Back in September, Agatha Christie’s Twitter put a sort of “cake challenge” out there: make a cake in celebration of Agatha Christie’s 125th. No need to ask twice– I make fan art on the most ridiculously slight of provocations. And I’d never tried making fan art via cake. The very prospect sounded so insanely nerdy I just had to try. Anyway, CAKE!
It would have to be something Poirot-esque. I had used edible marker on fondant for cookies once or twice in the past, and I’d used gel food coloring for tinting molded cookies, but I’d never tried anything like a portrait in gel coloring on fondant, nor had I made decorative, edible flowers. I decided to try both. You also need to know that I am terrible at baking…
In spite of me, the cake made it out of the pan more-or-less successfully. It was (necessarily) square-shaped, in keeping with the Poirot motif. With a great deal of frustration I sliced the square cake in half and iced it together again, finally breathing a sigh of relief that the complicated, unpredictable, and aggravating part was over. Now I just had to paint the portrait and sculpt some flowers and stuff, which as far as I’m concerned is infinitely easier than fighting with cake ingredients.
The white fondant was rolled out and trimmed to be a little smaller than the cake top. The picture on which I was basing my image was obtained from the episode Death in the Clouds. Gel food coloring was mixed with vodka to paint on the portrait. (The Countess Rossakoff approves.) The actual painting part was a sort of learn-as-you-go experience. I cautiously added thin layers and built it up gradually. And as Poirot slowly came into focus, I shuddered to think how positively mental Suchet would think me if he ever found out that he was being painted in costume, onto a piece of fondant, with vodka… and for no particular reason except for what was essentially a Twitter dare.
I found a tutorial on the internet for the creation of molded poppies, but used fondant instead of gum paste just to make life more interesting. (Poppies are a flower I identify with Poirot. If you decide to use this tutorial, intrepid reader, follow their instructions as written!) An additional amount of my white fondant was heavily tinted, turning my hands bright red, and I managed to get some poppies made. The frilly centers turned out nicely and helped to give the false impression that I knew what I was doing. Long, thin, green poppy stems were also rolled out.
The fondant portrait was eventually anchored to the center of the cake with some sort of gel icing. The original plan was to have the green poppy stems attached to the flowers right on the cake itself, but it suddenly seemed like a better idea to add a thin green “stem” border all the way around the portrait. A second border was added of tiny silver candy balls, vaguely reminiscent of Poirot’s brooch, or whatever. They looked bling-y, anyway. A couple of poppies were added to wherever they might fit on top of the cake. I had a little bit of my red fondant left over, so I thought I’d make a “125” to attach somewhere onto the cake. I didn’t own any number cutters for fondant or anything handy like that, so I cut them out by hand and gel-glued them to the front side of the cake.
The final poppy, which wouldn’t have fit onto the cake anyway, I arranged decoratively in front of the cake (as though that was what I meant to do all along, ha) with its stem, which is actually not even attached to the flower. I forged Christie’s autograph onto a stray piece of fondant using edible marker so that, just maybe, the theme of the cake might be slightly more obvious.
The cake was finished just before Christie’s birthday, and it seemed like a good idea to take it to our local library, an institution to which I owe a great debt and where I had first blasted through a large number of Christie’s works. My husband called the library and asked if they knew it was Christie’s birthday. They didn’t. He told them to be on the lookout for cake. We dropped it off that afternoon, the 15th of September.
The library (which is a fairly small one) got into the spirit of the thing and posted on their Facebook page that they had cake, inviting people to come celebrate Dame Agatha’s birthday. They apparently made tea and set the cake out with stacks of Christie books to encourage visitors to check them out. We missed out on the party, but it seemed to have been a sweet little affair. I was told later that when they were cutting the cake, they carefully cut around Poirot first to avoid damaging the portrait. It’s hard to blame them– attempts to stick a knife into Poirot are not going to end well. But the cake did completely disappear in the end.
Later they sent me a cute little thank-you card. 🙂
The only moment of cringe once the cake was done was the comment of one gentleman on the library Facebook page, who, upon seeing the cake, helpfully informed us all that Agatha Christie was, in fact, a woman. OH, did I cringe. Several wincing cringes. Someone at the library set him straight though. 😉