Need Help With Chemistry Cake Please

Decorating By gen2026 Updated 18 May 2016 , 1:55pm by gen2026

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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 12:05am
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I have been trying to figure out how to post for the past couple of days and couldn't get a new topic started.  I figured out today that it was the website and not me.....  

I am a novice cake decorator - I have done a few things, but it has been about 5 - 6 years since I have done any.  I am attempting a cake for my daughter's college graduation on Saturday.  She has a double major in chemistry and biology and will be attending pharmacy school in the fall. This is really last minute because we has scheduled a family party following graduation.  I have a basic plan but I could use some help.

The cake will be a french vanilla cake made in a regular 9 X 13 sheet pan iced with buttercream frosting.   My local walmart is out of parchment so I am going to pray hard it comes out clean!  Then I hope to make 3 books to stack in the right corner of the cake.  I figure the largest book can only be about 6 X 4" in order to not take up too much of the cake.  I have watched several tutorials on making the books with fondant - and hopefully I will be able to accomplish that.  But, I do have a question:   HOW far can the books stick "off" or hang off the edge of each other (so that they are not just sitting in a straight stack)??  I know the cake will have to support it owns weight on those corners and I have to travel about an hour with it on not the best roads so I wasn't sure if it could overhang at all.

Then on the left side, I am going to attempt to make a flask and beaker.  I think I am going to try to model the flask out of rice Krispie treats and then cover with either buttercream or fondant.  Several questions:

1.  Which would be best fondant or buttercream?  

2.  I want to color about "half" of the flask as if it had liquid in it and I hope to pipe some bubbles overflowing it on top.  If I use buttercream, can I paint on color with a mixture of color and water?  Or should I use that technique on fondant?  Not sure how to color the lower portion.

3.  I am lost on making the beaker.  I have access to a beaker at work in different sizes that I could borrow - and wondered if I could put rice krispie treats around it and then pull it back off and it retain the shape??  Or I also considered trying to melt white chocolate candy melts or white chocolate chips to coat the beaker and then pull it back off after cooling but I wasn't sure it would stay together.   I say white chocolate because there again I would like to have some color on it as if it contains liquid.  

Then finally I have had my son help me spell out  "CoNGRaTULaTiONS"  in squares of the chemical symbols off the periodic table.  I am thinking about having this printed on a sugar sheet to go across the bottom portion of the cake.  But I am not sure if I will be happy with the flat image.  

I also wondered about putting a small graduation cap on top of the books and possibly eliminate the need for a full front cover on the top book as well as make it a "graduation" cake.  I watched a tutorial on this as well using a small muffin or cake for the bottom with candy melts as the mortar board.  I have considered just trying to use rice krispie treats for the bottom of the cap as well to prevent just trying to bake one small cupcake or muffin out of a mix.  Is it going to be harder to get the candy melt to adhere to the coated rice krispie?  

Transporting may be another major issue (especially storage during the ceremony) because they are calling for temps in the 80s and we always have humidity!  Suggestions?

I know this is really last minute.  I greatly appreciate any and all suggestions.  

I am about to bake my cakes - the vanilla for the main cake and chocolate for the books.  Then I am going to start on a MMF to use to cover the books (never made fondant before either)..... Do I need to freeze or refrigerate the cakes until tomorrow evening when I finish them?

Thanks for any suggestions you have! 


37 replies
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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 1:53am
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Since you are baking now, I will answer that part first. I freeze my cakes at least overnight, it really helps improve the cake, and a cold cake is easier to handle. Some people let the cake cool completely,others do not. What is important is to wrap them up in twice in Saran Wrap then wrap in foil. You want to keep them airtight. Do not stack the cakes on top of each other in the freeze, you risk squishing them. Once they are frozen, if you need the room in the freezer, you can use cake boards to stack them without causing damage. 

As with everything cake, there are variations in how people do the same thing. What works for one may not find another.

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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:10am
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Ok thanks!  I thought I remembered freezing before but it has just been too long and without much experience it is hard to recall the details! 

Thank you!

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:42am
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Regarding fondant, I use MIchelle Foster's Fondant, love it. I have never used MMF, but many people do.

Michele Foster's Updated Fondant
1/2 cup cream
 3 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
 1 cup corn syrup
 3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. glycerin
2 tsp. clear vanilla
dash salt
Approximately 3 1/2 lbs. powdered sugar

1. Place milk in 2 cup measuring cup, add gelatin, stir to combine.
2. Let gelatin "bloom" or become firm, usually less than 5 minutes.
3. Place mixture in microwave and heat for 1 minute on high. Stir. If gelatin does not become liquid, microwave in 15 second intervals until the gelatin is melted. Stir between heating cycles.
4. Put corn syrup, butter, glycerin, vanilla, and salt in large measuring cup, add this mixture to the melted gelatin. Stir.
5. Microwave mixture for 2 minutes on high setting. Butter should be almost melted. Stir, set aside to cool to LUKE WARM.
6. Add 2 lbs. of powdered sugar to large mixing bowl. A Kitchen Aid mixer works best for this. Do not use a hand mixer.
7. Strain LUKE WARM mixture into the powdered sugar; mix by hand until just blended. Straining removes any lumps that did not dissolve during the cooking process.
8. Place the bowl on the mixer, add several cups of powdered sugar, and mix very slowly with the dough hook.
9. Continue to add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until fondant forms a soft ball. It should not slide down the dough hook and there may be some powdered sugar left in the bottom of the bowl. This is normal. Keeping the mixer covered with a damp dish towel will prevent powdered sugar from coating the kitchen.
10. While the mixer is running prepare a surface for kneading. You will need some powdered sugar and a non-stick surface. Also have plastic wrap prepared with a think coat of cooking oil. Do not use spray, this can cause the fondant to crust.
11. When fondant is ready, remove from the bowl and knead in a small amount of powdered sugar until the fondant is smooth. It will still be slightly soft.
12. Wrap in oil coated plastic wrap; wrap again, and then place in an air tight container such as a zipper bag or plastic tub.
13. Allow fondant to rest at least 6 hours or over night.
14. Knead only the amount required until smooth before rolling out to cover cake or board.
CHOCOLATE - add 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the corn syrup. Follow the recipe as normal. Add brown food coloring to make it darker.
WHITE CHOCOLATE- add 6 ounces of white chocolate chips to the corn syrup. Follow the recipe as normal.
equal amounts of water, non-dairy creamer, fruit juice, or other liquid for the cream. Replace the butter with equal amounts of shortening. This also works for unflavored fondant when only covering cake dummies.
*If the fondant is too soft or stretchy, knead in additional powdered sugar in small amounts until fondant is of the consistency of play dough.
*If the fondant is too stiff knead in small amounts of glycerin until softened. This is easier by working in small batches and then blending the batches together. Keep any unused fondant covered.
*Fondant can be stored at room temperature for at least a month. For longer periods, place well wrapped fondant in the freezer. Allow fondant to warm slowly to room temperature before using, usually over night. DO NOT THAW IN THE MICROWAVE.
*The sugar and cooking process preserves the dairy ingredients, so there is no worry of spoilage.
*Chocolate can be a little stiff, more glycerin might be needed. If you add brown food coloring remember that it has glycerin in it (gel colors) and will soften the fondant.
*Please remember that many things can affect the consistency of the fondant. This includes temperature, humidity, temperature of the mixture when added to the powdered sugar, any flavorings that are added, and even the temperature of your own hands. THE FIRST 5 INGREDIENTS MUST BE MEASURED ACCURATELY.
*Color can be added during the cooking stage or the mixing stage. Adding color after the fondant has rested is much more difficult, but it can still be done.
*This recipe is naturally off-white. Add white food color for whiter fondant. Gel color will change the consistency.
Variations of this recipe can be found in the cook book "The Sugar Fix"

I would make the flask and beaker out of RKT ( rice krispie treats), mold them into the shapes you want.  I think trying to pull RKT or chocolate off the beaker would be dificult. Cover with fondant. Because the RKT can be bumpy I cover with modeling chocolate/candy clay and then cover in fondant. But a good short cut is to cover with 2 layers of fondant. You will be doing this anyway to get it to look as if there were liquid inside. Here is a link to a beaker cake......cover the entire beaker in white and the cover the bottom with another piece of fondant the color you want. See the bubble ........balls of fondant.......

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:45am
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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:47am
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Thank you.  I don't have access to modeling chocolate where I live.  In fact, I can't even obtain parchment paper today - which at least is usually available.   But, I will try making the fondant and see how far I get.......   Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all my questions!  I REALLY appreciate the help! 


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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:48am
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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:55am
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Keep in mind you need to make these toppers soon so they have time to dry/harden. Too bad the site was buggy for sooo long.

Moving forward if anything is unclear let me know.   Do you have access to tylose powder?

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 3:14am
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I am sure you daughter will love her cake. I bake for family and friends and many times the design gets modified, because it takes more time than I thought I needed. For me coffee and my favorite tunes are my best friends when I'm pulling an all-nighter.

Have you considered covering the cake in fondant?

Which Buttercream recipe are you using?  You said the temp will be in the 80s, this is not good for a buttercream cake, especially if you don't have access to a fridge to store the cake during the ceremony. I use Sugar Shacks recipe, which uses hi ratio shortening, and can hold up better than butter.

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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 4:32am
post #10 of 38

I have used a couple of different recipes in the past - but my favorite is a true butter cream, but it is not the best for piping and definitely not for heat!  My last attempt at decorating cakes were two elaborate cakes for my son's eagle ceremony...... and I got the cakes finished the night before and set them in another room to stay cool and away from the heat of the kitchen.  I got up the morning of the ceremony baking cookies and pulling together other things for the reception - kept thinking I was burning up but figured it was nerves and being in a hot kitchen rushing around.  FINALLY I asked my daughter to check the thermostat and our air conditioning had completely quit  :(  As soon as I realized it really WAS hot in the house, I rushed to check the cakes and of course the boarders were sliding.....  I was almost in tears.  I patched them up as best I could and sent my husband to the church with them so at least they would be in AC .  I sure hope to avoid that this time!!   MY SIL lives in the town and my daughter has an apartment there - or at least for that one last day,  But the fridge should be fairly empty even though one roommate is staying for the summer so maybe I could slip it in there during the commencement.  I am not a fan of how fondant tastes - but I must say I used Rhonda's Marshmallow fondant and it tastes pretty good - but I won't be rolling it til tomorrow evening,  I had already started the fondant by the time I saw your recipe and I didnt have all the ingredients.  And no I don't have access to tylose powder here.... I would have to pick that up when I am in a big city a couple of hours away.  What do you use it for?

Thanks again for all your help!  I had hoped to make the toppers tonight but I just couldn't hold out.  MAYBE I can take off work tomorrow early and do them first.  

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 4:47am
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This recipe in on CC and everyone raves about it. The Dream Whip you can get at Walmart, or grocery near the jello and pudding boxes.

INDYDEBI CRISCO-BASED BUTTERCREAM--(Excellent for hot/humid areas):

(IndyDebi is a very experienced decorator/caterer:
Single Batch Recipe:

1-1/3 cups Crisco

1/3 to 1/2 cup milk, depending on consistency needed
3 Tbsp powdered Dream Whip (powdered whipped topping mix made by Kraft Foods)
2-3 Tbsp clear vanilla, depending on personal taste (optional: almond extract, or lemon extract )
2 lbs. powdered pure cane sugar
IndyDebi says: “There's no wrong way to mix this. I usually mix all but the powdered sugar & milk for a minute or two, then gradually alternate the sugar & milk, but the only reason I do this is to avoid the "sugar-splash" factor. The longer the mixer runs, the smoother it gets. Sifting the powdered sugar before blending helps with smoothness but is not necessary.”

NOTE: Based on recommendations from other users of her recipe: 1) I make a double batch so the beaters are totally immersed to avoid air bubbles, 2) I beat the shortening, milk, Dream Whip, and vanilla for 10-15 minutes BEFORE I add the powdered sugar. I refrigerate or freeze leftover icing.


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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 5:09am
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Next week I will be doing a first communion cake, all buttercream. Friday night will be an all-nighter for me. Caking is crazy fun but you need your rest too, don't feel badly if you have to leave out somethings.

About the toppers, transport them in a box or tupper ware, wrapped in bubble wrap or something similar to protect them. Attach to your cake on site.  To attach to your cake - before the toppers are hard, insert either 1 or 2 wooden skewers into the bottom of the the topper at least 1/2 way through, leaving enough sticking out to insert into your cake.

I would make the graduation cap put of RKT and cover with fondant.

If you want to stack the books askew, then each book would have to be on its own cake board. The cake board will support the cake so it does not break off the edge. kwim

You are covering the books in fondant, this will make them heavy, so  I would insert a few bubble straws into the bottom rectangle cake, where the books are going to sit.

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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:35pm
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I think I may have used that recipe LONG ago!  I have definitely used something of hers because I remember the name....and i purchased a new box of dream whip yesterday remembering that i had used it in the past.

So would you consider the books toppers as well???  In other words, I should not put the books on until I get to my destination? 

How long does it take those toppers to "harden" .....  I managed to get a flask made this morning and was working on a beaker when I managed to break a glass I was using for sizing and cut my hand.  Needless to say I had a mess to clean up and then I couldn't work on it anymore.  It's not a bad cut - was just annoying enough to keep bleeding so I couldn't be attempting to shape a beaker! 

Sounds like on the cakes I just need to stack them on each other, maybe make each one slightly smaller than the one below it.  I am still trying to decide between 2 or 3.....  I like odd numbers, but at the same time,  I don't want one side of the cake to be way taller than the other!  I am ATTEMPTING to scale the books and flasks etc to the size of the base cake...........not sure how successful I will be with that.  I will check out the bubble straw link as well to see how to do that.

Thanks so much for all your help!

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:42pm
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The books are cake covered with fondant, right? So its more like a stacked cake. I would transport the books separately. But that's just me.  And the other thing to consider is if  you have enough space in the fridge for the cake with the books on it?

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 2:50pm
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Cut out paper patterns of flask, beaker and books, this will give you a better idea of what it looks like, and you can adjust it to suit. this way your mistakes are in paper not cake. If your drawing skills need help, google pic art of flask,beaker and use those.

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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 3:02pm
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That's a good idea .... i did cut out paper "books" so I could check placement and size..............   And yes the books are cakes covered in fondant.....although the woman whose recipe I used just suggested I add some "regular" fondant to it to firm it up for modeling...........  :(   I don't have any regular fondant so I will have to see if our only local source has some.........  I just threw out some last night that had been in my cabinet for 5 years - figured it was WAY too old to use! LOL....

I would love to find some of those big sturdy straws to use, but not sure if that will be available locally either.  I might have to use to the wooden dowels or something else.  I will see what I can find.  I had wondered about transporting and storing with the height issue.

Did I mention that my oldest graduates from med school next week and I want to attempt another cake next week for him!  I think I am going to attempt the doctor's coat with shirt and tie that is shown so many times on CC.  I may think I am totally crazy after I finish with this one!  But he will definitely expect something after this weekend!  LOL

By the way, how do you cover the entire cake in fondant?  Do you put buttercream layer underneath the fondant? and then how do you handle the corners where it drapes and ends up almost double?  I have never covered an entire cake with fondant before, but I noticed when covering that flask today that I would end up with folds of "extra" and wasn't sure what to do with it.....  :(


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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 3:30pm
post #17 of 38

A trick for drying pieces  quickly is to place in the oven with oven light on. You can place on a cookie sheet, but do no turn on the oven. I dry fondant/gumpaste this way. Keep an eye on it, I have not  used this drying method with covered RKT.

After you crumb coat your cake you cover with fondant. Heres a link....

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 3:33pm
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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 3:41pm
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Can't remember if I said before, tylose powder helps the fondant to dry firm, I use it when I make flowers or figures/toppers. I knead a little into the fondant. So sorry you hurt yourself. So this will be practice for the next cake uh? Kids no matter the age, if you do for one, you need to do for the other. CONGRATULATIONS they sound like  great kids, you must be sooo proud.

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kakeladi Posted 13 May 2016 , 4:12pm
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Just a note:  you can use regular drink straws.  If you have a McDonalds just a handful from there would be perfect.  I have used them for years even in wedding cakes w/o any problems.

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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 6:29pm
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Thanks............we do have a McDonald's.... I had been trying to think of someone that had sturdier straws!!  Maybe I can get a few there.

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 7:01pm
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Any place that sells bubble tea or smoothies.

Jamba Juice??

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gen2026 Posted 13 May 2016 , 7:38pm
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LOL....No, sorry.  SMALL TOWN!  We BARELY have a McDonalds and a Walmart.  About the only other chain we have a is a taco bell.  :)  Most of the other restaurants in town use really flimsie straws.   I do have access to wooden dial rods but I would prefer to use the straws if I can locate some.  I don't think they have them out where you can just grab some,...... so I might have to inquire about purchasing a few.

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carolinecakes Posted 13 May 2016 , 11:46pm
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If kakeladi can use MickeyDs straws, and she's a professional, I say go for it. Hey Walmart is my go to place for everything! 

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carolinecakes Posted 14 May 2016 , 12:09pm
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@gen2026 ‍ Today is the big day, enjoy and when you get a chance I would love to see your creation, if you don't mind sharing.

Take lots of pics. satisfied.png

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Pastrybaglady Posted 14 May 2016 , 8:24pm
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kakeladi Posted 15 May 2016 , 10:44pm
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Oh my YES we'd love to see your creation.  

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gen2026 Posted 16 May 2016 , 9:45pm
post #28 of 38

[postimage id="3884" thumb="900"]

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gen2026 Posted 16 May 2016 , 9:47pm
post #29 of 38

Test post..... I have attempted to post long posts 3 times and FInally the last time it showed up that I posted but there was NO text!  This is a test run before I type it all again!  :(

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gen2026 Posted 16 May 2016 , 10:02pm
post #30 of 38

Ok, maybe.....

I was going to post the photo after my comments, but all the comments got lost along the way so I will try again!

Last Friday night was a crazy night including 3 trips to the grocery store and having to help work a motorcycle accident that I witnessed.  So, by the time I FINALLY was ready to start the cake, I was stressed to the max!  I remembered that CarolineCakes had given me some wise advise to not be afraid to leave things off if I needed to, so I decided to ditch the stacked book idea because the thought of trying to make them and transport them were making me a nervous wreck!  In addition, my plan was to have a french vanilla cake as the main cake and my cake didn't rise very much making for a very thin cake.  SO, I just decided to add a layer of buttercream and put the chocolate cake on top of the vanilla. 

I did have a problem  with the edges and bottom of my cakes wanting to "flake" or "peel" off as I was trying to crumb coat and I finally decided it was because I had buttered and floured my pans because of no parchment paper.  At least when I did the second one, I got smart enough to try to scrape most of it off before starting the crumbcoat process! 

I did use IndyDebi's buttercream recipe and I doubled it as one poster suggested in the comments to her recipe - but I really didn't need to because I have TONS of buttercream left over.  I only had about a 1/2 tsp of clear vanilla in the house and, OF COURSE, no one had any!  LOL.... I did add some real butter to the recipe, used real mexican vanilla, vanilla bean paste, and some almond emulsion in the buttercream.  I got rave reviews! :)  Because the buttercream wasn't white because of all the vanilla and vanilla bean paste, I decided to attempt covering the entire cake in fondant.  Actually worked pretty well except that I did not have my cake as level as it should have been.  I used Rhonda's Ultimate MMF for my recipe and everyone loved it as well.  This site is the BEST! :)  Especially for those of us who have very little experience.

I used Rice Krispie Treats to shape a beaker, heating flask, and graduated cylinder which I covered in fondant.  I do no proclaim to have much, if any, artistic ability but I thought they were at least recognizable!  I wrapped the toppers separately for the trip and took a box of toothpicks and my bag of purple buttercream that I used for a border just in case.  That corner of my cake was sloped and I had trouble with the cylinder wanting to stay in place, so I just waited until my daughter arrived to the party and added it on.  It stayed long enough for pics and for her to see it - so that was good. 

A big thank you to everyone who offered advice for my last minute plea for help, and a HUGE thank you to Carolinacakes who went above and beyond to try to answer every single question to help me pull this off!  I am pretty sure I was attempting something way beyond my skill level, but she gave me the confidence to attempt it - and to modify as necessary!! 

THANK YOU everyone!!  I would never have made it without you!  Now, my oldest graduates from Medical school this coming Saturday and my daughter and I are going to attempt the doctor's coat that is very prevalent here on CC.  At least I will have her to help me!  Does anyone have any advice on what to use as the "collar" of the shirt to make it stand up like a shirt collar?  After using RKTs I don't think they would work. 


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