ended up only baking the cake. I used half a box of chocolate cake mix (1 layer) and a full box of vanilla cake mix (3 layers, which seemed annoyingly excessive at first but turned out to be the right amount).

"dry run" cake in oven "dry run" cake

I took photos with my phone for later reference so the next cake wouldn’t be so bottom-heavy – the top “bun” looked silly, like a little hat perched on top, and the bottom bun could lose up to half its thickness and still be fine. However – look! A burger!

At this point we also thought the bare cake for the bun looked nicer than the icing-covered version, though no icing meant no sesame seeds (rice krispies being the universal “hamburger cake sesame seeds” according to my research). That’s actually why we did the “condiments” – the lack of bun icing meant overall a low quantity of icing, and we thought it would be nice for people to be able to add more if they wanted.

The day of the wedding we worked on the cake for SIX HOURS. I did not expect this to be a six-hour cake, but we made a lot of icing and had to go out for more powdered sugar at one point.

preparing the pans with parchment and grease filled pans (and bowl)

Preparing and filling the pans: cut out circles of parchment paper on the regular pans, thorough vegetable shortening on the bowl (via paper towel). A lot more batter in the bowl this time around – two-thirds full. Note that the bowl will take a long time to bake and even the pans will take longer because of the full oven. The tomato slice will be quicker, but for everything else start with a 30 minute timer.

leveled chocolate cake with crumbs for siding chocolate cake without its center, oops

I leveled the chocolate layer on a plate, saving the crumbs so I could put icing around the outside and pat them on (a great idea from the Food Network version). Unfortunately I should have put parchment on the plate beforehand and I lost the middle of the layer when I flipped it onto the bottom bun. A lot of toothpicks and additional icing later and it was okay, but not stable – it kind of disintegrated on the way to the wedding. I was able to make it look all right but there is a reason there aren’t as many photos of the finished cake as there might be…

getting the top bun out of the bowl

Flexible dough scraper with rounded edge: the perfect tool to get the top layer out of the bowl.

cheese and lettuce icing tomato slice on the cake/burger

The hubs insisted on cheese, lettuce, and tomato, and fortunately we had a small-scale cake pan (in fact it was retrieved from the to-donate box, so good timing!). I baked a skinny cake layer and he soaked it in glaze-style icing (powdered sugar and milk, as opposed to the easy vanilla buttercream – plus cocoa powder as appropriate – of the rest). He colored all the icing, except the green which was commercial, and iced on the cheese and lettuce. It was a minor miracle when we added the tomato slice; suddenly it all looked right.

an attempt at frilly toothpicks part 1 an attempt at frilly toothpicks part 2

We’ll close with a failed experiment – frilly toothpicks. I cut strips of fruit roll-ups into fringe and rolled them around the ends of bamboo skewers. I corn-starched one side of each strip but probably should have done both… on the way to the wedding they just solidified into a wad of gummy at the end of the skewers.

Fleecy Felty

I made half a dozen little patches of felt this week, plus one larger one (and one failed even larger one). Turns out it’s super-quick to make felt if it’s small enough to fit on your palm.

The idea: Lay some fleece out on a needle-felting brush, needle it until it can be transported without coming apart (5 minutes if you’re being careful, with flips), take it to the sink, soak it, rub it between your soapy hands for another 5 minutes (also with flips) and rinse – done.

finished small felt patches

For all of the smaller patches the fleece barely overhung the felting brush. My goal was thinner pieces of felt than the last time I made felt; those were too thick to expect to keep needles in. To that end I used thinner layers of fleece, which also meant they were somewhat irregular. I stuck some crewel yarn in several of them; in the photos it’s between layers but it can also be on top – just hold the ends down with your fingers while you needle-felt the middle until it’s stuck, and then needle-felt the ends until they’re stuck too. It takes a little more care than just fleece but it isn’t fussy. If you put it in between it may or may not show well.

To flip it helps to have a cat brush that you can get underneath the fleece through the felting brush bristles. I also tried to needle in the edges in particular so they wouldn’t get thin in the wet-felting step. You can see in the third picture below that the size has already decreased quite a bit.

I don’t have photos of the wet-felting step, but it’s straightforward: run warm water, soap up your hands (I tried glycerin hand soap and liquid dish soap and would recommend the dish soap), wet the fleece, and rub it between your hands – gently at first and then more vigorously when the patch shrinks enough to fit entirely between your hands. Flip and rotate it so you hit it from multiple angles. The patch will not be a regular square and I saw no way to influence the shape – it probably depends on what parts of the fleece patch were thicker to begin with.

The first time I tried to make a larger patch it was simply long – and not just that, long in what was already the long direction of the brush. I believe I did not make the fleece thick enough, but it was also quite difficult to wet felt because of how much larger than my hands it was. You can see in the photo below that it really didn’t come together at all.

The more successful larger patch overhung the felting brush some on all sides, for a total that was a bit smaller than the failed one. It had to be needled in sections: first the middle, then in thirds from end to end. The wet-felting was slower but the same idea. Unfortunately I ended up with some gaps in the finished felt (this happened to a much lesser extent with a couple of the smaller patches), so I needled some additional fleece over them and performed a second wet-felting.

You’ll see most of these patches again in upcoming projects. I’ve been crafting steadily; it’s mostly been on things that wouldn’t be interesting blog posts, but there are a couple more photogenic projects in the pipeline!

A fibrous self-portrait

Over on Aquilino Arts, we planned to lend some personality to our site by creating an artistic version of a photograph of ourselves. As the crafter of the group, my medium was fiber. I’m quite pleased with how it came out.

photo of fiber self-portrait

The photo it represents actually came from this blog, from the post discussing the creation of the hat I’m wearing in it. Here it is for direct comparison.

original self-portrait photo

We did not end up using this for the team page as originally intended; the idea sort of fizzled out. I wanted to show it off somewhere, though, and in case you’re curious, I have for you some material lists and process photos.

Visible components:

  • Fabric
    • satin (sky, glasses)
    • fleece (white part of jacket)
    • home dec type (dark green trees, gray part of jacket)
    • netting (overlay for gravel)
    • cotton and/or cotton-poly (everything else)
  • Sewing thread
  • Bulky acrylic yarn (hat)
  • Fabric paint (lips and teeth)
  • Blanket binding (frame)

Invisible components:

  • Flannel (to pad up my nose-cheek-chin region just a tad, though I think it ended up being irrelevant)
  • Heavyweight nonwoven interfacing (face/head, line of trees on left, glasses, two full-size backings)
  • Fusible web (glasses, mouth)
  • Tacky glue (glasses)
  • Fray-Check (glasses)

The first two photos are the back view of the piece that formed my head and neck, and a partially laid out background. I used the head piece to help align the background pieces.

photo of back of head/neck piece photo of partially completed background with head/neck piece laid on top

Next, a shot I call The Invisible Bozo, and a taste of the oddness of cutting up three or four copies of your face to do a project.

photo of completed background with head, hair, glasses, and jacket photo of in-process hat

The back, before and after I covered it with a second layer of interfacing and with calico.

photo of finished back without decorative cover photo of fully finished back with decorative fabric layer and binding

Finally, a shot of the finished item lit from the right instead of the left. It really shows how much dimensionality the piece has.

photo of finished piece lit from right instead of left

This isn’t a project I would have done without someone telling me “hey, you should to do this,” but it was an interesting challenge. I don’t know what I’ll do with it now, but my rationale for backing and binding it was that if I was going to put as much time into something as I did into this (I didn’t keep track, but 10 hours give or take) then I was going to finish it properly.