Have Dragon, Will Travel! The Story of the Dancing Dragon Cake

 Cake for a lovely Chinese New Year celebration at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant in New York
The story of this Dragon cake, I'll call him Elmer Elevator in honor of one of my favorite children's books, kind of begins, at The Institute of Culinary Education at its new super gorgeous location near One World Trade Center in NYC. I brought Elmer's unfinished head along to show a physical example of a work-in-progress to talk about how the final decorating details are done as part of my talk for their Professional Demonstrations and Lectures series

OK, really, a good rule of thumb is to not add on any extra road-trips for a floated cake component...so I'm grateful that while we tempted fate 3 times, this piece proved to be very hearty and forgiving!

The head of the cake is sculpted out of Rice Krispie Treats and modeling chocolate. Elmer's eyelashes and a beard made from cut rice paper sprayed with gold food colorThe long body was red velvet cake filled with a chocolate ganache and  buttercream filling. Both the head and body were covered in fondant, embossed with patterns and then painted with powdered food color mixed with lemon extract.

Maria and the Dragon:  The base was built using wooden dowels inset into foam-core boards and secured with hot glue.  The head is on a separate stand that could then be inserted into the full base.  By the time we were ready to build a base for the body, the timing had become a troublesome issue for me and I started talking about speeding up the process by simplifying the base structure as much as possible and have most of the body sit flat on the board. Malena Tillous, a very talented cake designer who was assisting with the cake, wouldn't hear of it. We talked about some of the options for building it and how much time I thought it would take and how I wasn't event sure the idea would work...but before I could talk anyone out of it, she got to work and had it done in half the time I'd imagined and it was surprisingly sturdy...Triumph!

I love kids...there was a very enthusiastic reception for the cake...I actually saw a fair amount of plate licking going on (and while this caused some parental dismay, it warmed my heart!)

There, can you see the giant dancing dragon, right in the window?! The Store was filled with them.
Before starting most projects I spend some time researching images on line.  I filled a folder with photos from all different sources for reference for Chinese New Year parades and Dragons.  After struggling with getting the shape of the head right for a long while, I finally hightailed it to Pearl River in Soho. (I've loved Pearl River Mart since I was in high school, and very sadly, I made it there just before they closed their doors forever just after Chinese New Year in February.)  I was so glad to get there one last time and was able to get two small figurines. Having them as 3D references made all the difference.  

Bring us the head of that Dragon!
The final Chapter: I got a text from a friend letting me know that the principal of our school had brought a bit of Elmer back from the celebration and placed it in a really lovely showcase in the lobby of the school. Awww! (It made me cry a little) While I usually do like to see everything get eaten, I could not have been more surprised and delighted than to see it treated with such care and love.

Photographs on location at the Institute of Culinary Education by Casey Feehan


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