Iron Chef Shellie

Dad’s 60th Birthday Cake – Working Clock Checkerboard Cake

The cake I made for my Dad's 60th. Checkerboard inside, with a working clock movement on the top. My most insane cake yet!


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Dad’s 60th Birthday Cake – Working Clock Checkerboard Cake
September 6, 2013

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Dad’s 60th Birthday Cake – Working Clock Checkerboard Cake

My Dad retired early and followed his passion of antique clocks and became and antique clock restorer. Mum and Dad would drive me bonkers, absolutely nuts, dragging me along antique shopping. To all the smelly old shops to find their next unique clock. I would pinch my nose and whine. The sad thing is, I’m now the one going back to those shops/packing sheds to try and find unique food blogging props. Oh how we change when we get older!

So since Dad is clock mad, it only seemed fitting to do a clock cake for him. I did make him clock cupcakes for his retirement party but I felt like they were a bit child like and wanted to do something really wow for his 60th. I had the crazy idea to somehow put a quartz movement into a cake and make it look like a real clock. I wanted it to move like a real clock just like something crazy they would do on Cake Boss. I also had been wanting to attempt a checkerboard cake after seeing that on Cake Boss and was going to keep it a secret. That was until the Great Australian Bake Off decided they would feature one. Oh well, that was my plan and I was sticking to it. I’d never done checkerboard, really done anything properly with fondant or had a plan of attack. I was just going to wing it. 

Mum luckily smuggled a quartz movement from one of Dad’s clocks to me one night. It wasn’t until a couple of nights before that I got cracking. I made my favourite chocolate cake recipe, and a vanilla cake recipe. I tried to make the vanilla cake a “funfetti” cake by putting 100s and 1000s in it but it didn’t work very well. I made the clock dial complete with numbers and cogs. I wasn’t too happy with the cogs, but it was late and I was tired.

The next night after a full day out at Billy’s food styling course, I came home to assemble the cake. I made a ganache but didn’t allow it to set in the fridge like the recipe said as I just didn’t have time. As I cut the rings out of the cake to form the checkerboard pattern I had cake all over the floor, I was getting ragey as the rings were breaking into pieces and I just really wanted everything to work so I could go to bed. I wrapped the clock movement in gladwrap as not to poison all the guests and cut a little section of cake out in the middle so the movement could fit inside. 

I ganached the whole thing, put down the fondant dial and cogs and wasn’t too happy. I didn’t level the top layer enough so the hour hand didn’t move all the way around. As I’m a perfectionist I couldn’t let it go. I pushed things down trying to get it work, whilst in the process making my cogs all horrible and covered in chocolate. I tried everything to clean them, even brought out the disco dust but it just ended up looking worse and something that I’m sure would have ended up on cake wrecks. I finally cracked it and pulled all the cogs off, realising life doesn’t have an Crtl+Z feature. I paced around thinking about what I could use to make better cogs with minimal effort. I opened the fridge and there was the golden answer. BOTTLE CAPS FROM BEER! Truth be known I actually fancied a cider so popped the top of that and used the jaggy bottle cap as my cutter for the cogs. They turned out better than the first lot and on they went. Whilst the hour hand was temporally broken at this stage, the clock looked HEAPS better, and I couldn’t help but laugh that there was a clock in a cake and it was working. I sat back, drank the cider and then tottled off to bed. I learnt to never drink and decorate earlier on this year. šŸ˜›

As I presented Dad the cake, I said “Well you know how you restore clocks? Well I have one for you!”. He looked at it a bit befuddled then I blurted out “IT’S YOUR CAKE!!” He was gobsmacked! There there was, a ticking cake! It was a huge hit at the party, and he kept bringing his guests over to see it.

I had mentioned to Mum that I might do a checkerboard cake but dunno if I could be bothered or had the time. She convinced me not to so she assumed it would just be a plain of chocolate cake. After we sang Happy Birthday and Dad blew out the candles, Mum started cutting slices. I kept asking her to pull out a slice and didn’t want to. I persisted and when she finally did you should have seen her face! … and everyone around her, BEHOLD the checkerboard had worked! I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. It worked, it tasted great and most importantly it made my Dad happy šŸ™‚

I don’t have many photos of the process as I was mainly doing it in secret and at night. But should I ever do one again, I’ll be sure to document it better!

Happy 60th Birthday again Dad! You are a legend!


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Shellie Froidevaux

All content on this site is by Shellie Froidevaux - aka Iron Chef Shellie. Her skills include recipe development, food styling in her kitchen studio, lifestyle and travel photography, restaurant photography on location, styling and shooting social media for her clients and photography workshops for people who really want to change their game :)

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