Dan Baines

Fairy Rings and Monstrous Things

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Evil Cakes for Kids Part II - Living Cakes!

Baking for my kids is fun and I’ve come to realise that it draws many parallels with my work as a prop designer. The only real difference are the materials and that your final masterpiece is destroyed and devoured by hoards of kids ‘gangsta tripping’ on fizzy drinks and Haribo sweets.

To take my bakes to the next level I thought I would incorporate some elements of illusion, animation and sound to compliment the standard aesthetics and palatability of the bog standard cake. Having said that, I don’t think any of my cakes have been bog standard, but you get what I mean.

My first venture into what I have termed ‘living cakes’ was a Harry Potter inspired cauldron that is stirred by unseen hands for my son’s 6th Birthday.

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I baked four chocolate cakes to give the cauldron the required height to install the mechanism. This time lapse video shows the basic construction.

The mechanism used for the ghostly stirring movement is the same method as used for the Harry Potter cauldrons. To the uninitiated, The Self-Stirring Cauldron is an enchanted type of cauldron invented by Gaspard Shingleton in the late 20th century that magically stirs potions on its own. However, in reality it’s just a simple motor controlled by a microprocessor with a stick stuck to it. The mechanism is housed in a glass vase which slots into the middle of the cake. This not only protects the cake from wires and moving parts but also acts as a reservoir which holds warm water and dry ice to create the classic Hammer Horror bubbling cauldron effect. To minimise the sound of a motor whirring away the stirrer was made from balsa wood to make it as light as possible. To give the stirring action a more irregular realistic motion, the stick was mounted on a bent metal bracket and purposefully off-centre. This gives the illusion that the stirrer is speeding up and slowing down when in fact it’s just turning at a steady rate.

In the base of the case I also placed a waterproof remote controlled led light which can be set to any desired colour and lighting pattern. I opted for a slowly morphing kaleidoscope of colours which combined with the bubbling smoke and disembodied stirrer created a mesmerising illusion for both the children and adults. The ghostly stirring action really had some parents scratching their heads.

Although the cauldron was voraciously hoovered up by the members of the party, the mechanism was removed and stored away for a later date or to be modded for some other creepy creation.

The next cake didn’t quite have the same visual impact as the cauldron but included an audible element as well as some fitting visuals.

This was the cake for my son’s 18th birthday. Being a huge gaming geek with a love for the greatest decade mankind has ever experienced, the 80s, one item sprang to mind that encapsulates the most defined era of our time - the Nintendo Power Glove.

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I’m more of a vanilla sponge and jam chap myself but it seems all of my boys go wild for chocolate cake so this bake was no different. If nothing else, I can bake a great chocolate cake even though I don’t personally like it.

The black controls of the Power Glove were made from fondant icing and liquorice built over a pre-programmed LED screen that could display up to ten scrolling messages. A simple MP3 player module and speaker were also concealed inside the cake blasting out a Synth Wave soundtrack. This cake not only tasted great, it sounded amazing and probably worked better than the real thing!

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© Dan Baines 2016