The winner of the Dream Challenge is Gareth Jones!
The runner-up is EvilDan.
Congratulations! Your ingenious and hilarious ideas are published in the following paragraphs.
The winning entry is from Gareth Jones:
“Hi Scott. Here is a method for the cake trick. I spent at least half an hour on it, so I think it’s good.”
ANY CAKE CALLED FOR
You will need:
Spongeballs (bear with me)
Table servante, of the shelf-like variety
One large plain white sponge cake
Various food-based essences for baking or aromatherapy.
A cake trowel/spatula thing.
Scent plays a vital role in flavour. More than we realise! Try this: hold your nostrils shut with one hand, and bite into a juicy apple. Bland. While chewing, release your nostrils. You will experience a remarkable increase in flavour. Really try it out, it’s quite fun. Even the most limited flow of air into your various faceholes will “amplify” the flavour of whatever it is you are eating. This is why eating is unpleasant when you have a cold - your nose is blocked.
Instead of doing something like switching in various cakes, why not simplify things and switch in a scent?
Bake a large, plain cake. You are looking for a cake of Bruce Bogtrotter proportions. You can decorate it if you like. I’m no mentalist, but I’m sure it’s possible to psychologically force a certain flavour of cake by using certain decorations. Luke Jermay has yet to respond to my research request.
Dip each spongeball into a flavouring essence diluted with water and line them in the servante from left-to-right in a memorable order. In my performances, I use* (*lol) the following: vanilla, chocolate, lemon, raspberry, orange, elderflower, vanilla. I expect the flavours most likely chosen will differ based on who your audience is, and where you live. Only experience can help you there.
The cake is at the front of the table, a stack of plates between performer and cake. The plates are roughly in line with the first two-to-three spongeballs.
Follow the, erm, presentation on page 230 of The Hermit (Vol. 1, No. 5) until you are holding a massive splodge of cake in one fist. Actually don’t do that. It’s gross. Use the cake trowel/spatula thing to neatly slice a neat, but massive, slice of cake. Hold this up in cake display position with right hand as you ask the spectator to name a cake - your left hand naturally falls to the table edge, above the balls.
They will name their cake quickly - be ready to dump the slice backwards onto the top plate in your stack. Pick the plate up, and as if realising how heavy and unwieldy it is, place it down again behind the stack- At the same time, your left hand grabs the appropriate (or closest to appropriate) sponge ball.
Slide the cake plate back (it’s heavy) towards the left hand, which manipulates the ball up onto the plate, under the thumb and behind the cake. This is why the cake portion is large: you’re doing a bunch of stupid stuff that you need to hide, because while as an idea this method is interesting, as soon as I started typing I realised it is actually really, really bad.
At this point, you are in a position where you need to confirm or alter the choice of the spectator (“How about orange? Tangerines are out of season.”) You have all the time in the world to squeeze the sponge with your left hand, covering the plate with essence.
You don’t really need to, but I suggest you take a fork and cut the cake up a little bit, moving parts of it around the plate. This ensures a good distribution of essence. You are acting like you are helping the spectator by making the massive portion more comfortable for eating. Do NOT overdo it.
Hand the spectator the fork, and let them at it, holding the plate near their face to help them out. They will almost definitely choose a section you have cut for them. Ask the following, carefully worded question: “Is that orange, or what?!” They will be forced to say yes. The truth is, if they’ve got an essence-drenched bit of cake, it will be disgustingly but unquestionably orange. If they got a relatively unsoaked piece, the essence on the plate (which is near their head) will be strong enough to fill their faceholes and they’ll have a more enjoyable experience. Either way, you get a positive reply.
Take your applause.
Yes, it is possible to do a more traditional Any Cake Called For, where you give out plates of the same cake dosed with different scents. In my opinion, that would be simply overdoing it.
Having one vanilla sponge at each end of the servante gives you some flexibility. Often, a spectator will say “Raspberry and Vanilla” or “Lemon and Vanilla”. In which case, you can use the right hand to also add a ball to the plate.
You might ask what happens if a spectator chooses chocolate, when the cake is clearly white sponge. The answer is you get a free bonus effect! Ta-da!
Make sure the cake is moist and absorbent. You may be tempted to bake it dense, thinking it will more readily absorb flavour. This is not true.
Experiment with different essences and their concentration. The ones used for aromatherapy are probably good, but who knows if they are poisonous or not. Do your research and try not to hurt anyone.
The plot for Any Drink Called For is usually attributed to David Devant.
One method for Any Drink Called For uses glasses with a tiny amount of dye in the bottom, and the colour makes normal water look like the called-for drink. You could probably do this with essence in plates/bowls, instead of the stupid spongeballs stuff I wrote.
No jokes, this principle has been used by chefs in various ways for a long time. Molecular gastronomist (the chef version of a “Psychological Impossiblist”) Heston Blumethal takes it to the extreme by serving a plain ice cream with two different perfume atomizers with different flavoured scents. You give the air a little spritz and take a bit of ice cream. The results are whacky and quite magical.
The runner-up prize goes to this clever idea from EvilDan.
“Here are some solutions that vary slightly from the problem posed, so I don’t know if these even qualify, but the thinking exercise was fun to do! Great magic rag by the way!”
You cut a slice from a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting on a table, and place it in the middle of a serving tray. The cake is covered with a metal dome. The magician asks someone to name a cake, something besides vanilla with vanilla frosting.
They call something out.
The magician asks why they chose that particular cake. The dome is then lifted and the slice has now changed to their named cake.
This would be done with a mechanism that is the center of the metal platter on the table, that can be lowered below the stage. There, assistants with a wide variety of cake slices wait, listening for what the spectator calls out. The magician knows what he has, and if he doesn’t have exactly what they called out, he mentions another type of cake that he does have, and is pretty close.
The assistants remove the vanilla slice, replace it with the new slice, and send it back up under the table to be revealed.
Similar to the above except that the vanilla cake with vanilla frosting starts on the table under a metal cover. The cover is removed, the magician removes a handful of cake and the cover is replaced. The magician asks someone to name a cake, something besides vanilla with vanilla frosting.
The magician motions over the slice in his hand and nothing happens.
He motions again and then motions over to the metal dome.
He walks to the table, removes the metal dome and there is the named cake with a handful of cake taken out of it. The magician then puts his handful of cake in the missing area and smooths out the frosting with his fingers.
Same as above except the cake with the missing piece is the one that’s replaced, instead of the slice.