Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Night Circus Cake!

Hello fellow Rêveurs! We have a special treat today. The lovely Robin Brenner has kindly given us some of her time and has shared her amazing creation, The Night Circus Cake!

the delicious looking Night Circus Cake by Robin Brenner!

So Robin, tell us a little bit about you.
Let's see!  I'm a teen librarian working near Boston, MA.  I'm a voracious consumer of stories (in all kinds of formats, from novels to movies to television to audio to comics) as well as a writer, artist, pop-culture critic, and as you can tell, amateur cake decorator.  I read about 2-3 books a week, and I zoomed through The Night Circus in a matter of days.

I do have a friend who's a pastry chef but who finds detailed decoration tiresome.  We keep joking that someday, when we're done with our current careers, we'll open a bakery where she makes everything delicious and I get to decorate everything.  Some day!

I must say it again, your Night Circus Cake looks amazing! How long did it take you to make it?
Let me see -- I figured out my plan in a few hours of doodling, and then made the modeling chocolate and the cake itself the night before.  That took around 2 hours.  Then I spent around six hours putting it all together: making the ganache, constructing the cake itself, doing the decorations on the cake, and making the figures the day it was to be served.

Is it made out of just chocolate?
It was an orange and chocolate chunk cake -- recipe from the excellent food blog, Smitten Kitchen.

I layered the cake and spackled together the top point with cherry preserves, and then frosted the whole thing with chocolate ganache (also from the Smitten Kitchen recipe, but about two times the recipe.)  I considered making the top point with chocolate molded onto a shape, but then I just decided the cake would be more tasty and more solid.

From there, the decorations and figures were all modeling chocolate (with a lollipop stick for some structure to help each stand) plus a few bits of candy.  The red vest, for example, is sliced red liquorice, and I did use a few chocolate-covered items (the "gravel" around the bottom are dark chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds, mainly because they were small...and tasty!).

Robin Brenner's delectable Celia Bowen

So... how much chocolate did you end up using?
I think...3-4lbs, total?  Including all the chocolate chunks for the cake, and for the ganache.  Happily, my mom had given me a selection of tasty chocolates for baking over the holidays, so it was perfect timing to help out my construction.  I've never loved eating white chocolate by itself, but I had gotten a 1-lb bag, so I was glad to have a reason to use it!

Where did you get the idea of making a Night Circus cake?
I like making themed cakes and cupcakes of any kind, and I love a challenge.  I particularly love the excuse parties give me (in this case, New Year's) to take on a big project.  My friends and I all once made a gingerbread manor house based on Manderley (from Rebecca), and I have been known to make a Fruits Basket cake (for my manga/anime loving teens at our library) and a Dune cake (as in Frank Herbert's Dune) for a friend's birthday party.
In this case, I knew my friends and I were planning a New Year's party, so I immediately thought -- what kind of dessert can I make?  Oooooh, now is my chance to make a Night Circus cake!  I'd read the novel recently, and the imagery is really what stuck with me, plus I love the challenge of limited color palettes (the black and white with a splash of red challenge.)  When reading the novel, I basically just yearned to GO to the Night Circus.  Having seen (and adored) Punchdrunk's Sleep No More production when it was here in Brookline, I could vividly imagine what The Night Circus could be.

the scrumptious Marco Alisdair by Robin Brenner

Was there a particular scene that inspired you?
Not really.  I decided to go with the feeling the book gave me rather than a specific scene and, of course, I knew I could make a tent with a cake, but I wasn't sure I could make the, for example, the Lovers (I wish I could!   A challenge for another day, perhaps...)

And is that your favourite scene in the book, if not, which one is?
It's hard to pick a favorite scene.  I do love the idea of the Circus itself, I think, and all of the various tents.  How fun would it be to do a cake for each?  Sigh, I wish I had the time (and the space!).

Have you done something similar before?
Here are some photos of other cake creations I've made, as mentioned above:

Fruits Basket cake:

Dune cake:

Can we expect a cake for Erin Morgenstern's second book?
It does depend on opportunity and inspiration, but we'll see!  With such a visual writing style, I can imagine it will be quite inspiring. :)

Indeed! Thank you so much for your time Robin!

Rêveurs, if you'd like to see more of Robin's The Night Circus Cake, simply click here and don't forget to tell Robin how wonderful the cake looks!


  1. I love this cake!! And it sounds so yummy too... You're very talented Robin, well done!