Monday, May 2, 2016

Sleeping Beauty

We started brainstorming this concept almost immediately upon learning a Sleeping Beauty themed party had been requested. The movie actually has a birthday cake scene! How could we resist?

Saturday, April 16, 2016


An Incredibles-themed birthday party wouldn't be complete without a giant evil robot, right? 

Saturday, May 16, 2015


This year my very first group of fifth graders graduate from high school. Whoa. David is headed to Tuscaloosa for college, so this computer is Bama-centric. The keyboard even says "Roll Tide!" The onscreen error message is definitely my favorite part, though: "Cannot run program 'childhood.exe' - Memory full." Then you can click either restart or graduate (but restart is greyed out). Whimsy!


After Ben got the blue guitar for his groom's cake, and Cale got Neyland Stadium, Chase was determined not to be outdone. His request says it all: 'possum.

Birthdays, Birthdays

Our kids are growing up! Here are some of the cakes from their birthday parties:


Farragut High School

For my high school reunion, we made this cake replica of the actual campus. Each section, and each wing of the main building, are all different flavors. 

Monday, November 29, 2010


Well, it's Fall again, and that means the annual Fall Fest, where Tara and I auction off our mad skillz to raise money for a good cause. This year we had a special treat--the winner was one of my current students, so I got to make his birthday cake! Very cool. Aaron came to me with a specific vision, and even loaned me one of his collectors books with the pages we'd need tabbed and everything. The actual structure of Ash's hat and the battlefield itself were pretty simple to construct, and the colors came out great. My favorite part, though, was molding the (yes, edible) figures for the top. This is Gyarados, a water pokemon, and Charizard, a fire pokemon--don't say we never taught you anything here at Caldwell Cakes. At first they didn't want to stand up straight on top of the field, but we managed to wrangle them into place without losing too many hit points. (Pause for laughter.) The overall effect fit in perfectly with the other party decorations, and the birthday boy seemed pleased. Mission accomplished.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gone Bananas

Yes, this cake is actually banana flavored, and it's a Tara original! For Lucas' first birthday, she designed this monkey theme to celebrate. I'm particularly fond of the bunches still hanging in the trees. This one is a pretty small cake--I think we used our 6 inch pans--but you can hardly tell because of the way the colors pop. (Key to success: Tara mixes the fondant colors, too.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010


A friend of a friend called us up a few weeks ago looking for a specialty groom's cake. When she told me she wanted a replica of his prized Camaro, I pretty much automatically said yes. It's our first car, it's an antique, and it's a beauty. Lindsey sent us a batch of photos from different angles, and we got out our calculator. Turns out, sculpting a car is really hard! There are a lot of scale measurements that all have to match up if it's going to look right. All the embellishments, including the tires, are rolled fondant, so except for the toothpick antenna, this one's edible from the ground up. Instead of trying to turn white fondant red or black (which is nearly impossible), we picked up some powdered food coloring and mixed it with Everclear. The resulting "paint" was super easy to work with, and looked great when it dried. There's a support layer underneath that lifts the chassis up off the display board, and we copied his actual license plate. We had a lot of fun with this one; mazel tov, guys!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Frank officially retired this week after an illustrious career as an air traffic controller. The cake is a radar screen, with lots of little airplane blips traveling across the grid, and all around the perimeter of the base we piped his retirement slogan: "Half the money, twice the Frank."

We also piped the radar blips, but the blue and white grid lines are strips of fondant we ran through our pasta maker!

Our crowning achievements, of course, were the suspended airplanes overhead. They are actually made of the same cake as the base, and tasted just as delicious. Neither Frank nor his wife watch "Lost," but we do (with a vengeance), so the Oceanic and Ajira logos/colors were kind of a Caldwell Cakes inside joke.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


For a couple of Vols fans, we sure do a lot of Crimson Tide business. This one looks pretty simple in design, since that's what the client wanted, but actually took a lot of work to create. It's strawberry cake with two layers of actual cut strawberries in between, and since it's around 5 inches tall we also included a cardboard/dowel support structure.

The crimson (NOT maroon, as I've been reminded over and over) pieces are cut from fondant and embossed, while the "Bear Bryant" houndstooth pattern around the sides represents our first foray into the world of edible images. Printing them was easy--applying them vertically was the challenge. Happy Birthday, Shane!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Birthday Dots

Lori's birthday falls right around Christmas time, which is why you'll see our tree in the background of this photo. After the baby shower last month, we'd been experimenting with the whole "whimsical tiered cake" idea. This ribbon wrapped beauty (say that three times fast) is marbled twice over: purple and white fondant on the outside, yellow and chocolate cake on the inside.

Friday, December 4, 2009


This cake took us down memory lane to the late, great, IBM Selectric electric typewriter. An acquaintance from school asked us to help celebrate the retirement of a 40-year employee at his office, who, yes, still uses her old Selectric to print mailing labels. He wins the award for being by far the best client we've had so far, since he came to us with a specific design in mind and sent photos from every possible angle (including measurements!)

The basic shape was pretty simple, but carving out the hollow on top after the fact proved slightly more complicated than I imagined. As usual, the most fun parts were the little details--note, if you will, the notched type wheel and the other inner pieces. All classic Tara. My favorite thing is that no plastic dowels or cardboard support layers were necessary; the entire thing is completely edible (and pretty delicious, too).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby Shower

Yes, it's Fall Festival time again, and that means there's a Caldwell Cake to be won in the school's silent auction.

This one was requested for a baby shower, and it posed an interesting challenge. Instead of creating the design from scratch, we were asked to replicate an existing cake from another website. That meant a little reverse engineering on our part, and a whole lot of geometry measuring out those diamond patches. (I don't know if you can tell in these images, but Tara "quilted" the perimeter of each patch before placing them onto the cake--genius!)

Except for the ribbon at the base of each layer, everything on this cake is edible, from the tiny bow ties to the sneakers on top. Those shoes, by the way, marked our first foray into gumpaste construction; we were thrilled with how they came out, so I included an extra close-up photo below.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Well, this was certainly a new theme for us. Rhonda's husband was turning fifty, so several months ago she ordered a coffin-shaped cake to go along with the black balloons and other "mourning" gag decorations. We had to do some research on several funeral-home websites before we were able to settle on a model that would be easy enough to create with fondant, yet still elegant enough to get buried in.

Once we got started, it came together pretty quickly, but during the final stages we realized things could have gone smoother if we had decorated each section and then pieced them together afterwards. Oh well. The embellishments, as usual, are Tara's handiwork, including the improvised columns at the corners which turned out to be my favorite part.

Yes, the flowers on top are edible as well, but due to time constraints we chose to buy them pre-made. The stems, leaves, and ribbon, though, are Caldwell Cakes originals. :)

Ultimately, this little guy was displayed on the table along with a sign we picked out that shows a cartoon Grim Reaper saying "Relax, I'm just here for the cake!"

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nashville Sounds

The theme for the Tennessee Cake Festival this year was "Love Affair with Music City," the original date having been scheduled for Valentine's Day weekend. The event had to be postponed until nearly March, but we figured we could still work in a nod to Nashville's minor league baseball team, the Sounds.

This marks the first time we've revisited a cake design, as well as the first "behind the scenes" photograph we've posted. I prefer the glove being taller, and I was particularly pleased with the way the team logo turned out, since I piped it by hand. Tara created the grass field upon which it sits using about a thousand individual squirts of green icing. Phew!

The other image is the cake's endoskeleton support structure.

Friday, February 20, 2009


My neice, Lily, turned one last week. Naturally, we were commissioned to create a masterwork to celebrate the occasion, but agreed only on the condition that the cake's subject be a surprise to both mom and baby (although let's be honest--baby doesn't really know what cake IS at this point...)

Anyway, we had grandma ship us my sister's old doll from when SHE was a wee tot. Her name is Sally, and she looks, well, pretty much like this picture. I had fun engineering the arms to project out from either side without falling over, and as usual my wife drove home the artistic details. For example: I did the blue eyes, but Tara added the little white dots in each. The doll's hands and feet are made of a different, more plush fabric than the rest of its body, so Tara simply pressed the yellow fondant with a paper towel to give it texture. Genius!

You can't see it, but Sally even had a fondant Fisher Price tag stuck to her hindquarters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Voting Booths

Well, here she is: our blue ribbon baby. The state fair competition was election-themed, so we sprang for the challenge. You can see an elephant's legs in the one booth and a donkey's in the other. Wocka wocka wocka.

Each booth is solid cake with a fondant curtain pasted to the front and appropriately "wrinkled." The flag base is my favorite part, but the most work certainly went into constructing the wooden support structures for the booths. They couldn't just be the four legs, because simple torque would knock them over; instead we had to brace them up under the individual booth, where it could be reinforced without being visible. (I felt like I was channeling my old Odyssey of the Mind balsa-wood-tower days.)

The blue ribbon is prominently displayed at home, along with a photocopy of our eight dollar prize check.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Neyland Stadium

Well, this was certainly the largest and most involved cake we've done. But then again, my brother's wedding deserved no less. Tara and I have now fully embraced the strategy of careful pre-planning (diagrams, blueprints, etc.), and thank goodness for it, because this baby had to be put together in four pieces.

The entirety of the stadium proper is cake, while the press boxes and jumbotron are shaped chunks of styrofoam, fondanted (inedible, of course). The cardboard support layers for the base and the upper deck were measured and cut out beforehand, so the two decks could be carved and assembled separately. We laid a first layer of cake and fit it to the base, then sawed it in half at what would eventually become the 50 yard line. Each half of the lower deck, then, was stacked and cut to match. Being able to access the middle (because the halves were apart) made carving out the "bowl" of the stadium much, much easier.

Thick, plastic dowels were placed around the perimeter to hold the upper deck later on, and thin wooden dowels were punched through both cardboard layers and all the way into the base for structural integrity. I'll be honest, though: even fondanted and assembled, none of it looked like a stadium until we marked the aisles between sections, and then it all just came together. (It's funny how the small things bring it to life).

After that, we piped every individual fan into the bleacher seats. It took forever, but I was particularly pleased that we were able to reproduce the "Orange Nation" student section and even the marching band's black uniforms. (The first thing Cale said when he saw it was, "Hey! You even put in the band section!" which was a big moment for me personally). Again, halving the lower deck totally opened up the access for piping all those tiny dots.

The trees around outside the stadium are just clusters of flat-leaf parsley stuck upright into the fondant. I loved the effect, but that staging idea may need some tweaking because after a while the parsley began to dry out and wilt. Ah well. Something to improve upon for next time, right?

Turns out, one of Cale's new in-laws actually played football at UT a few years back, and he was at the reception for the big reveal. He smiled, gave us a thumbs up, and then started snapping pictures with his cell phone, so I guess we can call this one a success.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sand "Castle"

Wade told someone that if he ever got a themed cake, he'd want it to somehow combine his two great loves: beach vacations and the UT Vols. Never ones to shrink from a challenge, the creative minds at Caldwell Cakes dreamt up a sand-castle version of Neyland Stadium.

It was a little more involved than we expected, mostly because it was an entire scene instead of simply an object, so the "essence" was much more difficult to capture. The slopes were carved in for realism, and also to allot room for the huge separately-built-and-coated cake stadium. We stuck on the skyboxes and jumbotron, slid the whole piece into place, and sprinkled graham cracker crumbs around for effect. Since it's supposed to be made of sand, we didn't have to worry about most of the details (colors, etc.), but that also allowed it to come out kind of like some sort of fun beachtime bathtub set. Ah well.

The umbrella is just one of those oversized drink garnishes, and the pail and shovel are molded leftover fondant. Tara wrapped a decorative post (previously an elephant's leg, by the way) in brown strips to look like a palm trunk; then carefully designed, cut, and fastened the leaves--I really like the way it looks.

The wobbly fenceposts were an easy final touch, but they just totally say "beach" to me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Baseball Glove

One of Tara's co-workers requested a cake for her son's birthday, and it was eventually settled upon that the design should be baseball-themed. We had to buy a glove to get the modeling just right, but this gave us a chance to test out a sort of reverse-engineering method. Instead of trying to reinforce the cake with a dowel/platform skeleton as usual, I built the structure and fit the cake into it. Consequently, the hand was able to open outward from the base without becoming unstable. Still, even after the fondant it didn't look like much until Tara marked the fingers and added the "stitching." The ball, if you're wondering, is a separate piece of cake with red and black piping.

The end product had Hayden's name, too, but I didn't get any great pictures of it at that point. Oh, and this was also our first paying gig! Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bass Guitar

A cake so nice, it's pictured thrice!

Ben asked us several months ago if we'd consider making the groom's cake for his wedding, and we've pretty much been agonizing over the design ever since we said yes. Because of the distance, we had to bake the cakes (all nine of them) at home and then drive them to Cleveland...along with our entire bin of decorating supplies. Sheesh.

In case you can't tell from the pictures, it's life-size. Basically, we just upturned his guitar and traced it onto cardboard. We used the cutouts as stencils to carve the cake, and then slid them underneath as supports. The fondant is not homemade this time--it's a product called Fond-X, which is more expensive, but also more pliable and smooth (and still tastes great!). It was personally recommended by Kathy Wise, of Nashville's SweetWise specialty cake supply shop, and the purchase paid off in a big way.

In addition, we bought a special powder to give the guitar's body its shimmer. You mix it with vodka to make a paste, and then the alcohol evaporates, leaving a really stunning effect behind. Everything you see that's metallic is just something wrapped in aluminum foil, like gumdrops, etc. The ivory plate is white chocolate, and the knobs are Rolos we painted with black icing. My favorite parts were the final touches: strap attachments (inverted Hershey kisses), and the amp plug-in (an inverted piping nozzle).

I piped the Fender logo after much practice, but almost immediately someone at the reception smudged it. Ah well. The strings are actually strings--hence, inedible--but for pizzazz we picked up some silver embroidery floss from JoAnn's that, when twisted, looks startlingly like bass guitar strings. All the other embellishments are some manner of fondant, although the wood grain effect deserves some explanation. In fairness, the idea came from elsewhere on the internet; we first colored some icing brown, and then mixed in enough water to thin it out and create, essentially, an edible watercolor paint set. Unbelievable.

Monday, April 28, 2008


After all, what's an office birthday party without some kind of dessert shaped like a huge, clunky, vintage 1986 data-entry calculator?

This is our second cake tailor-made for someone not related to either of us, so we wanted it to be impressive. Last week, Tara's co-workers (the party-planning committee, apparently) were trying to divvy up assignments for an upcoming birthday celebration, but when they got to "pick up a sheet cake at Walmart," my gorgeous, go-get-'em gal spoke up. "No need, citizens!" she cried, leaping atop a nearby Xerox machine.

Okay, not really. But she did see an opportunity and took it, so props to her. I figured it would be an enlarged version, so imagine my surprise when she brought one home and it was literally just as big as a standard cookie sheet! Turns out, the cake you're looking at is actual size. (Doubt me? That's the real paper roll in the back.)

This one was a lot of fun, because the easy shape freed us up to spend more time on little details.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Basket

Tara's mom's birthday falls right around the ol' vernal equinox, so we figured we could get away with doubling up on holidays. You can't really see the texture in the photo, but the sides of the "basket" are actually separate, interwoven strips of fondant. The handle is inedible, but we wrapped it with very finely rolled fondant peices to give it the wicker look (which took forever). The base, of course, is cake, and the grass on top is coconut shavings dyed green. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't put the real basket in the picture; it kind of calls attention to flaws. Ah well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


When MB announced the first Caldwell grandchild last year, the race was on to decide what Mom and Dad should be called. Ultimately, "Minnie and Papa Joe" won out, so this cake doubled as a celebration of that as well as Mom's birthday surprise! The ears didn't want to stay upright, but held long enough to blow out candles and snap this pic.

I know what you're thinking: no, the Far Side card isn't made of fondant.