Living in Los Angeles, the Hollywood sign is a constant presence in our lives. My daily runs in Griffith Park often take me up near the base of the sign, and we have gotten so used to the large block lettering on the hills, we barely notice it unless we have out-of-town visitors. Given the sign’s ubiquity, it didn’t seem all that unusual when I was asked to construct a Hollywood sign cake for a man who was described as “obsessed with Hollywood.” This baby was a full half-sheet of red velvet cake, layered with loads of cream cheese frosting–enough to feed 50 people!
I started by constructing a typical four-layer half-sheet cake. I filled it and crumb-coated it the night before the party, so that the frosting would have time to really set and the cake layers would hold together better. The next morning, I cut into the two long sides of the cake at a diagonal, creating triangle-shaped strips of cake I was then set on top, to form a rough wedge-shaped cake.
At this point I considered abandoning the hill idea and going for a teepee cake instead, but I resisted the urge and buckled down.
I frosted the outside of the cake with more cream cheese frosting, pulverized sugar cookies in the food processor, then sprinkled a fine layer of crumbs over the entire surface. I colored some of the crumbs green and some a darker brown, to give the hillside a more nuanced look.
Finally, I added the lettering. Earlier in the week I had made fondant (never recommended–seriously, it’s easier to just spend a few bucks and buy it pre-made), rolled it out and hand-cut each letter using an X-acto knife. It was tedious but not terribly hard, and it allowed me to get exactly the size and shape I wanted the letters to have. While the letters were still soft I stuck toothpicks into the bottom to help secure them to the cake, then let them dry for a few days.
Here’s a tip for those of you following along at home: always make extras! This is, like, the basic rule of cooking, but somehow it didn’t occur to me while I was blissfully razoring my way through a wad of fondant. Here’s another tip: don’t use two toothpicks per letter–one is plenty, and two will just cause the letters to crack in half. I learned both of these lessons from sad, sad experience. Fortunately I was able to repair the letters and they held together, but the final assembly was stressful and it could have been so much easier had I realized these details ahead of time. But…as they say…the show must go on, and on it went! The cake was fun to make, and a big success at the party.