Conquering the Dome

St. Paul's Cathedral Cake

Shortly after facing the dilemma of how to create a dome for my Blue Mosque Architectural Dessert Masterpiece, I saw an gingerbread creation of Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral which used rice crispy treats to form the shape of the domes of this cathedral.  I held onto this idea for almost a year in preparation for my Third Annual Architectural Dessert Masterpiece.

St Paul's Dome  St Paul's Cathedral

For this one, presented and eaten December 2012, I chose St. Paul’s Cathedral.  First, because it has the perfect dome for trying the rice crispy method.  Second, because St. Paul’s was a significant part of my trip to London earlier in the year.  I experienced a wonderful view of the City despite minor issues with heights and major issues with claustrophobia.  I successfully climbed to the top of St. Paul’s (at least as high as they allow tourists to go) and made it back down again.  The first flights of stairs to come back down were particularly challenging as they were very narrow and steep with very short ceilings–it reminded me of the first and last time I went caving as part of a school trip in 8th grade, where I somehow managed to crawl through impossibly small places.  The praise of my teacher, Mr. Wolfe, from that occasion was essential in helping me make it down the stairs at St. Paul’s.  Thanks, Mr. Wolfe, you were my hero this time!!

Top of the Dome Looking Down

In making my St. Paul’s Cathedral Architectural Dessert Masterpiece, the design was influenced by the memory of how long it took to create the Gingerbread Blue Mosque.  I determined to take a quicker route this time around by baking sheet cakes and cutting them out in the shape of St. Paul’s.  Again, I referred to my textbook from my Western Architecture course (see Parthenon Cake post) to determine what the appropriate proportions were in cutting out the shape of the Cathedral.  To approximate the proportions in height, I made a double layer cake, plus additional layers at the towers and dome.

Aerial St. Paul's Cathedral Cake

The dome was made using the rice crispy treat method, which ended up being much more challenging than I anticipated due to the stickiness of rice crispy treats.  It did not work to try and shape the dome in my hands.  I ended up using wax paper to form the shape, but found the rice crispies still stuck to the wax paper, but not as badly as to my hands.  Then, I frosted the whole creation, using chocolate frosting as an accent color to suggest the different color of the domes (including those on the front towers) from the rest of the building.  I also used the chocolate frosting to indicate the break in design from the lower and upper portions of the exterior walls.  Chocolate Crunch Bells were used for the small domes on the front towers.

This one was easy to cut like a normal cake for eating and tasted quite good.

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Parthenon Cake

Parthenon Cake

My hobby of creating Architectural Desert Masterpieces began about three years ago, when I was an AmeriCorps volunteer.  Searching for activities to do with my kindergartners in the after-school program, I somehow came across a recipe for making an Ancient Temple Cake.  While this was not at all feasible to do with my students, I thought it was an awesome idea and saved the recipe to try one day.

The following December, I decided it was time to try the Ancient Temple Cake.  By that point I was back in school and had taken a history of Western Architecture course, which included detailed discussions of ancient temples including the Parthenon.  When I pulled out the recipe, I decided it needed some improvements to make it a reasonable imitation of the Parthenon.  The directions were to bake a sheet cake, frost it, stick Pirouette cookies around the edge and top the Pirouettes with wafer cookies.  However, from my architecture course I knew that proportions were important as were the steps up to the temple.

I created a step to the temple but cutting off the edges, cutting them in half (height-wise) and reattaching the bottom halves to the cake body with frosting.  Then I added a number of Pirouette cookies based on the proportion of columns on the long and short sides of the Parthenon.  When I was done, I had a much better representation of the Parthenon in cake form than the recipe I started with.

Unfortunately, my cake temple aged rather quickly resulting in the collapse of the columns on one side.

Ruined Parthenon Cake