We made this epic celebratory cake for Canada's 150th
This cakescape inspired by the Canadian landscape is a must-see!
Birthdays and cake are practically synonymous, so Canada's 150th birthday had us dreaming about a frosted treat to rival the best — ever. When we reached out to Toronto cake artist, Arlene Lott (self-described baking maven with a penchant for good design and a sincere hatred of fondant!), to whip up something worthy of this weekend's celebrations, we knew she'd come back with something grand.
If you recognize Arlene in the picture below, it might be because she spent a number of years as a child actor on the original Degrassi television series (Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High). She's impressive all around: a single mom to an (almost) 12-year-old daughter, Magda, a graphic designer in TV and film, who also combines her passion for baking with her love of art and design. Casual!
Everyone at CBC Life was blown away by her take on this festive, modern, stunner. We asked her to share her approach to our challenge, and how she achieved the beautiful feats that make up every detail of this of this glorious, all Canadian creation.
What inspires you to do what you do, Arlene!
I would say I'm more compelled to bake than inspired. I'll see a pattern in a fabric, or a design in a print and it will haunt me until I roll it out in pastry. Also, I'm one of those people who loves to feed people. Hearing those sounds of delight when someone tastes my baking is addictive.
When CBC Life came to you with a request to make a cake for Canada's 150th Birthday, what was the first thing you thought of?
What first popped into my head was the typical red and white cake that most people would probably think of for Canada Day - you know, like a lovely sponge cake with a maple leaf made out of strawberries or something.
And then I knew that that was exactly what I didn't want to make. It was time for a cakescape (as I like to call the vignettes I make for desserts).
Tell us about what we're seeing! How would you describe this cake to someone?
This cakescape celebrates the themes and textures of Canada as I see them. Mountains, trees, ice and diamonds, golden wheat plains, water and sea, the northern lights. A trip from coast to coast to coast, centred around the heart of Canada, all tied together with drifting maple leaves, covered in celebratory gold.
I'm in awe of the size and breadth of the country, the natural resources, the beauty in all the things that we may not realize are our collective identity.
I wanted to depict the landscape of Canada in an unexpected way. The whole country on a platter without making a literal map of it.
I was thinking about a walk through nature when I was coming up with the flavour combinations. This is a juniper-scented vanilla bean cake filled with saskatoon berry frosting. The central glacier and the smaller water and waves to the right are made from cake.
The northern lights were the first real image that sprang to mind when I was working on the concepts for this cake. Depicting the indescribable beauty of the sky where it hovers over the ice. These are made with chocolate which I melt and spread onto acetate shapes. I can then twist and curve the shapes, giving them some flow and motion, and then allow them to set. Once they've set, I hand paint them with a combination of edible lustre paints, petal dusts, and food colouring.
I made some solid white chocolate leaves by pouring chocolate into a big cookie cutter and letting it set. Then I warmed the top of it with my hand a bit before applying the leaf. It's a little finicky for application - you need a room with very little air movement while you're working or it will drift and buckle up on itself and then there's no saving that piece of gold. I chose to gold leaf because it's fancy! And it's a big birthday - what do you get the country that has everything?
I wanted bring a little sparkle to the cake to depict the ice and snow and diamonds of the far north. Rock candy has beautiful sharp crystal edges and they twinkle and shimmer in the light.
You can't imagine Canada without thinking of the mountains in the west. I wanted to depict them rising up from the ocean and carving out the sky. I sculpted these out of Rice Krispie treats and covered them in Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
When I think of the coastline, I think of crashing waves. I wanted to bring a "waterfall" of meringues to the coastline in fresh white for lightness and motion.
If you could imagine out into the future, what do you think you would you put on Canada's 300th birthday cake?
Tastes change so often, it's hard to imagine where we'd be then… and what we'd still have available to us. But in the interest of historical significance, how about a throwback to historically traditional Canadian desserts with a giant golden chocolate Moose holding a tray of Nanaimo Bars, Beaver Tails and Butter tarts, standing on a sponge cake with strawberry maple leaf?