It’s a rare occasion that I’ll watch a movie from beginning to end without having to prop my eyelids open, but recently I did just that! I watched Amadeus again. It’s been years since I first watched it, and I’ve loved it since. There’s Salieri, shaking his fist at God and cursing his own mediocrity. Young, impetuous Mozart overflowing with musical genius and that maniacal laugh. And Stanze. Sweet Constanze Mozart, a devoted wife and voice of reason, though she was inclined to ignore her own advise and follow her beloved into dark places.
She was my muse for this cake.
The Hollywood version of Stanze looks too young for enormous powdered wigs and the other garb from that time period. She reminds me of a doll, or a little girl all dressed up in adult clothing. And even though some of her dresses are rather revealing, she has an innocence that is undeniable. That’s what made me want to capture her sweetness in cake form.
I’d just made some macarons the day before I planned to make this cake, and I decided they’d look pretty on her dress. Stanze was German, but she was fluent in French so I don’t think she’d take issue with wearing them as an accessory.
I’ve put together a tutorial with plenty of step-by-steps if you’d like to try your hand at a Stanze cake, though I suppose she could be any early 18th century classical lady you’d like to imagine. You’ll need a few special pieces of equipment, like this doll mold. I bought it for a project I’d planned for my book, but ran out of time and never realized the idea.
Important note! If you decide to use this idea with other molds, make sure they are labeled as non-toxic. I used Sculpey brand molds, they are non-toxic but the manufacturer states they have not been tested with food, so they are not labeled as food safe. Use your own judgment before starting this project. Or, use the doll portion as decoration and do not consume it. There are other clearly labeled food safe doll molds to be had like this one, if you’re not keen on using the one I did.
Another special piece of equipment I used was half of this this ball pan made by Wilton. A 6-inch heat-proof bowl (aluminum or pyrex) could also be used if you haven’t the storage or expense to spare.
This next part – the piecing together of Stanze – was kind of weird and wonderful. There were moments when my dining table felt like Geppetto’s workshop!
Stanze Cake Assembly
Plan ahead for drying time. The head, arms and torso need to dry 24 hours before assembly begins.
1/4 lb. white vanilla fondant
Doll mold for head, torso and arms
Baked 6-inch half dome cake (recipe follows)
1/4 cup seedless jam or lemon curd
3″ and 1″ fondant cutters (or bottle caps or decorator piping tips)
Small artists’ brush
20-24 macaron shells (my recipe and batter technique can be found here)
1. Begin by lightly dusting the inside of the doll mold with powdered sugar. Tap out any excess. Press a small piece of fondant firmly into the head cavity and immediately pull it back out. If you are pleased with the impression, place the head on a toothpick and allow to dry. If not, try again with another piece of fondant. Repeat process with body and arms. Trim away excess fondant and tidy around fingers and arms with the paring knife. Repeat process with torso. Press toothpick on the head piece down into the body at the neck. Press a toothpick through the arm holes and press arms onto either end of that toothpick. Remove the arms and let all the pieces dry overnight.
2. The next day fondant will have firmed up considerably. Gently press a toothpick into the top of the head and use a piece of fondant to make the powdered wig.
3. Press the wig piece onto the toothpick and down around the doll’s face.
4. Using a toothpick, make striations around the “hairline” to create the impression of up-swept hair. Make a few swirls with the toothpick all over the fondant wig.
5. Roll out a small piece of fondant to about 3×5 inches and fold in half. Wrap the doll’s torso with the fondant with the top of the “garment” just under the arm toothpick. Set aside.
6. Place half dome cake on a cake stand or serving platter. Melt seedless jam or curd and brush over the cake with the pastry brush.
7. On a lightly confectioners’ sugar dusted surface, roll out a piece of fondant large enough to cover the cake (I usually roll out twice the amount I think I’ll need to be sure). Roll the fondant onto the rolling pin and lift onto the cake.
8. Smooth down sides and trim excess. Reserve fondant scraps for later use.
9. Using a knife, cut an “X” into the top of the cake
10. Try to center it as much as possible. (Try to do better than I did-ha!)
11. Press the doll’s torso into the “X”. You may choose to wrap the bottom of the torso in plastic wrap (just like you would when making a Barbie cake!) if you’re concerned about the safety issues mentioned earlier.
12. Attach the arms using corn syrup to adhere. Create a frill using 3-inch and 1 inch fondant cutters, or improvise and use bottle caps or the large opening of decorator piping tips. Knead scrap fondant and roll out flat. Cut out a 3-inch piece of fondant and then use the smaller cutter to cut a circle from the middle. Use a toothpick or paintbrush handle to create ridges on the piece. Cut the piece in half.
13. Drape the piece around the doll’s neck; cut away excess. Repeat this process once more for the frill around Stanze’s waist. If pieces don’t naturally adhere, use a dab of corn syrup to stick them together.
14. Apply pearl nonpariels, each with one side dipped in corn syrup to the neck area with tweezers.
15. Use jam or lemon curd to adhere macarons around the bottom of the cake.
- Use a toothpick inserted into the “wig” to attach a macaron, then use the jam or curd to adhere another macaron on top. Lift one of the arms and place a macaron underneath, if desired.
- I made Stanze a small ponytail over her right shoulder from a scrap piece of fondant.
- At the last minute, I made a cape from a 3×5 piece of fondant. I just pressed it around the neck area to create a standing collar. This will hide a multitude of sins on the back of the figure (unfinished areas).
I realize Stanze Mozart as a doll as a cake is pretty specific, but she could just as easily be Marie Antoinette or a pretty nameless centerpiece. Her dress can display any variety of sweets, like meringues, little candies and cookies.
I certainly enjoyed creating this cake – and eating it! The cake recipe is my favorite moist yellow cake. It usually makes a single 9-inch layer, but here I’ve used it in a 6-inch dome pan. I added a little almond oil to the batter to compliment the flavor of the macarons, and that made everything taste just right!
Moist Yellow Cake
Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour
Prep: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield: 9″ round layer, about 8 servings
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup full fat vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup full fat sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment. (If making the Stanze dome cake, I suggest spraying the 6-inch dome pan or heat proof bowl with a flour based cooking spray such as Baker’s Joy or Bake Easy.)
- Beat together sugar and butter until lightened. Add the eggs one at a time, then increase mixer speed to high for two minutes or until batter is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, almond extract, salt, baking powder and soda; beat for another minute and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Stir together yogurt and sour cream in a small bowl. Beginning and ending with flour, alternately add the flour and yogurt mixture. Beat well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again briefly.
- Spoon batter into the pan. (If using the dome pan, it will hold about 2 1/2 cups of batter. You’ll have a little left over and I suggest making a few cupcakes to snack on.) Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed in the center. Let cake cook in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Frost if desired.
Products for Stanze Cake