My older daughter’s best friend asked me last year when her father was diagnosed with a serious illness if I’d make him a Holy Hand Grenade cake for his birthday. Of course I said yes!
Part of why I was able to say yes is because this is a reasonably simple cake. I baked a vanilla cake in the Wilton Sports Ball Pan (and this is the closest I’ve ever come to making a sports ball in it, for values of very nerdy sports), then covered each half with my dark chocolate buttercream.
I then popped the halves in the fridge to firm up the buttercream, and meanwhile rolled out some red fondant to lay roughly on the board to look like cloth, taking care to tuck all of the edges underneath because that prevents any cracked edges from ruining the cloth look.
Then I rolled out some dark chocolate fondant and put that over each half. It’s a tricky thing to cover a sphere in fondant without ending up with a pleat somewhere, so since this design has a bar that goes around the middle anyway, I made life easy on myself and did it in halves. I put the bottom in place on the red “cloth”, then put more dark chocolate buttercream in the middle, placed the top half on, and cut a long strip of the dark chocolate fondant to go around the middle and hold it all together. Then I added the upper strips in the same dark chocolate fondant.
To complete the chocolate theme – in part because dark colours show metallic airbrush better than light ones – I also made a cross out of semi-sweet modelling chocolate. After I’d put a big wooden dowel down through the whole cake, I affixed the cross in place with two toothpicks on either side of the center dowel. I also made sure there was a note with the cake mentioning these supports so nobody would hurt themselves.
Then I placed some plastic wrap all over the red cloth and the cake board, tucking it down as much as possible between the chocolate-covered cake and the red part. I then airbrushed gold all over and let it dry for a few minutes to ensure that it wouldn’t make a mess when I removed the plastic. This is another reason why a dark fondant covering works better: if there were any parts along the very bottom that got missed by the airbrush because of the plastic, they simply look like shadows. If I’d used white fondant, they’d have shown.
Next were the dragees. I used two sizes because that’s what I had on hand. If this had been a competition cake I’d have carefully measured out the spacing, but since it was for a friend for free and they know I have a seven-month-old baby, I just eyeballed the spacing. I worked my way along the still-soft strips with a small ball tool, then put a dragee in each dent with some piping gel.
I had originally planned to do some kind of edible banner around it with quotations from the Book of Armaments, but see the above note about the baby. I was tired and decided it looked good like this. But I added this cheeky altered quotation to the note about supports:
I heard a rumour that the recipient loved it so much he spent his whole birthday party smiling and that it may even top his favourite childhood cake. His older daughter read the silly passage above in an English accent for the party.
Required viewing for the uninitiated: