Gravity Defying Cake Tutorial: Spinning Blocks
The best thing about making cakes for friends and family is that they are always open to your experimental and out-of-the-box designs. When I made this cake years ago, I learnt so many important lessons but I felt that I could not share the process with everyone yet because it was not ‘perfect’.
The truth is, there is no perfect timing and nothing is perfect. Having something done is way better than having it not done in the hopes that one day it will be perfect.
I held on to the process pictures for years. But you know what? It’s time to stop waiting for the right moment to share them with you and to just do it. After all I don’t really know what perfect moment I was really waiting for.
The idea behind this cake happened when my friend told me that her son was obsessed with the spinning block toys and would like to have a cake made to look like the toy blocks. When I saw the pictures, it occurred to me – why just make stacked block cakes, why not make them spin so everyone can appreciate all sides? So that is exactly what I set out to do.
I choose to do a 6 inch x 6 inch cube because it was big enough to be impressive but not so big that it became unmanageable to transport. I also glued a piece of foamcore with a tab at the bottom of each block so that people could use that to move the blocks instead of putting their fingers all over the cake itself (which would be a little yucky!).
For the structure, I used a metal threaded rod inside. The cakes needed to be secure and to spin so any other structure inside was not going to be strong enough. These threaded rods can easily be found at hardware stores and are relatively inexpensive which is why I love using them. You can price them into the cost of your cake without having to worry about your client returning them. I wrap the pole in cling wrap and plastic floral tape to protect it from touching the cake.
You will also need to use an MDF (wooden) board underneath the cakes to support it. Since it’s only going to be balancing on one nut and washer, using a soft cake board will be risky.
Once the cakes have been ganached, attach the foam core board underneath with hot glue. I have cut a hole in the centre of the foam core board so that the nut and washer can sit against the MDF board and not the foam core when it’s assembled. Cover the cake with fondant. I chose to cover each panel one at a time to make it easier.
Then slide the cakes onto the metal pole. Make sure that your cake is inserted straight. Once the cake is inserted, screw on another nut and position it just on top of the cake. Then wrap the nut tightly with floral tape to ensure it does not move. Place a washer on top and then slide on the next cake. Repeat this step for the 3rd cube.
Once you have done this stage I guarantee you that the stack of blocks will look a little uneven. Here is where you have to have faith (cue George Michael song) and perseverance. Anything that is unfinished always looks bad. You can always see the flaws when there is nothing else for your eyes to focus on.
Push on. Trust me. Cut out the coloured squares and allow them to dry and firm up a little bit then attach them onto the side of the blocks. Place the piece of fondant on a board to help you lift it evenly onto the higher blocks. Once the coloured squares are on, you can take a step back and cut around the edges to ensure they are straight. This is where your eyes will be drawn to since colour stands out more. So ensuring your coloured squares are straight will help to make the whole cake more even.
Then use your templates to trace out the design onto rolled fondant. Use a pointed tool (like the frilling tool shown) to trace the lines on top of the fondant. Then cut it out with a sharp xacto knife.
Allow the pieces to dry slightly before picking them up and transferring them onto the cake. For parts that are a little more 3D (like the monkey’s arm), you can model the shape and press it against the template to ensure you get the right size and shape.
The little bee on top was just to add to the cake and make it more cute. It’s totally optional. I covered an egg shaped styro ball with fondant so that it would be nice and lightweight.
Here are some additional tips and tricks I learnt during this process:
- Take your time when ganaching and setting up your cakes. These are blocks, so they need to be even and the same size and height.
- I personally would not recommend going taller than 3 blocks or too much bigger than a 6 inch cube cake. The bigger and taller it is, the more structural support it will need and the harder it will be to transport.
- Sketch, scale, and print your template to the exact size you need so that your pattern fits properly on each side.
- There is a bit of handy work required with this cake (drilling and cutting metal) but don’t be put off by that. In fact, I am not a handy person myself and it was only because of cakes that I learnt how to use a drill. So don’t be afraid to give this project a go.
- Don’t be afraid to substitute the top cubes for styrofoam if you don’t need that much cake.
- Use a firm and dense cake for this. This will make the whole project more secure.
- I really hope you enjoy this and please do share your finished projects with me!
Also if you want more detailed specifications, measurements, and all the templates for this project, you can purchase the this project’s blueprint from my online store here. It’s a handy guide if you would like more assistance. Please note that the blueprint focuses on the construction of the structure and set up of the cake and not the decoration. It assumes that you have basic knowledge on using fondant.
The blueprint includes:
- All the exact measurements of the structure I made
- A list of all the materials you need
- Step by step illustrations on how to construct and assemble everything
- Templates for the block designs
Here is a preview: