Woah. Do you see that picture? I made that.
No, I haven't been hiding secret cake-ninja skills from everyone. This was my first fondant cake. Lest you think I'm talented enough to whip this kind of thing up in a single afternoon check out the schedule of work it involved. It took a solid week of planning, researching techniques, and reckless experimentation to make this cake. And I'm so proud of it!! :)
I've mentioned my boss, friend, and cake expert Erin before. She happens to be great with child and when I saw the jungle theme on her baby shower invitations I just knew I had to make this cake for her. I'd been looking at some inspiration pictures at CakeCentral.com and fell in love with this design.
I knew it would be a huge undertaking for me because I'd never covered a cake with fondant, never made gumpaste figures, never made a stacked cake that I actually served to anyone, etc. But, with some serious help from MyCakeSchool.com, I learned to do all that and more. I'd also learned some major lessons from my wedding cake project: it really is important to refrigerate the cakes before decorating them, I don't like using thin wooden dowels, working with totally flat layers is really important, etc. MyCakeSchool is a website that requires a $30 subscription, but hosts a huge range of video tutorials, recipes, inspiration photos, and practical advice. Most cake books cost more than $30, so I think it's a great value. Even if you're not a die-hard baker I'd recommend her blog, which is free and is full of adorable ideas.
Since the gumpaste animals can't spoil or go stale I decided to start them a week before the shower. In fact, these little figures are sitting on baby Zeke's nursery shelf now and can stay there as long as he wants them. I have a bad habit of thinking I know how to do something until it comes time to actually do it (when I realize I have no idea what I'm doing!). So I was incredibly fortunate to find that Melissa at MyCakeSchool.com has video tutorials on how to make gumpaste lions, monkeys, and elephants. Thank goodness!
So, I spent the first two nights of this endeavor making the animals. In case you're not familiar with gumpaste, it's like fondant, but more rigid and dries harder. I followed the instructions to form my animals on lollipop sticks for bases. They turned out way better than I expected, but took for-ev-er! In Melissa's videos she takes about 10 minutes to make one animal from start to finish. It took me about 2 hours for each one!
Once my figures were finished it was time to get baking! Since it was a boy cake I wanted to stay away from delicate, fruity flavors and go for something bold instead. So, I browsed MyCakeSchool's selection of recipes and decided on sour cream chocolate cake with peanut butter-chocolate chip filling and chocolate buttercream frosting. YUM!
Since I like the look of an extra-wide bottom tier I chose to use 10-inch and 6-inch pans. The process was just like it was for the wedding cake, except I used different recipes to fill and frost the cake.
Once I'd filled and frosted my layers, I coated them with a thin layer of Italian buttercream. This was a tip from Erin's husband and cake assistant, Brad. The white frosting kept the chocolate from showing through the light fondant and also kept me from smudging brown fingerprints on everything.
At this point, my tiers were ready to be covered in fondant, decorated, and stacked. I'll be back with those steps soon! But what do you think so far?