Remember 2016? It was a thousand millionty years ago, I know.
Back in 2016 I made an entry for Cake International in their Christmas category and I thought I’d posted about it here on this blog. Apparently, I didn’t. I just went looking for the photos because this piece is mentioned in the March 25, 2021 podcast episode, and I couldn’t find it here.
So cast your minds back to a pre-covid time when Carrie Fisher was still with us and some people thought the Brexit vote and US election wouldn’t have too many terrible repercussions, lolsob…
To start, I bought a 1:12 scale silicone brick mould (this exact one here, 1:12 Scale UK Standard Size Imperial Bricks Mould (1120065) from Diorama Debris) and then I started making fondant/gumpaste mix bricks. I used a bunch of different scraps and colours to make a variety of shades of browns and reds. I believe I stopped somewhere after 1100 bricks, and I only had a few dozen leftover at the end. Basically I sat in front of the TV filling the mould tray several times through the day, then I’d let it dry enough to pull them out without being mangled, and then do it again.
By this point I’d stopped worrying entirely about keeping the inner surface clean because I knew I’d be lining it with something else. I sort of tried to keep the exterior bit clean of royal icing, but messing with each row was really time-consuming and knocked bricks out of place, so I stopped being so fussy and learned it was easier to clean up a dried surface anyway. I think if I did this again, I’d keep all the royal towards the interior so hardly any would squoosh out to the exterior, which would have left nicer, cleaner lines.
The fireplace arch (and the window arches later) were pretty easy: I just started from the sides as such arches always go, pushing extra royal between the bricks at the top and pinching the bricks together at the bottom so there was almost none there. I had to let every new addition dry fully, so it took quite some time but it wasn’t very complicated since I already knew how real-world arches work.
I cast some simple gelatin sheets on on ultra-smooth surface to get very flat, very transparent windows. The sheets were glued to the interior of the brick wall with royal icing before the pastillage wall was put in place, so the “glass” appears to be seamlessly just there. From many angles, it was so clear as to be difficult to see at all.
And so, having once again spent far, far too much time on a relatively inconsequential part of a piece, it was time to hurry up and make the zillion details that anyone actually cares about.
The tree was made by rolling snakes of marbled green gumpaste and twisting those around spaghetti strands, then pushing flat to cover the spaghetti. Then I used scissors to snip the sides, twisting the gumpaste a bit as I went. The top tip from the judge later was that I should have cleaned my scissors off between each cut for cleaner edges.
Once I had the branches of different lengths dried, I made a core of pastiallage around more spaghetti and then very firm, dark green modelling chocolate around that. I’m not sure the inner core actually helped with stability very much in the end, to be honest, but it at least made it easy to make a firm trunk out the bottom.
Once all the bits’n’bobs were done, they all had to go in place on the tree, on the furniture, on the walls, and scattered all over the mayhem of the room. The girl figure was initially supposed to be a lot more detailed, but I got very badly ill right before the show and struggled to finish. She was finished in the hotel the night before, with poor lighting, limited workspace, and a mild fever. I also had plans to make a sort of cut-off roof at the top of the wall, but again when I fell ill I just had to cover those naked bricks so I cut two more long strips using my herb mincer as I had for the moulding elsewhere, and plonked them along the top. The judges noticed, and I don’t blame them.
Oh, and when I got it to the hotel I asked if I could borrow one of their wheeled carts, but a porter insisted on doing it for me and then insisted on carrying the box into my room, and I was far too Canadian about it and didn’t argue. He wasn’t careful and it shifted in the box and one of the hallway awards had its ribbon snap off. I tipped him anyway. You can take the girl out of Canada, but…yeah.
At least it was done and on the table first thing the next morning. And then I collapsed and died, the end.
Okay not really, I managed to survive the show, despite having enormous heartache at apparently getting no award at all at first. When the awards were out, I went to check and saw nothing, no card or anything, and I was GUTTED. I moped. I went and told Mike McCarey and he gave me sympathy and said I was robbed. I whinged on Facebook about it. But then I put on my big girl pants and queued up for hourrrsss to get to talk to a judge, who then informed me that the card was apparently missing because I’d won a bronze. BEST BRONZE EVER. I hugged the judge. We’re probably not supposed to do that. The thought now of hugging a CI judge while getting over an illness is pretty horrifying, but there we are.
And then I even survived the rest of the show and the drive home to be able to photograph it properly. Phew. Here are pics from lots of angles of plenty of details, including the little Scottie dog almost nobody noticed.
For those who want to gauge the scale, here’s a measuring tape in inches:
So that’s the whole piece. FWIW, everything above the board is 100% edible, as in there is no wood or wire in the whole piece. Even the whiskers on the cats, the candle wicks, and the pulls on the crackers in the stockings are made out of tiny bits of vermicelli.
I actually find making the bricks and placing them to be very relaxing. Maybe one day when I have the house to myself again I’ll do another brick-wall project…probably not in 2021 at this rate, though. Because now that we’re back to the future, I’m still exhausted every day dealing with the reality nobody would have predicted back in 2016!