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Wacky request:Help with installation an art piece


ChocoGrok
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OK. A wacky problem I would like to present :wink: :

I am creating a cupcake installation art piece for a gallery and would really appreciate any advice on the assembling process. This is an aerial art piece which will involve suspending a linear stack of cupcakes. The stack should be around 4 feet high. I figure I need 32 standard-size cupcakes for this? I have the option of making the cupcakes on the top out of styrofoam dummies (16 or so). The bottom cupcakes will be eaten (this is an interactive art piece). My questions are:

1. What kind of icing would best stand up to compression? I am worried that the frosting on the bottom cupcakes will be squished from the weight of the cupcakes on top. I'd like the frosting mound on each cupcake to stay high (like the cupcakes from the grocery store), but I don't know if this is possible. I was thinking about using royal icing because it seems stiff, but do not know it this is the best option

2. I am using fishline string to hold the cupcakes together. I will be placing knots in between the cupcakes so that the bottom most cupcake can be removed without the other cupcakes slipping off. Is fishline strong enough for this or should I consider inserting straws for extra stability?

3. I looked into styrofoam dummies online. They seem to be rather pricey. I was wondering if there is a way to fill in a cupcake liner with cheap material and just mask the top with icing? These cupcakes will not be in close range to the viewer, so I'm looking for something that will hold up the frosting.

4. I am reading that some bakery stores use PermaIce on cakes in their display windows. I'm thinking about using this on the fake cupcakes. Is this material lightweight? And does its dried form withstand compression better than edible frostings?

Edited by ChocoGrok (log)

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"

- e e cummings

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Wacky indeed!

1.  What kind of icing would best stand up to compression? I am worried that the frosting on the bottom cupcakes will be squished from the weight of the cupcakes on top. I'd like the frosting mound on each cupcake to stay high (like the cupcakes from the grocery store), but I don't know if this is possible. I was thinking about using royal icing because it seems stiff, but do not know it this is the best option

Royal icing also dries hard. In its dried form, it'd stand up to compression, but I don't think anyone would enjoy eating it as cupcake icing. I don't have a great alternative, though. I'd consider something with chocolate, though. Maybe add a little oil to keep it from setting too hard, and a little water to give it stiffness for piping.

2.  I am using fishline string to hold the cupcakes together.  I will be placing knots in between the cupcakes so that the bottom most cupcake can be removed without the other cupcakes slipping off.  Is fishline strong enough for this or should I consider inserting straws for extra stability?

I'd think that any cupcake that edible would be soft enough and heavy enough that a fishing line knot would slip right through it as soon as it had to support its own weight. Fishing line would be strong enough, but I'd think you'd need something else in there to prevent the cupcake from sliding off. Something akin to a washer of some sort.

3. I looked into styrofoam dummies online.  They seem to be rather pricey.  I was wondering if there is a way to fill in a cupcake liner with cheap material and just mask the top with icing?  These cupcakes will not be in close range to the viewer, so I'm looking for something that will hold up the frosting.

Maybe some of that foam-insulation-in-a-can you can get at home improvement stores? Place cupcake liner in a cupcake pan, squirt in some foam, and let it rise just like a cupcake would in the oven. It'd probably take a few tries to get the right amount of foam in the liner to rise the correct amount. Dunno if that's any cheaper than the dummies though. Chocolate might come to the rescue again -- Melt chocolate, and dump in a bunch of rice krispies to keep it light and cut down on cost. Then fill your cupcake liners with that mixture.

4.  I am reading that some bakery stores use PermaIce on cakes in their display windows.  I'm thinking about using this on the fake cupcakes.  Is this material lightweight?  And does its dried form withstand compression better than edible frostings?

It's essentially joint compound with some sort of polymer added to make it waterproof when it dries. Very lightweight and very sturdy. If you're not worried about water, joint compound is a lot cheaper.

B. Keith Ryder

BCakes by BKeith

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2.  I am using fishline string to hold the cupcakes together.  I will be placing knots in between the cupcakes so that the bottom most cupcake can be removed without the other cupcakes slipping off.  Is fishline strong enough for this or should I consider inserting straws for extra stability?

Fishing line should definitely be strong enough if you get the right sort. If you can catch a marlin with fishing line, you should be able to hold up some cupcakes. I think it normally comes rated for it's load-bearing strength.

"Alternatively, marry a good man or woman, have plenty of children, and train them to do it while you drink a glass of wine and grow a moustache." -Moby Pomerance

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Wacky indeed!
2.  I am using fishline string to hold the cupcakes together.  I will be placing knots in between the cupcakes so that the bottom most cupcake can be removed without the other cupcakes slipping off.  Is fishline strong enough for this or should I consider inserting straws for extra stability?

I'd think that any cupcake that edible would be soft enough and heavy enough that a fishing line knot would slip right through it as soon as it had to support its own weight. Fishing line would be strong enough, but I'd think you'd need something else in there to prevent the cupcake from sliding off. Something akin to a washer of some sort.

If you cut short lengths of bamboo skewers and tie those into your fishing line knots they should provide of a break to keep the cupcakes from sliding. Then if you have enough room between cupcakes, you can slide the bottom one up far enough to make the skewer vertical and slide the cupcake down over it and off of the line.

Best to make a mock-up and give it a shot.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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If you cut short lengths of bamboo skewers and tie those into your fishing line knots they should provide of a break to keep the cupcakes from sliding.  Then if you have enough room between cupcakes, you can slide the bottom one up far enough to make the skewer vertical and slide the cupcake down over it and off of the line.

Best to make a mock-up and give it a shot.

If you tied it right you could just pull the skewer right out of the knot easy as.

"Alternatively, marry a good man or woman, have plenty of children, and train them to do it while you drink a glass of wine and grow a moustache." -Moby Pomerance

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Why couldn't you use wire? Make loops in the wire to hold the cupcakes, that way there is nothing sticking through the cupcake itself and everybody isn't putting their fingers on something my food will slide through. (you know what I mean) That also allows for you to do something that is not absolutely vertical and make it more "artsy". You can suspend it from the ceiling.....

ETA: Ooh one of those cupcake holders upside down could be a jumping off point. Just to give you a visual. You could also attach it to a pulley so they can get to all the cupcakes. Okay I'm being way too ambitious for your project.

Edited by EllenC (log)
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Why couldn't you use wire?  Make loops in the wire to hold the cupcakes, that way there is nothing sticking through the cupcake itself and everybody isn't putting their fingers on something my food will slide through.  (you know what I mean) 

Or you could just snip off the wire/fishing line just above the cupcake you're trying to 'free' from the bunch and that way (hopefully) no fingers have touched the wire.

Also, i think that the fishing wire will dissapear into the backround a bit easier than regular wire so it may be preferable.

Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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Can't help much with the suspension plan, but if you're looking for a cheap substance to make fake cupcakes, how about rice krispie treats? I've used them to make shaped dummies before, and they work very well (I usually decrease the marshmellow amount a bit to make them less smooshy and more solid). They should hold up fine for a short display time. You can mold cupcake shapes in the pans and then glue the rice krispies into cupcake papers.

Royal icing is another less-squishable icing option, but I'm not sure about getting it to hold in a big fat swirly shape. PermaIce may work better; I've also heard of some people using spackling compound from the hardware store to ice dummy cakes.

Good luck!

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For the fake cupcakes, you can carve down florist foam or those styro balls sold everywhere for inside Christmas ornaments. Depending on the size, you could probably get them to fit inside the papers without cutting. I second joint compound/spackle for icing.

for the real ones, I imagine you would need something more substantial than knots to act as a spacer between each cupcake to prevent them from slipping off the fishing line... this would also create some distance so you don't have to use something impossibly hard and non-compressible for icing.

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chocogrok - can you tell us more about this installation? what sort of exhibit is it? why hanging cupcakes? or will they look more like a pillar of cupcakes standing on a platform or the floor just using the hanging/ceiling to ensure that the stack remains upright?

What is the theory? the inspiration? the concept you are pursuing?

why cupcakes?

why will people be eating the ones on the bottom?

how will they know they can or should eat them?

how will they know which cakes are not edible?

what will happen to your piece once the cupcakes start getting ripped down?

are you planning to refresh the stack? if so how?

will there be a bunch of stacks?

I am assuming this is a one day - limited time installtion and cupcake consumption opportunity?

Is this a personal party or anart thing in an art space?

You might consider making something like one of those paper chains - IKEA has a wooden one with lights.

stretch this between floor and ceiling secured at both ends so it is taut and stable

then set cupcakes in each on the loops - so safe frosting and no smushing

then you can do the whole stack edible

you could even do the loops out of a clear plastic so that they were basically invisible

maybe use a dab of frosting to secure each cupcake to the loop it sits in so that a casual brush or removal of a cake does not cause all cakes to fall

or were you thinking to suspend the cakes from above so that they hang down and people grab them - sort of a reverse bobing for apples?

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OK.  A wacky problem I would like to present  :wink: :

2.  I am using fishline string to hold the cupcakes together.  I will be placing knots in between the cupcakes so that the bottom most cupcake can be removed without the other cupcakes slipping off.  Is fishline strong enough for this or should I consider inserting straws for extra stability?

3. I looked into styrofoam dummies online.  They seem to be rather pricey.  I was wondering if there is a way to fill in a cupcake liner with cheap material and just mask the top with icing?  These cupcakes will not be in close range to the viewer, so I'm looking for something that will hold up the frosting.

#2. Maybe something like Lifesavers could be looped with the line to hold up the cupcakes, if you wanted to keep with edible items.

#3. Maybe get hunks of styrofoam and use a round cutter to cut out cupcake-sized pieces to put in the paper cups, then frost?

Just a couple of thoughts, having had no practical experience with such a project!

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
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Wow! Thanks for all the interest! To answer your questions about concept and inspiration, chefette, I'm including a snippet from my proposal to the gallery. I also submitted diagrams for the set-up. These, I think, would be helpful for you all to see. I don't know how to attach my word document though...any ideas?

So here is the verbal description of the piece. It's entitled: "It's Cupcakes All the Way Down", a play on the phrase "it's turtles all the way down". The anecdote from Stephen Hawking's book explains the origin of the so called "infinite turtle paradigm" (see below). I'm doing a reinterpretation of the paradigm with cupcakes.

OK. Here goes....The piece is a little complicated :wink: , but remember, you asked for it :biggrin:

*****************************************************************

PROJECT TITLE: “It’s Cupcakes All the Way Down”

INTRODUCTION:

Stephen Hawking in A Brief History Of Time starts with the anecdote :

“A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down."

DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT:

What happens when cake meets the notion of “turtles all the way down”?

We propose a project in which flat earth realities are supported by cupcakes stacked “virtually” to infinity. The project is a four part invention: variations on the theme of “turtles all the way down”. Using cupcakes, each installation piece will examine a different aspect of the infinite turtle paradigm. Through the four part journey, we will explore the concepts of infinite regression, flat earth credos, and collective realities. The audience will be served some cupcake wisdom by both digital cupcakes and virtual cupcakes, and the illusions of infinity they generate. Guests will then be invited to create their own collective realities by eating cupcakes from an aerial art piece. The journey ends at a hand mirror where the guest reflects on the “being of a cupcake”.

Installation 1 (title piece):

A single gigantic cupcake will be filmed in real-time by a digital camera which will project its image onto an LCD screen. The bounce-back imaging will generate the illusion of infinite cupcakes. On the piece will be written “It’s Cupcakes All the Way Down”. The piece will be supporting a dymaxion map , Buckminster Fuller’s representation of earth on a flat surface.

Installation 2:

This installation will use 2 mirrors placed in a parallel orientation. A line of cupcakes stacked between the two mirrors will be reflected by the surfaces, creating the illusion of an infinite stack of cupcakes. The cupcakes will be stacked upside down on a large plate which will have a world map painted on the bottom in the shape of a turtle.

Installation 3:

This is an interactive aerial art piece in which different flat earth credos will be supported by their own stack of cupcakes. A world map will be placed on the ceiling and 4 feet of cupcakes will be suspended from the map. Four such linear cupcake mobiles will be constructed. Each map (flat earth) will have written on it a putative flat earth credo. A “flat earth credo” is a claim which is unsubstantiated by fact, but is given credence through individual belief or popular dogma. Examples are:

“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”

“All Dogs go to Heaven”

“Green Peace is a greater threat to American security than is Osama bin Laden”

“Evolution is a scientific fairytale”

This is an interactive art piece where the guests will be asked to remove a cupcake from the stack they do not believe supports its flat earth credo. Scissors and a step ladder will be provided to facilitate this process. Note that this is the only edible part of the entire project, since individuals will be choosing the reality they live in through the process of ingesting.

Installation 4:

An ornate hand mirror which has inscribed on the back :“you are the last cupcake”. When the guest turns the mirror around and looks at his/her reflection, there is written on the front: “when the last turtle is taken away, the world is shaken and broken”. The handle of the mirror will be embellished with a line of stacked turtles.

******************************************************************

As you can see, the piece is a four-part installation. The part with the hanging cupcakes belongs to part 3. I really wish I could find some way to include the diagram because it simplifies the verbal description.... :sad: Also, if you want to see *REALLY WACKY*, you can read the footnotes to get an idea of what was really going on in my mind.

The piece is being created for a show at the Axiom Gallery in Boston in which cake is featured as a transient media. See link and scroll down to "ART CAKE":

http://www.weeklydig.com/arts/articles/fall_arts_preview1

The link gives the impression that the show will last 3 weeks. I therefore set up the piece to be mostly inedible, with only edible part being the interactive installation in part 3 where the audience "votes" on realities by ingesting cupcakes. I have since discovered that the display will only be up for the evening of the gallery opening. The cakes will be eaten and a video tape of the process will be played at the Mission Bar in Boston. Apparently, many of the other pieces are extremely edible, leaving little left by the end of opening night. I have since modified my piece. Installation 3 will remain as is. I might do away with the stuff with infinite regression in Parts 1 and 2, and replacing it with a cupcake balanced between a mirror and a very large paper mache turtle sporting mirror tiles.

Whew! Anyone get through all of this? :laugh:

Edited by ChocoGrok (log)

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"

- e e cummings

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how will they know they can or should eat them?

how will they know which cakes are not edible?

what will happen to your piece once the cupcakes start getting ripped down?

are you planning to refresh the stack? if so how?

or were you thinking to suspend the cakes from above so that they hang down and people grab them - sort of a reverse bobing for apples?

The gigantic mirror turtle (see above description) will be holding the instructions. Dymaxion maps will be provided as "hand out"s, and the instructions + description of piece will be written on the back. After the guest understands their role in shaping the linear cupcake mobile (i.e. cut n' eat what you don't believe), the dymaxion map can be cut, folded, and used as a doggy bag for the guest's cupcakes.

I'm meeting with the gallery's director today and will ask about head count. Based on this number, I will fashion styrofoam dummies which will go on the top of the stacks. I'm guessing that some stacks will be eaten from less than others will be...who really would invalidate the existence of Santa Claus :shock: ?!

Once the cupcakes get ripped down, the remaining cupcakes will represent the completed piece of art work. The resulting art piece will represent, in cupcakes, the "realness" of each statement as perceived by the gallery's audience.

I am not planning to refresh the stack. Once eaten, the reality as represented by the flat earth statement will cease to exist.

Heee...i like the idea of bobbing for cupcakes. I had initially thought of a project which involves the audience bobbing for cake on the back of turtles swimming in a pool (ala Terry Pratchett's "5th Elephant"). The cakes would be tiny and cube shaped: petit fours painted like Earth; and the cakes would be supported by pink elephant cocktail charms.

Edited by ChocoGrok (log)

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"

- e e cummings

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OK everyone...an update on my first mock-up.

I baked cupcakes in standard 2.5 in cups. I also purchased these meringue cookies from a Russian market: they are tinted light pink and resemble fluffy frosting. I mounted the meringues on top of the cupcakes using powdered sugar + liqueur. It looked pretty realistic. I used 0.12 mm fishing line doubled over to string together the cupcakes. As bkeith pointed out, the fishline is pretty strong, but the cupcakes will slide through the knots. As suggested, I tied toothpicks into the knots in a perpendicular orientation to the cupcakes. This held the cupcakes well (Thanks Natho and slbunge!). The powdered sugar + liqueur mix was not a very successful glue for holding together the meringue and cupcake. I will use royal icing in my next mock-up. Bkeith, I agree that a huge tuft of royal icing is tough-eating. I think meringues are a better option...i get height without weight or stickiness. I will also try making the meringues, tinting them, and giving them a bit of glitter. Will report back. Incidentally, does anyone know what those meringue-like confections in the Russian market are called? They look like meringues, but are different in texture: not airy and dry...rather moist marshmallowy...like they had flour in them. If my meringues flop, i might make the Russian version

The styroballs, florist foam, and canned foam are all good ideas. Rice krispies...hee..fun. I will work with the fake top once the real stuff looks good. Thanks for the input everyone!

EllenC, the pulley idea's fun. I'm using a step ladder for the presentation. I was entertaining the cute image of a little girl climbing a step ladder to cut herself a cupcake from a long strand of cupcakes dangling from a 12 foot ceiling.

Edited by ChocoGrok (log)

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"

- e e cummings

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OK. This is a link to my schematic for the installations. Hope it gets through OK. :wacko:

Installation 1:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=mo...md=si&img=73097

Installation 2:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=mo...md=si&img=73098

Installation 3:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=mo...lbum&album=3801

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"

- e e cummings

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Chocogrok,

Nice project. Love the graphics.

I second the that spray foam that is usually used as insulation material that hardens after it is sprayed for the inedibles. That would be ultra lightweight. One can goes a long long way so you could make some backups just in case you need them.

For the edible cupcakes' icing, you might want to try an italian meringue or 7 minute frosting (click for the recipe), which you have beaten over the steaming water somwhat longer than necessary, so it will cool just a bit more firm. You can do some experiments with different times all with one batch of this frosting, removing a dollop at different stages to see what the consistency is after it cools at different times.

Good luck!

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You might consider making something like one of those paper chains - IKEA has a wooden one with lights.

stretch this between floor and ceiling secured at both ends so it is taut and stable

then set cupcakes in each on the loops - so safe frosting and no smushing

then you can do the whole stack edible

you could even do the loops out of a clear plastic so that they were basically invisible

maybe use a dab of frosting to secure each cupcake to the loop it sits in so that a casual brush or removal of a cake does not cause all cakes to fall

Btw chefette, this is a STELLAR idea! Paper chains made out of clear plastic!

I'm thinking about using transparencies cut up into 1'' strips, and securing the loops with superglue..dunno if the top link will hold the rest of the chain with the cupcakes? basically the link will be supporting the weight of a bundt cake.

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"

- e e cummings

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Help! I tried piping with joint compound to make the fake frosting. The "frosting" lost its shape within half a minute. Did i purchase the right stuff? "Sheetrock" brand "All Purpose Joint Compound - Patch interior drywall and plaster surfaces. Finish drywall joints". Do I need to mix something into the joint compound to get it to stand up?

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"

- e e cummings

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Help!  I tried piping with joint compound to make the fake frosting.  The "frosting" lost its shape within half a minute.  Did i purchase the right stuff?  "Sheetrock" brand "All Purpose Joint Compound - Patch interior drywall and plaster surfaces.  Finish drywall joints".  Do I need to mix something into the joint compound to get it to stand up?

That's the stuff I use for fake cakes (usually props for the theatre). I haven't had any problem with it relaxing when I pipe, but I'm usually only doing shell borders and things. If you're looking for a mound of it to stand up fairly tall, you may need to pipe it in stages. I say that based on experience working with it to patch holes in walls and celings -- bigger holes need several small applications with drying time between. Too much at a time makes it slump.

B. Keith Ryder

BCakes by BKeith

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