Sunday, 19 May 2013

A sweet business case

I've been working with one of IBMs recent acquisitions since September as part of the team integrating them into Big Blue. It was a small company of 30 people or so and founded by 3 guys, Ian, Tom and Craig. In a nutshell Butterfly make backup and storage analysis and migration software which IBM had been using a lot prior to acquiring them. One of the main tools that Butterfly produce, outputs something called an Analysis Engine Report (AER), which is essentially a business case for customers to move their backup or storage environment to IBM products. Recently Craig decided to leave the company, and as a send off it seemed like a great excuse to make a Butterfly AER into a cake.

The raw materials
I opted for a fruitcake. I've iced a handful of cakes in the past, and quickly learned that covering a fruitcake in sugar paste is WAY less hassle than a I took the easy option ;o). Baking the cake was pretty straightforward - I use a Nigella Lawson recipe for fruitcake, it seems to go down well and you don't need to muck around soaking stuff in alcohol months in advance.

100% edible
I toyed with the idea of trying to recreate all the graphs and text using icing, or handwriting it in edible pen, but decided it would probably look awful so instead I got an AER printed out onto an icing sheet. I used  - only took a day after I uploaded my photo for it to turn up and the printing was really good quality. I'd highly recommend them for anyone wanting to do something similar. The easy option here would be to just stick this sheet onto a cake, which would have looked ok but would have been a bit 1 dimensional and I wanted to do something a bit more flashy.

Next up, covering the cake with marzipan & sugar paste  This was a total ballache. Actually, the marzipan was easy enough, maybe its a bit more robust than the sugar paste, but I had a nightmare with the icing.  I've never done a single cake this big and never a rectangular one. The problem I had was getting the sugar paste rolled out into approximately a rectangle and then when I got something roughly the right shape, it would tear and fall apart as I tried to move it onto the cake. I have to admit, after about a hour of rolling, tearing, re-rolling etc I was ready to quit and I came pretty close to binning the whole project in a fit of sugar paste induced rage. Fortunately I just about managed to get it onto the cake and it smoothed out to get something that was passable.

Ready to be assembled
I wanted to cut out of icing the various different sections of the report to give it a 3D effect. Felt like it should be easy, but I wasn't sure how I would get them onto the cake without them contorting themselves out of shape. Google didn't give me any clues, so after a bit of experimenting I figured out that if I rolled out the sugar paste onto some greased baking paper, cut out the shapes I needed and then kind of flipped them into place, I could then peel the baking paper off and they were still in the correct shape. I printed the AER out onto paper and cut out the various report sections so I had templates which I could use to cut the icing up into the right sizes.

From here on in it was plain sailing. I arranged all the sections on the cake, stuck them down with some edible glue and then cut the icing sheet up and slotted them in the right places. I'd done my maths slightly wrong and had to bodge a couple of bits to make everything fit, but in the end it looked pretty close to the AER I was modelling it on so no harm done. I'd already iced a board with dark green sugar paste, so carefully airlifted the cake in place, put some ribbon round the base (mainly to cover up all the dents and wonky bits) and it was done.

Craig with his cake

The finished article

After all that it turned out that Craig doesn't like fruitcake so didn't eat any. Whoops! I'm sure the rest of the Butterfly crew will help demolish it over the next few days ;o)

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