Saturday, April 2, 2011

Brownie Toolboxes: A Degree in Architecture Would Have Helped

Although roses and florets are attractive cake decorations, they don't exactly shout "manliness!" so for my brother-in-law's birthday I decided to attempt the decidedly more macho toolbox cake. I found numerous well-executed toolbox cakes online and I used these as inspiration, though my skills aren't advanced enough for most of the techniques.

My end results, a mini cake and a mini-er cake, looked like this:

Honestly, they're not great cakes. But they're a heckuva lot better than what I would have predicted in the middle of the decorating process.

I started by tracing the tools from a coloring page (supplied from a Latter Day Saints lesson plan about ancient and modern tools) using melting chocolate, with mixed results.

Clearly the sizing wasn't to scale, since no screwdriver and sledgehammer should be of equal length. The tape-measure looked like it should be keeping the sun out of a center-fielder's eyes, and the wrenches looked like lobsters. But some of the tools were cute, so I was not discouraged.

I baked a batch of gluten-free brownies.

Denser than the gluten-free cakes I normally make, the brownies SHOULD have been easier to cut into an exact rectangle. They were not. The disaster began. The brownies cracked in places I didn't want them to crack and stuck together in places I didn't want them to stick together.

While the lumps of brownie that did not in any way resemble toolboxes cooled, I made icing. Well...I made a substance akin to icing. I used a new  recipe and had to substitute butter for shortening, which was most certainly an error. Then the lack of a hand mixer made it impossible to really cream the butter, so it was too thin and didn't crust fast enough.

At this point, I stacked the blobs of brownies, secured them with icing in between and tried to shave off some of the edges to give them sharp corners, like boxes. I re-purposed some of the pieces that had been shaved off by smashing them into crevices that didn't belong there.

Less than inspiring.

The situation was not improved when I tried to color the icing. With a rudimentary knowledge of color-mixing, I assumed that if I put a little of my black icing coloring into some white icing, I would get gray. Contrary to any kindergarten curriculum, black and white mixed together made purple.

Combine the coloration with the uncooperative consistency of the icing and the uneven edging and you get something that does not even vaguely approximate a toolbox. The tiny cake I made from the extra bits, with dimensions of about 4x2x2, escaped the purple, but not the lumpy texture.

To remedy, or at least mediate, the purple icing, I brushed the whole cake with a special sugary powder called luster dust that has a shine, so it would look a little metallic. Then I drew a "straight" line all the way around in black.

Adding a handle, a lock and some plates on the corners suddenly turned the purple metal lump into something that was at least related to a toolbox.

The tiny yellow cake was similarly rescued.

Glue a few recognizable chocolate tools to the cake and voila!

It's a small lump of edible (really tasty, actually) brownies that loosely impersonates a toolbox!

The icing consistency, while terrible for covering a cake smoothly, more than suffieced for writing.

Add few more chocolate tools for the finishing touch.

To be fair to the cakes, they surprised me by suddenly morphing into toolboxes at the last minute, which was a relief. I'm trying to learn to reserve judgment/despair in the middle of the cake decorating process, since the cakes always seem to transform themselves into the intended object rather abruptly.

In the end I was happy to give the cakes to my wonderful brother-in-law, who deserved every bite.


  1. Suzanne, these cakes were adorable, charming, and also very manly! And your description of the process was so funny.

  2. Aw, thanks! And thanks for reading!