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    Other Thoughts

    Animal Cakes

    March 1, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap] used to think that animal cakes were to be feared. I can’t draw an animal very well, so why would I be able to make a cake look like an animal? What I have found, however, is that if you find good instructions somewhere, animals are all one color {or two at the most}, which makes for easy, fast frosting jobs. I’m not great at making cakes so I did consider buying plain sponge cake bases to decorate. I’ve used them before and they’re so easy!!

    And that, my friends, is why you should entertain your children’s suggestions of animals cakes, should they make any.


    How We Plan a Cake

    For those of you who care, I have a “system” for planning cakes. Pinterest has definitely come in handy for me as more and more often I am collecting ideas online rather than on paper.

    With that said, usually a child begins to mention their cake two months before their birthday. Sometimes they start with insane ideas, like an airplane cake that really flies. That is when I remind them I am not magic.

    Once they have it narrowed down to one or two ideas, I go online and find pictures of cakes fitting the description that I think I can actually make. Once I have a decent collection of images, I show them to the child. Sometimes, we combine two images, but usually we stick to one…which I embellish if necessary.


    The Rabbit Cake

    I don’t know why Daughter Q. got it into her head that she wanted a rabbit for her 5th birthday cake, but she did. I showed her two or three cakes that would be simple for me, and she chose an Easter rabbit cake. I took out the Eastery stuff, and added a carrot at her request. I really didn’t want to put a carrot on there; I didn’t think it was pretty. But it was her day, so there you have it: carrot next to rabbit cake.

    A couple things about this cake. First, we skipped the coconut because she didn’t want it on the frosting. It probably would have been cuter with it, though. Also, I added the candy and paper ears right before the party. I have learned my lesson with paper details: they soak up moisture from the frosting and look terrible if you do it too early one. Better to wait until the last minute.

    The standard instructions for this cake say to use one round cake, sliced in half. Well, that is very nice, but we had enough guests coming over that this was not enough cake. One option would have been to make two cakes, or one cake and some plain cupcakes. I simply used two round cakes and made a fat bunny. He he.


    The Horse Cake

    I trembled in my boots when Daughter A. mentioned a horse cake. Seriously, I thought it couldn’t be done by the likes of someone like me. As impressive as my cakes may look at times, they are usually easy enough to do if you have the right tools. I am no fondant artist, for instance.

    Thankfully, Family Fun Magazine had a wonderful design that pleased Daughter A. to no end. My only complaint is that so many of these cakes that use candy for detailing call for “shoestring licorice.” Where in the world would a person buy some of that? I have never seen it when I’m shopping in a normal store, or even a cake decorating store. Someone out there made this stuff up, right? Ahem. Anyhow, I finally bought some Wilton black frosting that comes in a tube and is designed to work with my decorating tip. A very small round tip made for a pencil-thin solution. To make it look like a rope, I drew a straight line first, then added two wavy lines {alternating with each other} to imitate the braiding. It worked fine.

    And can I say that I love that my grocer has bulk candy? We literally bought one black jelly bean for the nose. {Great Gran happened to have two red Lifesavers in her purse when I was talking about the cake.} The eye is not a candy. It is just a circle of black frosting, with white frosting, and then a mini chocolate chip for the pupil.

    It’s hard to believe I’ve made this girl seven birthday cakes over the years. Where does time go?


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  • Reply Rahime March 5, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I think with fondant, it depends on what you do with it. It is basically like modeling clay, so if you’re just doing little things (my friend and I recently made a beehive cake and made the bees out of fondant) and accents with it, it can be great…not too time-consuming, but rather time-saving. If you’re thinking rolled fondant covering the whole cake and then intricate designs on top of that, yeah, probably more work than it’s worth (and icky tasting).

    One thing that we worked with in the cake decorating class we took last summer was royal icing. That stuff is amazing. You can make all kinds of decorations and keep them for ages (also not my favorite to actually eat, but just tastes like hardened sugar). Also, a mix of half fondant and half gumpaste is easy to work with.

    Brandy, I love your cakes. They always turn out great!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts March 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

      I totally agree that fondant is great for accents! Once upon a time, I made a garden cake for E., and all the vegetables were make out of Starburst and other candies with that same texture. It was time consuming because even though they were accents, there were a lot of them! But the cake would NEVER have looked as nice had I tried to do it with frosting.

      The new thing seems to be to wrap the cakes entirely in fondant and do all the decor with fondant, too, and that is what I am resisting. It is more like sculpture, which I admire, but I just can’t eat it! 🙂

      Royal icing is something I want to learn more about. I remember one time reading instructions on how to use it to pre-write inscriptions and then lift them off of wax paper and plop them on the cake at the end. I don’t mind making mistakes, but it would be nice to take extra care with the writing!

  • Reply Kansas Mom March 4, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Ok, I know I keep leaving random comments on blog posts, but I saw this book trailer and immediately thought you’d enjoy it:

  • Reply Trisha March 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    These are great!! My daughter would especially love making the horse one with me. I made a fondant covered Hungry Caterpillar for one of my children’s 1st birthday. It took so much time, though. These look much more manageable.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts March 2, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks, Trisha! Yes–I think fondant is very time consuming. Some of the frosted cakes I have made ended up taking more time than I expect, but I generally try to pick cakes that I think will not keep me up until after midnight the night before the party. 🙂

      And I don’t really like the taste of fondant, but that is just me. 🙂

      The fondant cake designs are all the rage right now, it seems, and they really are adorable, but I still stick to the older-fashioned frosted jobs, myself.

  • Reply Anonymous March 2, 2012 at 12:20 am

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