Adventures in Baking the Entire Athenian Acropolis, part 4

okay this part was insane and took literally a whole day and is really kind of a succinct illustration of why I can never have a normal life, but here it goes

So, last time I left off with this:

Three big slabs of chocolate cake, and all these piles of gingerbread that will turn into buildings.

I’m decorating here with royal icing, which is a type of icing made with beaten egg whites that’s very fluid, but quickly sets hard. That makes it very useful for doing intricate decorations, but also means you can use it like a fast-drying glue. This is what lets me assemble my buildings out of multiple rectangles of gingerbread. I’m using a sort of syringe tool to apply my royal icing, but a traditional piping bag, or even just a zip-lock bag with one corner cut off, will work just as well.

A little bit of colour-mixing… I need red for the brick roof tiles, and both red and blue to show the painted decorations on the Parthenon (because, yeah, this stuff was painted; it’s a whole thing; personally I blame the Renaissance). The marble itself isn’t pure white; it’s Pentelic marble, which has a faint honey-yellow patina, so I need a nice subtle yellow-brown for that as well.

I didn’t document the whole process of decorating all the buildings, but this gives you the gist of it – this is my Parthenon (unfortunately, reproducing the exact sculptural program of the metopes of the Parthenon at this scale is a little bit beyond even my powers, but I’ve tried to create an impression).

Throughout this, I’m also using a cheese grater to shave off the rough edges of my gingerbread pieces, as well as create little 45 degree angles at the corners so they’ll fit together a little bit more neatly.

Here’s the finished Parthenon. Meanwhile I’m sculpting the cake:

To make sure I got the shape of the citadel right, I laid my rough plan over the cake, stuck toothpicks through it, and then lifted the plan off the top, leaving the toothpicks to mark the cuts I needed to make.

Use some of the offcuts to add a little bit extra to the eastern end of the citadel…

Make some cuts for the Theatre of Dionysus, Odeion of Herodes Atticus and Odeion of Pericles, then use some more offcuts to add a ramp and the Nike Bastion to the west end…

…then cover the whole thing in white chocolate ganache. Best practice when doing a decorative cake is normally to use a much thinner ganache or buttercream to cover the whole thing first, before adding your final layer of icing, because that gives you a smoother finish and keeps you from getting cake crumbs mixed up in your icing. However, I’m not bothering with that – and not (just) because I’m lazy. The Acropolis is a rock, and I actually want a rough, rocky finish, so not only am I not bothering to keep cake crumbs out of my ganache, I’m actually adding more crumbs from some crushed plain biscuits at the end.

Then all I have to do is assemble it. Put all the buildings in place… add a few squirts of thick green buttercream icing from a star-shaped nozzle for bushes… couple of gummy worms in the Asclepeion to represent the sacred snakes…

And boom! Acropolis!

My kitchen is a bomb site, and as I look upon it, I finally understand what Achilles meant when he spoke to Patroclus of his wish for the two of them to stand over the flaming ruins of Troy as the only survivors of the war.

I swear I am never doing this again

I’ll probably do it again next year

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Baking the Entire Athenian Acropolis, part 4

  1. This is amazing. As a homeschooling ancient history nerd who made a brownie ziggaraut recently, I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this creation. What a masterpiece!!

    Liked by 2 people

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