For Henri’s 7th birthday party he wants a Pitfall cake. As in Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. As in the old PS2 game all 4 of us at home play, and love.
This gave me a bit of a challenge. The most iconic visuals from Pitfall are, well, the pits. And Pitfall Harry swinging on vines. Pits would be easy enough to make, but vine-swinging? Hmm. This required a think.
My first thought was to make a framework that would go over the cake with vines and a little fondant Harry hanging down, but while I poked around at work, looking at unused frame displays, a new idea struck.
I found a 2-level display that got my creative juices flowing. In order to plan properly (and avoid scale mishaps like in the Diego & Dora cake) I took iPhone pics from a few angles and then printed them out really pale, so I could sketch over them and have a rough idea of what I wanted to do.
It’s difficult to photograph something clear but you can get a rough idea of my process here:
First I sketched my plan onto paper. You can sort of see in the first image that I have a brick wall with a balcony-like upper tier. The blue overhang is supposed to be a waterfall that flows down onto the cake below, and it’s not easy to see unless you click, but there’s a healing spring/fountain hidden behind the waterfall. Once happy with the sketch I needed to see if it would work, conceivably, and so I used some scrap paper and made a quick mock-up of where the actual cakes would go. There’s one layer of cake on the top tier, the ‘waterfall’ hanging down, and then a layer of cake the same height as the bottom tier, butted right up against it.
Okay… maybe there’s something here.
This was Thursday, and his party would be on the upcoming Sunday afternoon, so I knew I had to get started right away. After work I stopped at a bulk candy store for supplies like green sprinkles and extra fondant. I also picked up 2 cake boards. I usually use trays for my cakes but I didn’t know how well the stand would fit and I didn’t want to be limited by side edges. I bought 2 so I could ‘glue’ them together with icing, as I didn’t think 1 board would be strong enough to support the heavy cake.
Here’s the same paper mock-up at home, on the actual cake boards so I could test for fit. What I was hoping for, and am happy about, is that the board is long enough for me to extend the lower cake section beyond the paper template. I plan to have crocodiles in the water but hope for room to put a pit as well, and I think this will give me enough.
Next I cleaned the display stand and wrapped it in saran wrap, and used duct tape to block off the two open edges. I also cut 2 cardboard ovals to fit over the tiers, as they have large cut outs where the products are meant to sit. The top one will be used as a cake board, and the lower one will merely be covered in icing.
Next I tinted some white fondant to a beige-ish shade and rolled out enough to cover the back of the display…
…and then trimmed it to size. At this point I realized that even dampened, the fondant did not want to stick to the saran, and I removed all the coverings. D’oh. I make the mistakes, so you don’t have to.
Water-dampened fondant DID want to stick to the clean plastic stand just fine, luckily, and I covered the back with the large sheet, smoothing it down well against the back and around the edges, blending it out with my fingers. I did the same for the larger areas of the front as well, and then carefully wrapped one thick-ish piece around the open edge of the upper tier, smoothing it into place above and below while being VERY careful to not tear through the open front.
Once the fondant was secure I used a scoring tool to scribe a brick pattern into the fondant. I had to be careful to not pierce the open-fronted balcony edge, but for the rest it was all flush against the thick plastic, and I could press pretty hard if I needed.
For the back and the upper tier I did a rough approximation of a brick pattern found in the game, as seen in the background here:
I did the back first, then copied the dimensions over onto the front. For the lower tier, I wanted it to look more like a cave than a brick wall, so I wet the fondant and pressed on little pieces with my fingers, smoothing and adding more until I had something that resembled a natural rocky wall.
I also used the same beige fondant to cut out shapes to let harden. On the left are a sleeping croc for in the water, round pieces and a tiki head for the healing spring, and a croc’s open mouth with poor Harry struggling to break free. (Or, what I HOPE will look like that eventually). I tinted my remaining beige into a few shades of green and used a leaf-press cutter to punch out 2 sizes of leaves, which I set over the edge of a Styrofoam food tray (saved from buying vegetables) to dry. I also cut a few strands of tall grass but I’m not sure if I’ll end up using them.
At this point it was about 1am and I set everything aside to dry by the dehumidifier and went to bed, knowing the next few nights would probably be pretty late ones to get everything done in time.