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.