How a 13-year-old girl won a Windows Phone by baking a cake

IMG 6112 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereEarlier this year, Microsoft held a contest for the best Windows Phone cake. We sat down with one of the winners, a 13-year-old girl named Joanna, to find out how she baked an award-winning cake.

Pocketables: Hi Joanna, thank you for joining us today. What made you want to enter the Windows Phone cake contest?

Joanna: I like baking. I watch a lot of shows like Cake Boss and Cupcake Wars on TV, and I thought it would be fun to try and make a Windows Phone cake. Most of my baking experience has come from watching shows on television, so I thought it would be a good challenging experience.

Pocketables: How did you go about baking the cake? It looks fairly realistic.

Joanna: I started with the recipe for a basic yellow cake. While it was in the oven, I measured the dimensions of my Samsung Focus Flash Windows Phone and scaled it to roughly the same size as the basic cake shape. After letting the cake cool off, I cut it to the correct dimensions so that it would resemble the actual device. One of my biggest worries was that an incorrect measurement would cause the entire cake to look off. I was also afraid that I might have too much crumb coating, which would cause the entire cake to become soggy and prevent me from frosting it before I had to leave for a vacation the following day. Thankfully, it dried in time and I was able to frost it the next morning.

Frosting isn’t as easy as you might think. It’s easy to accidentally get crumbs in the frosting, and you have to make enough to cover the entire cake. Then you have to smooth it by hot knifing, which requires you to dip the frosting knife in hot water and carefully remove the extra frosting on the top and sides without scraping off too much. Once I’m done frosting, I like to remove the icing from the platter since I don’t have a turning table.

Then came the first difficulty: fondant. Fondant is a special kind of icing that you can mold into various shapes for decorating cakes. I couldn’t find any black fondant, so I had to buy white fondant and dye it black to make it look like the case of the Focus Flash. This requires a lot of kneading and it can be very messy. You also have to lightly sprinkle it with powdered sugar so it doesn’t stick to your hands or the rolling pin, which is used to flatten the fondant. Once the fondant has been dyed black enough, I cut it into strips which I folded around the top and sides of the cake to represent the phone’s casing. I also used it to add details like the buttons.

Creating realistic live tiles was a challenge. I had to find images of the icons for my favorite apps, which I blew up to the correct size. Using a light tracer, I very carefully cut the shapes out of white sugar paper and, using water, attached them to green sugar paper squares. When it was all said and done, I had live tiles for apps like Internet Explorer, Messaging, Hotmail, Feed Reader, and many others.

Finally, I placed the live tiles on the cake, added a few more details with frosting, and cut into the fondant to make outlines for the buttons, microphone, and speakers. Then it was simply a matter of piping frosting on top of the outlines I made earlier and submitting my entry.

Pocketables: Wow that sounds like a lot of work. How long did the whole process take?

Joanna: It took me approximately fourteen hours to make the cake, spread out across three days. Of course, this doesn’t count the time spent waiting for it to bake, cool, etc. I finished it just a few minutes before I had to leave for my vacation. I made it just in time.

Pocketables: Did you encounter any difficulties while baking the cake?

Joanna: Oh, yes. I had quite a few problems. After the cake was done cooling, I turned the pan over to remove the cake and it split in half! Thank goodness for frosting, which served as the glue holding it together. At one point, while I was cutting out the sugar paper using the light tracer, it started to curl from the heat and I put it in the refrigerator thinking it might help cool it off. When I pulled it out a minute later, it began to crack. I also ran out of materials multiple times.

The most frightening moment was when I accidentally pushed down too hard while pressing the outline for the search button. Rather than creating a little indent, it made a hole halfway through the cake! The worst part about it was that this was the last thing I had to do. That’s what you get for staying up until 2:30 a.m. trying to meet the deadline. Once again, frosting saved me. You’d never know that there was actually a giant hole below the search button.

Pocketables: From what we heard, the contest got fairly intense close to the end. Congratulations on being one of the winners! What did you do with your old device – the one the cake is based off of – now that you have a Nokia Lumia 900?

Joanna: Since I already owned a Windows Phone, I gave my old device to a close friend. Now she’s a big fan of Windows Phone as well.

Pocketables: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Joanna! The final cake is very impressive, and your win was well-deserved.

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

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