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How to make a chess cake

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How to make a chess cake

Postby Carl Friedrich » Thu Sep 4, 13:24 2008

As per a suggestion, this thread gives instructions for the creation of a chess cake like the one found here.

Before I begin, let me just strongly praise the Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. at 9514 Roosevelt Way NE (in seattle). Anyone in the Seattle area who wants to make a cool cake should go here. They have tons of stuff, and the lady in charge is very knowledgeable. Credit where it's due, I would not have used Fondant or molding chocolate if I hadn't gone here. She literally had everything I needed.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll list the components in the order that I made them:

<u>Chess Pieces:</u>

You can usually find molds for chess pieces at cake supply stores. Here's what one of mine looks like. I got two of these and one made entirely of pawns (not pictured):

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Molding chocolate is probably available at the same store. I got both dark and white varieties:

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There are a few ways to melt the molding chocolate. You could put it in the microwave oven or on the stove top, but I decided to play it safe and use the double boiler method. (Really sorry, but I didn't get a good picture of the setup here)

Place the chocolate to be melted in a (preferably stainless steel) bowl. Now fill an electric skillet with water and set it to a little below simmer. The idea is to make the water hot but not boiling. Place the bowl into the warm water. I had a bowl sitting on top of a pot holder so that it wouldn't slip. It will take a while for the chocolate to melt this way, so by all means walk away for a few minutes. Stirring helps all of it melt faster, of course.

Now, once the chocolate is melted, drop it into the molds with a spoon. It's probably easier to use a squeezebottle if you have one (I didn't). Tap the mold against the counter to help the chocolate settle into the molds. If you totally screw up and chocolate gets all over, just scrape the excess off with a knife - no worries. That's what I did here:

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Once the mold is filled, place it in the fridge for a few minutes. Mine fully hardened after 10 minutes, though I probably could have taken them out a lot sooner.

With a little flexing and tapping, the hardened pices should drop right out.

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Now we need to trim all of those little flat edges off (I tried to get an action shot of me trimming, but it turned out really blurry). You can go all OCD and try to trim all of the ridges off, OR acknowledge that you'll eat it anyway so it's okay if it's not perfect.

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Now, you may have noticed that the mold gives us two half-pieces. We need to stick these together to get a complete piece. Putting them together is quite simple, actually. Take the two halves you want to put together and apply a small amount of molten chocolate to the back of one half using a fine tool (I used a chopstick :P). Now, stick the other half to it. It will work just like glue. Once they were all stuck together, I put them in the fridge for a little bit to help them set, since I was paranoid of them falling apart.

After doing that for both dark and white chocolate, you should have more than a full set of pieces. Here, some plastic chess pieces check out their newly-made, edible cousins.

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The cake itself:

I used a chocolate cake recipe from an old cookbook. I can write it up, if anyone wants it. It was made for two 8 to 9 in circular pans, but it was perfect for a 13 x 9 inch pan.

Nothing smells better than chocolate cake...

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I made two of these, and layed them side by side in the final cake.


Frosting:

I simply used this recipe and added a couple drops of blue food coloring.

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(I needed two batches worth of that)


Fondant:

OK, now this was the part that was really new to me. Fondant is simply water and sugar, cooked to the soft-ball stage, and then violently stirred so that the sugar forms lots of small crystals. It sort of has the consistency of dough, and it can be rolled out in the same way. From the cake supply store, I got both white (normal) and dark (chocolate-flavored) fondant.

Take a small chunk of fondant:

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Roll it out:

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Now cut out a rectangle. (If you're mathematically inclined like me, turning this into an optimization problem is fun :D)

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Measure off the side lengths of your squares. I was using squares with a side length of 1.5 inches

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And cut:

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Repeat as many times as needed. (A chessboard has 32 squares of each color, for the record)

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It's okay if your fondant squares aren't perfect - they can be adjusted later. If you find the fondant is sticking to the surface you're working on, simply grease the surface. Be careful about using flour or sugar. Apparently, they have a tendency to dry out the fondant.


Assembly:

Take the two cakes, place them side by side, and frost them:

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Now, find the middle, and lay the four center pieces down. It's really important to get these right, since everything else will be built around them.

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Lay out the remaining squares. I found it easiest to move out in a spiral pattern around the first 4. I had to trim a few squares to make them fit well.

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And there's your board. Now you only need to place your pieces on. Put a small dab of frosting on the bottom of the piece to serve as glue and place it where you want it. Stylistic thought should be given to the chess position you want. Mine is the final position from Deep Blue - Kasparov 1996: The first time a computer defeated a reigning world champion with normal time controls. And there you go:

Image
Last edited by Carl Friedrich on Sat Sep 6, 1:55 2008, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Mathmo » Thu Sep 4, 13:35 2008

*applauds*

Out of curiosity, how much did all the supplies cost you?
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Postby rowan » Thu Sep 4, 13:38 2008

neat! i've never worked with fondant or molded chocolates but you make it sound so easy! i've melted plenty of chocolate before though, is there any reason to stick with chocolate specific to molding, or can i use my super-tasty 85% dark bars?
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Postby ArtificialAmore » Thu Sep 4, 13:47 2008

That is WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for the how-to and the pictures.

You make it look so much easier than I thought. Now I want to decide what I'd like to make... hmmm...
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Postby Carl Friedrich » Thu Sep 4, 13:53 2008

Mathmo wrote:*applauds*

Out of curiosity, how much did all the supplies cost you?


For 4 bags of chocolate, 2 chunks of fondant, and 3 molds it was like $35.


neat! i've never worked with fondant or molded chocolates but you make it sound so easy! i've melted plenty of chocolate before though, is there any reason to stick with chocolate specific to molding, or can i use my super-tasty 85% dark bars?


I'm not experienced enough to definitively answer that, but I believe molding chocolate is already tempered. This makes it really easy for someone inexperienced like me to play around with it. If you just used chocolate chips or something like that, the cacao butter might rise to the surface and be unsightly.
Last edited by Carl Friedrich on Thu Sep 4, 13:57 2008, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Mathmo » Thu Sep 4, 14:30 2008

I've found with melting chocolate that dark (60% and upwards sort of dark) chocolate always looks gorgeous without any worry about tempering. This is totally anecdotal and unscientific, but I've never had any that actually did bloom or look strange. Maybe because dark chocolate has lots and lots of cocoa solids and so not that much cocoa butter? I've never had problems with white chocolate either (i.e. I find milk chocolate the hardest to work with - not hard, just that the others have been particularly easy).
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Postby Dragonrider » Thu Sep 4, 15:46 2008

That is SO AWESOME! Cooking (which I love) and nerditry (which I love)
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Postby DruidX » Thu Sep 4, 15:57 2008

Curious, the fondant sounds like what we call royal icing - usually goes on celebration cakes. You can get it 'ready-to-roll' over here. I've used it quite a few times, it's so much fun to play with, and so easy to colour. You can use it to make what we call 'sugar craft' which is were you make little figurine type things to decorate cakes with.
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Postby Tookie » Thu Sep 4, 16:41 2008

I am so in awe. That's an enormous amount of work for one cake. And it looks delicious!
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Postby Bork » Thu Sep 4, 18:42 2008

That's amazing! Hmm... shoot, too bad summer is coming to an end! I'd totally head over to Home Cake Decorating Supply Co and make an awesome cake. Do they have any sciencey type things? If so, I might have to head over there anyways... of course, I'd get the chocolate and fondant at my awesome place of employment, instead.
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Postby Ssshadow » Thu Sep 4, 20:52 2008

I hate how much the phrase is over used, I really do, but I've got to say it, thats freaking epic. Wow. You are pretty much the god of baked goods.
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Postby Carl Friedrich » Sat Sep 6, 1:39 2008

Ssshadow wrote:I hate how much the phrase is over used, I really do, but I've got to say it, thats freaking epic. Wow. You are pretty much the god of baked goods.


Thanks, but you have obviously not seen the show Ace of Cakes :P

Curious, the fondant sounds like what we call royal icing


I just looked it up, and it looks like it uses egg whites, so it's not the same thing. Those sound like analogous uses though.

I've found with melting chocolate that dark (60% and upwards sort of dark) chocolate always looks gorgeous without any worry about tempering


Yeah, I've had bad experiences with chocolate before:

Chocolate :kkf: me

Yes, chocolate is female. Come to think of it, maybe that's my problem.

That's amazing! Hmm... shoot, too bad summer is coming to an end! I'd totally head over to Home Cake Decorating Supply Co and make an awesome cake. Do they have any sciencey type things? If so, I might have to head over there anyways... of course, I'd get the chocolate and fondant at my awesome place of employment, instead.


Most of the stuff seems like traditional baking stuff, but you have to understand that the store is totally stacked with so many different things, so it's kinda hard for me to give an inventory. It's like they took the contents of a store three times the size and crammed it into a very tight place. It is a bit messy, but still reasonably organized.

Was it for any special occasion?


Just for the hell of it. I've always wanted to really decorate a cake and I decided to get it out of the way before I clamp down and work hard on my (already way behind schedule) honors project. Of course, now I need to find people to share it with. I gave a whole half of it to some neighbors (I mentioned them in the other thread). I really want to get a piece to my high school chess coach, but it will probably have dried up by the time I can. :(

Note: I finally got around to eating a piece. It tastes really good. I'm totally using this chocolate cake recipe over again. Between the frosting and cake, it tastes exactly like oreos. Also, yay front page :)
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Postby Mathmo » Sat Sep 6, 3:30 2008

DruidX wrote:Curious, the fondant sounds like what we call royal icing - usually goes on celebration cakes. You can get it 'ready-to-roll' over here. I've used it quite a few times, it's so much fun to play with, and so easy to colour. You can use it to make what we call 'sugar craft' which is were you make little figurine type things to decorate cakes with.


Fondant stays pretty much soft, I believe, whilst royal icing dries out much more. I think fondant might also be called sugarpaste in the UK?
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