I've been referring to this cake as "the dragon cake", but there was a lot more to it than just dragons. The bride wanted something very Chinese, and had ideas about the specific images that she wanted on it, then left the rest to me.
I used royal icing to build up the shapes of the dragons and phoenix on the middle tier, then painted them with food colors once the shapes were set. The cake also had royal icing rice paddy scenes on the bottom tier, gumpaste Chinese lanterns, and the skyline of Hong Kong with fireworks over it.
If I could make a cake like this every week, I'd be happy. Having the freedom to work on it as I went along, and not having to have everything planned out ahead of time is the way to get the best cake design. Sometimes you just have to have the creative license to do what works as you're doing it!