Copyright 2013 – Sweet Dreams Cake App/Michelle Davis – All Rights Reserved
I’ve been sharing my safari cake with you for the past couple of weeks. In my last post I explained how to bake jungle animal prints inside the cakes. Today I am going to talk about how I created some of the exterior elements. I’ll save the animal sculpting for next time but today I’ll talk about all the other pieces.
In case you forgot what the cake looked like as a whole, here it is:
Before I even started baking any of the cakes, I created all the 3D edible elements. I try to keep everything edible on my cakes; you won’t find plastic toys anywhere near them. I pride myself in this but when my kids were little they used to always complain to me about how they never got to have toys on their cakes like their friends. You just can’t win with kids! Anyway, I try to use modeling chocolate as much as possible because it is easy to work with and most everyone loves the taste. There are times, though, when modeling chocolate isn’t the best medium to use. If the cake is going to be in any sort of heat the chocolate will melt. Sometimes I need pieces to dry really hard so I have to use gumpaste. Also, if I want to paint with food coloring or use petal dust, fondant or gumpaste are sometimes a better option. You can still paint food coloring on chocolate but you need to mix it with some vegetable oil and it never really dries completely. You can also use petal dusts on it but they just seem to adhere nicer on fondant and gumpaste. Modeling chocolate can be purchased at cake supply stores or online. You can also make your own. Click here for a recipe for homemade modeling chocolate.
The tree that topped my safari cake was created out of both modeling chocolate and rice krispy treats. When I made the RKT (rice krispy treats) I added some green food coloring to the melted marshmallows to turn the batch green.
I started by building an internal support structure. I try to keep everything as edible as possible on my cakes but when you are building 3D pieces you often have to use dowels and wires as supports or your elements will fall apart. I took a wooden dowel and cut it about 3” longer than the height of the tree. The additional length allowed the bottom of the dowel to stick out so that I could stick it into Styrofoam while working on it and eventually stick it into the cake. I then wrapped two pieces of 18 gauge floral wire around the dowel to support the branches of the tree. To hold these in place I covered them with a layer of hot glue.
When my supports were complete I wrapped a layer of rice krispy treats around the dowel to create the girth of the trunk. It is best to use RKT while they are still warm so they can be shaped and molded. If they cool too much you can stick them in the microwave for a few seconds to heat them back up. Also, once you shape them, you can stick them in the freezer to quickly firm the back up. I then covered the RKTs in a layer of brown modeling chocolate to finish the trunk.
For the branches, I rolled out some modeling chocolate into logs, leaving one end thicker than the other. I then slid the log over the wire and pressed the thicker end of the log against the trunk of the tree. Using a veining tool, I blended the branch and trunk together. I then used the veining tool to create lines in the chocolate to give the tree texture. I was way too haphazard with my lines and should have taken the time to give them more direction instead of just marking up the whole tree. Oh well, as with every cake, there are always things I wish I had done differently.
To finish off the tree, I shaped some RKTs into mounds and attached them to the branches and tree trunk with some melted chocolate. Whenever I work with chocolate I always keep some candy melts in a melting pot next to me so that I have melted chocolate whenever I need it to attach pieces.
The RKTs helped reduce some of the weight of the tree but it was still fairly heavy so when I placed it on the cake I inserted a couple of dowels into the cake, just underneath the trunk, as you would if you were adding an upper tier. This kept it from sinking into the cake as it sat.
The sign was really easy to make. I started by just rolling out a piece of modeling chocolate and then pressing a wood board texture sheet on top of it, using a fondant smoother to apply even, firm pressure.
The resulting wood board indentions made it easy to cut out individual boards for the pieces of the sign. Using a long board for the base of the sign, I slid it onto a wire so that I could eventually stick it in the cake.
I then cut the additional boards smaller and trimmed their ends to make them pointed. I attached each of these boards to the base with a dab of melted chocolate. The writing was painted on by hand with a very fine paint brush and some white food coloring. Usually you have to mix your food coloring with vegetable oil before painting on chocolate but white coloring is already very liquid. I was able to use it directly without adding anything to it.
The Number Topper
My niece was turning six and she was very proud of how old she had become so I wanted to make sure and announce her age somewhere on the cake. Since I was placing bamboo in other places around the cake I thought it would look neat to keep the bamboo look on the top and create a big “6” out of it.
I had to use gumpaste to assure that the shape would hold up and not crack or become malformed. Whenever you create things out of gumpaste, be sure to give them 2-3 days to dry completely. The techniques I used to create the bamboo look are described below in the Bamboo section. Once I molded the bamboo shape I formed it into a “6” then stuck it on to a dowel, adding a dab of melted chocolate for glue.
Here is how it looked after brushing it with petal dust and adding some food coloring markings. See below for explanations on coloring the bamboo.
I placed it on some waxed paper, dusted with cornstarch, and let it dry for several days before I messed with it again.
The animal prints really made this cake pop. I used a couple of different techniques to create the zebra and leopard prints on two separate cakes.
I didn’t take any pictures while I was applying the zebra stripes so I’ll just try to explain what I did. First, I rolled out some black fondant really thin then continued to thin it out by running it through my pasta roller. I then laid the fondant piece on a cutting mat and used a sharp knife to cut out individual zebra stripes. I didn’t use a pattern or anything, just free handed it. I carefully lifted the pieces onto the cake and smoothed them down with my fingers. They attached really easily but if I had any pieces that needed additional adhesive, I just brushed a little water underneath the stripe and that made sure it stayed in place. I didn’t place stripes in the area on top of the cake where the top tier would sit. It is best to keep your cake surface as smooth and flat as possible if you are going to be placing another cake on it.
The leopard print was made by hand painting the spots directly onto the cake. I had never painted leopard spots before so I started by doing a search on Youtube for an instructional video on painting leopard spots. Art videos and books are so helpful with cake decorating. I covered my cake with an ivory fondant then used a round paint brush and some warm brown food coloring, thinned with vodka, to paint large and small spots all over the cake. As with the zebra stripes, I didn’t paint any spots on the area where the top tier would set on top of the cake.
I then went back around to all the spots and used some black food coloring, also thinned with vodka, and painted the black outline. This is one of those times in painting when it is okay to have a shaky hand. You actually want to slightly wiggle your paint brush as you apply the black so that it doesn’t produce sharp lines. To keep it looking natural you also want to vary how much of the spot you enclose in the black. Some spots I completely wrapped in black, others I only partially wrapped.
I finished the print by adding some additional small black spots in between the larger spots. Again, you want these to be shaky so be sure to wiggle your brush as you paint.
The bamboo was one of my favorite parts of the cake. I really loved the feel it gave to everything. When making the number 6 topper and the row of stalks around the base, I used gumpaste, but for the borders I just used fondant since I wanted to the cake to be easy to cut and I also wanted to bend it around the cake after coloring it and I was afraid gumpaste would dry too much and crack. It was definitely easier to mold and color the pieces that were made from the gumpaste, especially since the fondant ones tended to stretch and lose their shape a little as I unmolded them. They worked out just fine though since they were just borders and weren’t a real visible part of the cake.
I found some bamboo molds on Etsy and really loved them. The neat thing about these molds is that the seller also posted a Youtube video on how to use them and how to realistically color your bamboo. In the video she makes green bamboo but I wanted mine to be more yellowish so I did my coloring a bit different.
To mold the bamboo, I colored some gumpaste a pale golden yellow then rolled it into a log about the width and length of the mold. I then firmly pressed the log into the mold. You can see this done in the Youtube video. After flipping the mold upside down I carefully pressed on top of it to release the gumpaste, starting at one end and working down the length of the bamboo. For the pieces I was going to place around the base of the cake, I immediately cut them into varying lengths and allowed them to set and dry. The fondant border pieces I colored immediately then places around the cake, attaching with some water.
To color the pieces, I started by using a flat brush and some cocoa colored petal dust (you could also just use cocoa powder). I laid the tip of the brush on the segment line of the bamboo then brushed downward. You have to be careful not to get too much dust on your brush or it gets too dark on the bamboo. If you do apply it too heavy you can keep brushing over it to help spread it and remove some of it.
I then went over each of the segment lines with a round brush and a darker brown petal dust. This made the segment lines really stand out.
I finished them off by mixing some of the dark brown petal dust with some vodka and using a fine brush to paint a thin line on each segment. I also added some random markings along the length of the bamboo as you can see in the bottom bamboo piece in the picture.
When the base bamboo pieces had completely dried, I attached them to my baseboard (which is just a 2″ cake dummy covered in fondant) using melted chocolate.
The final thing I’ll talk about today is the jungle leaves on the sides of the cake.
These I made by coloring fondant three different shades of greens. I rolled out the fondant very thin then used my rose leaf cutters, both a large and smaller one, to cut out leaf shapes. I then placed each leaf in my leaf veiner to add the veins.
Jungle leaves are much more jagged than rose leaves so I took a knife and cut additional pieces out of each leaf to give it a more rugged look. I then attached them to the cake with some water, placing larger leaves in the back and smaller ones in the front.
My favorite was the mound on the left side of the cake since I had the giraffe eating from them.
There! I’ve covered a whole bunch today and my brain is now fried from trying to remember everything. I hope it all makes sense. If you have any questions always feel free to post them in the comments and I will be happy to answer them.
Next time I’ll talk about animal sculpting.
Until then, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.