Internet Buzz: Animatronic Daft Punk-Inspired Cake

At Cake Central, we’re always on the lookout for the latest and the craziest in cake design. As soon as we heard about this gravity-defying animatronic cake inspired by Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” music video, we knew we had to share it with you.

Recently, Shantal Der Boghosian, owner of Shakar Bakery in Los Angeles, California, wanted to find a way to celebrate the release of Daft Punk’s new single. But a simple, tiered cake wouldn’t cut it for this superfan. Thanks to a can-do attitude and a little help from a NASA engineer, Shantal’s big dream became a reality.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how they made it happen:

Cake Central: What inspired this amazing design?

Shantal Der Boghosian: I always wanted to build a moving cake but didn’t have the means to [do so]. I am actually an Environmental Engineer— I hold a master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and I have a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara. When I decided to leave the engineering world behind in January 2013 and focus fulltime on Shakar Bakery, a part of me felt sad that I would no longer be able to do cool engineering work. But then I thought to myself, “Wait, why not incorporate cool engineering work into your cakes?!”

Last year, I met Garen Khanoyan, a [NASA] engineer who happened to have degrees in electrical engineering and computer sciences. During a quick chat [at a bridal show], Garen asked [me] the magic question: “Have you considered making a moving cake?” Let me tell you, I was pretty excited, and my very loud “Yes I have!” must’ve proved it.

So now that I [had] found my electrical engineer to help me make a moving cake, what would I make? It had to be amazing, a show stopper, a really big challenge.

I am a big Daft punk fan. In 2007 I missed the Daft Punk tour for personal reasons, even though my sister had extra tickets. Had I known then that I would have to wait six years for them to tour again, I would never have missed it! When they released the new single “Get Lucky,” I knew that I had to build them as a tribute cake.

CC: Was this cake commissioned?

SD: No, the cake was not commissioned. We created this cake solely for the learning experience and the challenge it provided. I also wanted to set myself apart from Los Angeles bakers and show people how far they can take a cake design! Customers would’ve never considered a design like this because they didn’t know it was possible.

CC: How long did it take?

SD: We began to discuss the design idea in April 2013. It took two months for us to work out a proper design, and a few days for me to sketch out the structure. It took me more than 100 hours to build the DJ set, the cake structure and the cake itself. I spent 15 hours alone on the fondant and cake work of the Daft Punk members. The helmets took 15 hours each, and I had to rebuild one of the helmets when we realized we had to redesign the helmet articulation structure. I hit a lot of bumps in the road and had to take apart and rebuild as we continued to delve deeper into the project.

It took Garen about 100 hours to code the electronics portion and build the custom boards and helmet articulation structures. He then spent about 20 hours assembling everything onto my structure.

CC: Could you explain the technical aspects? What materials did you use?

SD: I used MDF boards for the DJ set, and I used ½-inch thick steel pipes for my structure. I secured the pipes with steel flanges and the arms were structured with PVC pipes. I made everything food safe by wrapping a layer of non-toxic tape on all the pipes, followed by a layer of [plastic] wrap. The helmets were sculpted using Rice Krispies® treats. We had coffee cans in the center of the helmets to help alleviate weight and to secure the motors for the head movement.

The movements were all coded using Arduino platform and servo motors. Garen did all the coding on his computer and transferred the code to the platforms. He also coded the LED light dances you see in the video.

CC: Are there any techniques you used/discovered in the process that you will apply to future cakes?

SD: Yes! Everything! I learned so much from this project, it’s incredible! I actually used Mike McCarey’s Craftsy class to learn how to stack a cake properly on a 3-D structure. I also made my own fondant for the project using Artisan Cake Company’s LMF fondant recipe, and it’s a recipe I plan on using for all my cakes now. I absolutely LOVE the animatronic portion of the cake. I can only dream that people will commission cakes like these!

CC: What was the biggest challenge?

SD: The whole thing was my biggest challenge! From designing my first structure cake, to buying the materials, to the actual build, there wasn’t a single moment during this project that I wasn’t being challenged. But the BIGGEST challenge was coordinating my work with Garen’s work, particularly the helmets! Each helmet weighed 6 – 8 pounds, and we had to go through a few prototypes before Garen found one that worked well for what I wanted. On the last day, we even did a quick “surgery” to [one of the helmets] to make sure the “no” motion was more fluid.

We didn’t do a test run before shooting the video, so we held our breaths when we hit the “on” switch, hoping no disaster would hit! Lucky for us, none did! The second biggest challenge was covering the torsos with fondant by myself. No one tackles a 5-foot structure alone, but I did and somehow managed to get it done!

CC: Where is the cake now? Did it all get eaten?

SD: The cake is all gone. We ate a few slices the night of the cake release, and then I gave the rest away to neighbors, friends and family. If this were a real commissioned job, a cake this size could have fed 100 people.

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Shantal Der Boghosian owns Shakar Bakery in Van Nuys, California. For more on her Daft Punk cake including photos of its construction, check out the Shakar Bakery blog.

 

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