"You said I could only use things that everyone had. Well, everyone has cicadas, right?"
That's how Glenn Walden, a senior pastry and baking instructor at Stratford University in Falls Church, explained the extreme makeover plan for his cake.
To begin with, he decided to artfully arrange several real, chocolate-coated cicadas on top of the cake. Then he made a giant cicada out of dark and white chocolate with red candies for the eyes. To give the impression of trees, Walden stuck some tall dark chocolate straws into the frosting.
Finally, to add a zip of color, eyeball-red frosting was piped around the base of the cake. A little tube of green frosting gel was used to draw some leaf shapes on the sides and top.
"I wanted to do something everyone would talk about," he admitted.
The live cicadas came from his neighbor's bushes in Sterling. To kill the cicadas without deforming them, he put them in his freezer at home. ("My wife was not happy about this," he noted.) He then impaled them on lollipop sticks and sprayed them with melted semisweet chocolate. Cicadas also could be painted with chocolate using a tiny paint brush. "But don't dip them in chocolate," he warned, "because their wings won't stay spread out."
To make the large cicada, he formed cooled, melted chocolate into an oblong shape for the body and head. He drizzled melted white chocolate into wing shapes on wax paper, and when they had cooled and hardened, he squirted melted dark chocolate to make the wings' veins. He attached the wings and the cinnamon candy-eyes with dabs of melted chocolate. The chocolate straws were made by scraping a sharp knife edge down a thin layer of chilled, melted chocolate on the back of a baking sheet.
Walden, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has taught at Stratford for 10 years. He has worked as a chef in Pennsylvania and at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg. Despite his cake skills, he admits that his children, ages 12 and 9, aren't always impressed. "What they really like are Carvel ice cream cakes," he says with a sigh.
-- Candy Sagon