When it comes to Taylor’s birthday cake, each year I try to one-up myself from the year before, which is pretty hard when you’re trying to top something like this.
I’ve pretty much stopped asking what he wants, because I know exactly what he’s going to say. I’m sure he knows by now that I’m so over his constant requests for nothing more than a plain-ass chocolate cake year after year (something he’s never going to get, mind you, I have a food blog to keep up, after all). But this year, I have a feeling he intentionally tried to think of the most ridiculous cake possible, if for no other reason than to shut me up.
And I think most people, when faced with a request for a “slot machine cake,” would probably run and hide.
I, however, took it as a challenge.
And I’m never one to turn down a challenge.
Well over $100 in supplies, hours and hours of backbreaking labor, and countless texts to Aunt Lynn later (she is, after all, the only other person I know who’s braved fondant-covered cakes) and, well, the results speak for themselves…
I get MAJOR wife points for this one (and believe me, I’m going to be milking those points for all they are worth).
Sure, my fondant technique needs work (where do those little bubbles come from anyway?) and I ended up simplifying my design significantly from my original plan, but I am pretty damn proud. Because for a first attempt at anything other than a plain round cake, and only my 3rd fondant-covered cake EVER, I think it came out pretty fabulous.
Why a slot machine? Well, first let me clarify: not just any slot machine, a wheel of fortune slot machine (duh). Taylor has become quite a Vegas junkie in the past few years, taking at least one trip a year there with his dad and brother. It’s become somewhat of an annual tradition for him, and I like that he gets to spend some quality guy-time with them (and he’s with his Dad after all, how much trouble can he get into?) It works out perfectly, as he gets his Vegas-guy-time, and I get a nice quiet weekend at home to binge watch as much trashy TV and Disney movies (tissues in hand) as my little heart desires.
If Vegas is his favorite place in the world, then the slots are his favorite thing in Vegas. Not in an unreasonable, lose-all-your-money kind of way, but more that they are electric and shiny and make fun noises. Honestly, he could probably just sit and listen to the slot machine soundtrack and not even play a penny.
But where’s the fun in that?
I knew I was going to use chocolate coins for the jackpot (honestly, if slot machines doled out chocolate coins I might be more interested). But beyond that, I hadn’t the slightest idea how where to start. So, I did what I usually do in hard-to-visualize situations: I made a mockup. I opened up my trusty Illustrator and drew a scale drawing of what I wanted my cake to look like. I knew I had two 8-inch square cakes and one 9-by-13-inch cake to work with, and used those numbers and dimensions to figure out what pieces I’d need and how they’d fit together into the final shape.
As it turned out, the wedge I cut off of one layer fit perfectly upside down on the next to make a perfect slope for the front face of the machine.
How’s that for some cake-math?
While I ended up not even using the very top layer (I felt it was tall enough) and ultimately scrapped the jackpot counter on the top as a result (um, you try cutting out digital numbers out of fondant), my drawing was actually quite representative of the final product. I like the the simplified elements, it feels clean and colorful and not cluttered if I had tried to put all the text and detail on there. There’s no questioning that it’s a Wheel of Fortune on top, even without the numbers.
The big 7’s were easier, since they were much larger. I simply printed out the 7’s in the font I wanted to use, then cut the paper shape out with an X-acto knife, and traced that same shape onto the fondant.
It made me a bit giddy to be able to put my X-acto to use again; I don’t think I’d touched it since college design class.
What happened to my pretty corners?! As soon as I draped that massive, 5-pound sheet of fondant over top it’s like they simply disappeared. Oh well, I guess I was lucky the entire thing didn’t melt into a puddle, so there’s that small victory at least.
The wheel was maybe the most detailed part of the whole thing. I ended up building it like a lollipop, pressing a cake pop stick down into a thick round of gumpaste (fondant mixed with tylose powder). Then I added the ‘face’ of the wheel, a circle of black fondant with all the colored wedges glued on top (hint: for a pretty fantastic fondant glue, mix a bit of tylose powder with water).
As it turns out, the dowels I bought to support the cake were hollow. I stuck one right in the middle of the top layer (you can see it in the pre-frosting assembly shot above) where I wanted the wheel, and frosted/fondanted around it. Then I just stuck the lollipop stick down into the dowel and voila. It was quite perfect, actually.
The handle was a bit tricker, and you can’t see the toothpick that’s actually supporting the handle upright. The shaft is actually another dowel that’s been wrapped with fondant, and the base and knob on top more fondant. I originally wanted to make the top a cake pop, but couldn’t get a smooth coating of black fondant around that ball if my life depended on it. So, plan B. Always be sure you have a plan B (in cake decorating, as well as in life).
I don’t have a recipe for this one, mainly because it’s nothing new, but if you are curious, I made a double batch of my favorite chocolate cake base, substituting milk for the red wine in this case. Turns out 3 8-inch round cake pans equal exactly 2 8-inch square cake pans or 1 square 13-by-9-inch cake pan. So a double batch gave me exactly enough cake to build my slot machine.
For the frosting I made about 2.5 times the basic recipe, substituting half of the butter for shortening (which produces a sturdier buttercream that I thought would better support the weight of the fondant).
I used approximately 4 pounds out of a 5 pound tub of fondant (Satin Ice brand, if you’re curious). I also found, to my relief, some small 4-ounce packages of pre-colored fondant (including black and red, which are notoriously hard to get really rich color from straight white fondant). For the elements that needed to harden, I kneaded the fondant with a bit of tylose powder. This essentially turns the fondant into gumpaste, which will harden completely when allowed to dry. (Without it, I think my wheel would of looked like something out of a Dali painting). Bonus: the tylose mixed with water makes a super strong fondant glue.
The gold finish comes from spraying the white fondant with edible gold lustre spray. One can was BARELY enough (the back of my cake was a bit splotchy as I ran out). Also, be sure to cover your entire counter before you spray this stuff – even with a few garbage bags underneath I managed to leave a sparkly gold film on everything in the vicinity.
I used some acrylic plastic dowel rods (vs the standard wood) to support the cake, as well as secure the wheel and serve as the ‘bones’ for the machine handle.
The chocolate gold coins I used came from Nuts.com, however there are a number of similar products available on Amazon as well (including some chocolate poker chips that I actually debated using instead).
Phew, I think that covered everything. What’d I miss? Oh yeah…
So happy birthday, dear husband. May your 32nd year on this planet be filled with health, happiness, and lots of chocolate cake. And maybe a few jackpots thrown in for good measure (ching ching ching!)
can you please tell me how you stacked the cakes….I’m perplexed with a 9×13 pan and 2 8×8 square cakes…how were they cut and stacked. I have to do a slot machine for Wednesday. Thanking you in advance.
You know I honestly can’t quite remember. It seems maybe the dimensions are a tiny bit off in the diagram. I’m pretty sure I cut the 13×9 cake in half and used that for the bottom two layers, then split the two 8-inch cakes for the rest of the layers (not cut in half, but at roughly 3 and 4.5/5″.
I am SO impressed! Only your 3rd fondant cake? You rock! I have a graphic design background too, so I tend to pull out illustrator and an Xacto knife when doing fondant too. :) Love this!
This is amazing! I still have not worked up the nerve to play with fondant!
I should have known you could come up with something so close to perfection. Your creativity clearly shines through in all your posts & I love it. <3
BEST WIFE EVER.
HOLY CRAP! This is most impressive… I am finally catching up on blogs and had to leave a comment. Bravo! -m
Oh my goodness, this cake looks absolutely amazing. I would never have guessed that you weren’t a pro at using fondant, because it looks awesome! Great work, hope your hubby loved it!
Talk about a challenge accepted and blown out of the water. This cake is incredible!
This cake is stunning, Lindsay! So, so amazing. What a beautiful work of art… or dessert. :)
You’re incredibly talented!
Lindsay this is extraordinary. I see no imperfections you mention and I’m sure Taylor did not either. I can’t imaging you really could cut into it. It’s a masterpiece.
Wow! I mean, WOW! I’ve worked with fondant handful of times to know how tedious the process is. But this cake is just on whole another level. Simply perfection!
Awesome!! I’m super impressed. What a lucky hubster.
Dayum! That is one incredible cake. Y’all are some insanely talented people! :D
That might be the coolest cake ever. Did I mention my birthday was Jan. 21? Did I mention I’m a FREAK FOR WHEEL OF FORTUNE? Just sayin’…
Are you human? Holy insane beautiful. It is freakin perfect! Beyond breathtaking.
With two engineer parents who took birthday cakes VERY seriously, I have pretty high standards–and this one blew me away! Well done!
WOW!! This is an amazing cake Lindsay! So cool. Now I know who to call to make my daughter’s Annie cake… :)
WOW! This cake looks amazing! If you didn’t tell me it was a cake, I would have thought it was an actual slot machine. Very impressive!!
How are you finding Amazons prices in comparison to local baking supply stores (if you have any) for these types of ingredients? Obviously it’s more convenient to buy online rather than show up at a store only to find they don’t have any in stock. That’s the worse.
Oh my goodness, this is INSANE! I thought my Lego cake was good last year, but this blows that out of the water x1000 – such a cool cake!!
So, so so, impressive!
Wowzers what a brilliant cake, it looks incredible.
I found a little trick to get rid of the bubbles is to use a cocktail stick to make a tiny hole in the middle of the bubble, then press the air, from the outside towards the hole, bubble disappears and if need be you can gently press the fondant icing to cover the hole.
I’m literally BLOWN away by this. And your cake layers are PERFECT. Taylor is one lucky dude!
That cake is freaking amazing. Taylor is one lucky guy.
That’s your third fondant cake? Amazing work!! It came out perfect!!
This is such a bad ass cake!!!
This looks ammmmazing, Lindsay! Happiest of birthdays, Taylor! So glad to have met you both this past year.
Oh my gosh Lindsay!!! You are amazing, this cake looks completely perfect! Love!!
Seriously?!?!?!? I can’t even muster enough courage to make my kid a decorated sheet cake for his birthday. The thought of something like this — there really are no words. You are beyond amazing!
I’m so impressed, Lindsay! Now I can’t wait for next year’s epic cake :-) Happy birthday to Taylor .
P. S. I wish slot machines were full of chocolate coins, too!
You are amazing! You get major wife points for even attempting such a thing. The fact that it looks perfect is incredible. Great job, Lindsay and Happy Birthday Taylor!
This cake is beyond amazing! You totally put your attention-to-details to the max. I don’t think I want to cut this cake…it’s just too beautiful :) And happy birthday to your husband.
This is incredible!! I knew when I saw your sneak peek on IG that it was going to be cool, but this is beyond. Happy birthday to your hubby!
Wow! Lindsay that looks absolutely incredible. Taylor better bow down to you!!! Major major wife points right there haha. Awesome job!!!
Wowzers – amazing job! I’ve only worked with DIY marshmallow fondant. Are you already stressing over topping that for next year? ;)
Aunt Lynn is so proud of you!
And me too, of course!!!
A perfect cake for the perfect blogger couple!
Gorgeous! You’re amazing! I haven’t covered a cake in fondant in a long time because it’s so frustrating, I love how it turns out though! I wish I could use the thumbs up emoji here! <3 <3 Happy birthday, Taylor!!!
WOW. WOWZA. HOLY MOLY! What an incredible cake! I have to ask.. red wine in a cake? What does that taste like? Or is there no real difference, it just makes the cake more moist?
Wow….amazing…you’ve done yourself proud with this beauty!
This so perfect! I can not believe you do not fondant cake more often or for living. I find you need to use really thick ganache and the cake need to be really cold/set before covering for corners. Your hubby would be so proud of you!