Many of you will already have seen the Death Star cake, made for Star Wars day on May 4th. Here I’d like to show the process of its construction, for those who are interested. I wouldn’t describe it as a difficult process, but it is a time consuming one, as you no doubt have guessed. It’s hard to judge properly, because not content with making one complicated cake I also had a batch of detailed cupcakes on the go, but at a guess I’d say it took me around eight hours to complete, which includes dish washing time (my least favourite time of all).
To give credit where it’s due, the idea came from this post at Cake Central. I read over the instructions once, a few months ago, then never referred back to them again. I should have, because they had good instructions for making sure the cake didn’t move around on the base, which I did have a problem with when I had to transport it on foot; the jolting motion from walking rocked the Death Star across the cake board, leaving it stranded at the edge and bumping off the side of the cake carrier. I took a taxi the rest of the way, once I’d noticed. The wellbeing of my cakes is of great importance to me.
I began with a Pyrex bowl, one of the smaller ones at about 6″ wide across the top, with a capacity of one litre. I greased and floured this bowl to within an inch of its life so that the cake wouldn’t stick to it, then set aside. I whipped up a double batch of my favourite devils food cake but, crucially, skipped on the baking powder or bicarb,because I didn’t want it to rise into a dome, but rather to have a flat top.
The cake took an hour to bake, then I let it cool in the bowl for about ten minutes. I ran a butter knife round the edges, as far down as I could reach and, slightly breathlessly, eased it out onto a cooling rack. The shape was an almost perfect half-sphere; it is a little flattened on the top (or bottom, depending what way round it is, or you are) but not really so’s you’d notice just by looking. Nothing stuck to the bowl. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I re-greased and floured the bowl and poured in the rest of the cake mix – actually there was a little left over, I only filled the bowl to the level of the first cake, so that the sphere would be identical top and bottom. Nobody wants an elongated Death Star, do they?
While all this was going on, I made the chocolate buttercream, which would coat the outside of the cake and act as glue to hold all the detailed shapes round the outside. It was just your standard chocolate buttercream – 25og butter, 500g icing sugar combined until smooth and creamy, and 150g dark chocolate, melted and stirred through. I also made two little cake boards to go on the bottom of each half of the Death Star, from cardboard and tinfoil. These cake boards would help take the pressure off the cake itself, once they were stacked up, and would make it easier to disassemble and slice.They would also hold the two cake halves apart a little, forming the Death Star’s famous equatorial trench.
Once the second cake was baked, I figured the first one was probably cool enough to start working on. I began by taking a thin slice off the flat top, to get rid of the little ridge that ran round the edge, and would set the cakes further apart than I wanted. Once this was done, I applied a little buttercream to the centre of one of the cake boards, then inverted the cake on to it – it was now secured by the frosting. I used a small, sharp knife to cut a circle in the front of the cake, just above the centre line, to form the superlaser. I dug out a little of the cake from behind the circle and then pressed gently with my fingertips to smooth it out into a tiny cave.
I then covered the whole cake in a layer of buttercream, and started on cutting out fondant icing for the details. If you Google ‘Death Star cake’ you will find loads of great cakes, each a little different. I took inspiration from a few of them, but at the end of the day I cut out varying shapes of fondant and applied them in the straightest rows I could manage around the cake. If I was going to do it again, I’d stick with plain square or rectangle shapes but add detail to them with piped icing.
I started with the superlaser, which was a circle of fondant cut from a thinly rolled sheet, using a shot glass as a guide, then a thin roll of fondant applied round the edges and gently flattened, and further short rolls of fondant as spokes from the centre to the edges. The very centre is round cake sprinkle, more of which I used across the Death Star design. Once I had the superlaser assembled, I sprayed it silver with PEM silver lustre spray – I’ve used this spray before, on my UFO cake, and I really like the effect. It also smells really sugary and sweet, which is appetising, and tastes sweet without an artificial edge.
Once all the fondant shapes were stuck to the buttercream, I tried to level off the surface in between them and then sprayed all over with more silver spray. The end result was a bit battered looking, not as clean and crisp as I’d like, but given other people’s reactions I think I’m being overly critical!
I followed the same process with the bottom half, then, but left them to dry overnight before assembling the two together. I glued the bottom half to the cake board with buttercream (or at least I thought I had), then glued the top half to the bottom with more buttercream. I had a LOT of buttercream left over.
The last thing to do was give the whole Death Star a final coat of paint, which I ended up doing at work to an audience that I didn’t really intend to have… Still, it was cool to have everyone showing interest and asking questions, and a few people took photos too which I must say was very flattering.
The Death Star cake was one of five prizes in a raffle, to raise funds for MS Society Scotland. The raffle raised over £300, and was all thanks to Laurie at Too Much TV. If you’d like to make a donation to MS Society through Laurie, you can do so here: http://www.justgiving.com/Laurie-Cowan. Recently I’ve been getting over 100 hits a day; if all of you gave £1 to MS Society Laurie would be half way to her target immediately. Also, she arranged the cake sale and raffle AND designed and printed some awesome custom T shirts ANNNND promoted the whole lot tirelessly AAANNNNNNNND, in her words,
I did this while experiencing numbness over 50% of my body, prickling in my hands and a tight corset feeling around my middle due to Multiple Sclerosis.
Just sayin. She deserves at least £1 a head.
Oh and there are some of those T shirts left. You can see them on my Facebook page. Leave a message if you want one – subject to availability, people.
Here’s the cake again.