Chocolate Delivery for the Space Station! I want to share with you this cake I made for coworkers last week. I work for the European Space Agency on their space vehicle that supplies the International Space Station with cargo. It’s called the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle). We have one final mission this year (ATV 5) that launches in a few months! This cake is (almost) to scale. I enjoyed doing the math- I’m an engineer after all! I manage the cargo transfer for ATV so it had to have a cutout to see the most important part. I have made a few theme cakes before, but it has been a long time and lots of the supplies I use can’t be found here in France. I think the French prefer relying on their amazing boulangeries for cake! However, it was a welcome challenge and I’m happy to be back making cakes after 4 years hiatus.
The ATV vehicle (speeding over the earth!)
My Most Ambitious Cake – its all in the shape!
I used cocoa krispies for the bottom semi-circle. Essential for fighting gravity on the bottom half and such a great material to carve into exactly what you want and support structure. I love cake engineering! Just squish the krispie treats into any large pan, then when cool you cut out the semi-circle shape and stack them together. To hide the bumpy cereal bits, I melted some Wilton candy melts and spread it over the outside to smooth.
Astronauts Love Chocolate (so I hear)
My oven is slightly bigger than a mailbox (I live in an old apartment in the southern French city of Toulouse, the kitchen is tiny!) so that dictated the diameter of my cake, haha. I made a chocolate cake with buttermilk (or the French equivalent, lait fermente) accented with some good Seattle coffee. Chocolate and coffee were made for each other, no? I cut them into semi-circles to go on top of the krispie base.
The Cargo Compartment
Dowels Dowels Dowels! Ok, maybe I’m a bit dowel-happy
But who wants their cake to fall apart after so much effort?? After icing and stacking, I ran two dowels along the krispie base and one down each piece of cake. The krispie base was flattened a little and secured to the cardboard base with another dowel.
The Fondant: Playdough for Adults!
It’s really a good idea to flavor it, because I guarantee someone will want to eat it. I then added a little bit of black gel coloring and got to work incorporating – who needs the gym when you have fondant to mix? Roll it thin, smooth it over the whole cake, and cut carefully. I made a covering for the cardboard which was supposed to be the earth, but I went the easy route instead and rolled the colors together to create: earth as seen when flying really fast!
The Docking Mechanism and Hardware
Details to Impress The Other ATV Specialists
The docking mechanism at the front of the cake was tricky to make, but a chocolate mold came to the rescue. Fontant tools are so essential. Be sure to clip your nails before getting into the shaping, or they will create their own designs by accident! I had many pictures of the ATV to make it as accurate as possible – can’t be missing hardware! The solar arrays (flat rectangular bits coming off the back end) were skewered into the krispie base.
The Finishing (sparkle) Touches
I mixed vodka with some sparkle dust and went to town on the details. A food pen helped me put labels and numbers on the cargo bags in the cutout and the front vehicle logos. I put blue flake sprinkles all over the base because- why not? And then I collapsed with satisfaction after 7hrs of effort!
The Rear Thrusters and Solar Panels