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How to make a Fortnite Loot Lake cube cake

Today’s Henri’s 13th birthday and we’ve made it to his big, first “double-digits” birthday cake. Not only was Fortnite massive at the end of 2018/early 2019, but the Loot Lake cube event had just taken place and when asked what theme he wanted for his cake that year, there was zero hesitation. Easy for him to decide, but I’ll admit it took me a moment to figure out how to put it into action!

In the end I went with a cake that represented Loot Lake with the cube starting to submerge, and one of the wooden panels with Henri’s name on it. If curious about the cubes, you can read up on them here. You can actually watch the cube hit and go under here.

At this point this should be really familiar reading, but once again a few days before his party I baked cakes and prepared them as per my usual method. I also prepared my fondant pieces so they would have time to harden.

For the wooden panel I printed out his name in the Fortnite font and cut a rectangle around it with my dull blade cutter, freehanding the perpendicular planks.

I also cut out 6 1-inch squares to use for the cube. The grid on my measuring mat was perfect for this!

…except that it was too annoying to assemble the panels into a cube so instead I squished them all back together with some extra fondant and cut a 1″ cube out of the larger chunk.

I used my adjustable circle cutter to cut out a disk of fondant the same diameter as the top of my cake. I’d link it but can’t find it for sale any longer. I wonder if that’s because it isn’t that great – and tends to leave unsightly divots in the center of your fondant (like in the above image). You can either freehand cut a circle using a mat with markings like mine, or trace around your cake pan or same-sized bowl and cut that out instead.

At this point I set aside all the fondant pieces to air-dry, turning a few times daily so all sides could dry well.

The night before the party I levelled, torted and crumb-coated the cake as per my tutorial linked above.

While the cake was chilling in the fridge I painted the nameplate with gel colors diluted in vodka, using a quick version of my painting fondant to look like wood tutorial (another version of the wood also found here). I also cut an angled slice off of the cube so it could sit flush against the top of the cake and still look submerged, and inserted a bamboo skewer to help it anchor to the cake later.

The cake got a clean layer of white icing and then the fondant disk was placed on top so it would adhere well.

I used the back of a food-only paintbrush to lightly score demarcation lines for where the cube’s magical effect would spread to, using the game screenshots as color and placement references. (Oh yeah- the cube is magical. It turned the lake bouncy). I also gathered my supplies for food painting: more gel colors in my required colors, white icing tint, sparkle gel, water with a syringe, my gel paint palette, toothpicks, food-only paintbrushes and icing sugar to be the base of my “paint”.

To create the lake I added blue gel colors to some icing sugar and used a syringe to add water until I got a consistency similar to paint. The syringe helps avoid adding too much water at a time, but if it does get too watery you can thicken it back up with more icing sugar. Once it looked right I painted the lake blue, stopping at the demarcation line and feathering slightly over the edge so it wouldn’t be sharp or precise.

I mixed up more of the same color but runnier (similar to flood consistency, if you decorate cakes) and applied it all over the same sections, allowing it to self-level. Then I left the cake to set for 15 minutes.

Next I mixed up more icing paint in white and light blue and put dabs of each in an alternating pattern around the inner circle’s edge before using a toothpick to swirl them together. It’s ok if the darker blue bleeds into them a bit, as this was meant to be the edge where the lake water meets the rubberized water and has the magic glow effect.

To add more magical “oomph” I added sparkle gel around the edge, overlapping into the darker blue. Then I set it aside for another 15 minutes.

For the center where the lake has already transformed, first I mixed up a medium purple shade with a lot of the sparkle gel mixed in, as well as a lighter purple and white with sparkle. I filled the center circle with the medium purple and while it was still wet I dripped in the two lighter colors and swirled them gently. Once I was happy with how it looked I set it aside for another 15 minutes.

I tinted some vanilla icing green for the grassy land around the lake and covered the sides of the cake, slightly overlapping the disk on top to hide the fondant edges. I then textured the top bit to look more like grass. You can pipe around the base of the cake if desired (I’d run out of icing, oops).

I mixed up a darker purple for the cube and a brighter pink to be the glowing light where the cube touched the water, and painted the cube itself. Allow to dry for 15 minutes by either holding it (and enjoying a little break!) or you can push the skewer into a scrap chunk of fondant or styrofoam.

Tip: Save a bit of the dark purple in case you need to touch up the cube after you stick it on the cake.

Even though my fondant was white to start, I decided to paint over Henri’s name with the Wilton White-White. It doesn’t show much in the pic, but in person it made it much brighter.

The last step is to push the skewer into the cake and then the Fortnite Loot Lake cube cake is done!

I’d used a bit too much water in one of my purples, so the next day you can see that it cratered a bit when it dried down. But I’m still super pleased with how it turned out! I love the glowy swirl where the lake meets the “magic” and it really does look like the cube is sinking into the water.

Plus Henri was really happy with it, which was the most important part! ❤

I’ve had questions before about whether fondant topper painting adds extra thickness to the top of a cake, and as you can see from the cross-section, it really doesn’t.

Henri’s other birthday cakes

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Neko Atsume Snowball Cake

A few years ago one of the games the kids were obsessed with was Neko Atsume. They loved collecting all the little cats and their toys and taking in-game Polaroids of the kitties doing cute things. Snowball was Henri’s favorite, and on his 9th birthday he asked for a Snowball pic cake.

First thing I did, as always, was to bake the cakes a few days before his party.

He couldn’t decide between cherry chip or vanilla cakes so I made one of each then set them aside to stay moist until time to decorate.

Next I made the fondant topper. Just as for the Tem Shop cake I like to make my fondant toppers in advance as well so they have time to harden and set before placing on the cake.

I’m a big proponent of using references, so once again I found a reference image and scaled it to my desired size. I couldn’t find one with the specific pose Henri wanted (Snowball holding the red ball) so I found separate references and combined them myself into one.

On the same day I baked the cakes I also rolled out some white fondant and cut it to the size of my Polaroid. I let it air dry until the night before the party, when I sat down to finish the cake.

I used a pin tool to lightly sketch the cat outline in place by tracing the Snowball cut out onto my fondant. Then I used edible ink markers to color in the image, finishing with black for the cartoon-look outline.

Using a reference image is a really great way to help get a result that you’re happy with!

I set the topper aside so the ink could dry and then it was time to focus on the cake! First step was to levelled and tort each cake, then stack them into place.

The trimmed bits of cake freeze really well for future snacking, or you can crumble them up and mix with your leftover icing to make cake pops (which also freeze well for future snacking!).

First the cake gets a crumb coat (above) and then later a second, clean layer of icing.

I applied the topper to the still-moist icing and then the cake was done!

The fondant topper doesn’t add too much extra thickness to the top of the cake and does not need to be removed for slicing. It’s also easily removable from the slice for anyone who doesn’t like the taste.

Henri’s other birthday cakes

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Candy Cake

If you’re ever in need of a quick and easy cake decorating idea, do what we did for the family cake for Henri’s 9th birthday and cover it in candy! (Technically “chocolates”, though the Smarties count as both).

Bake your cake(s) and prepare them for decorating with your preferred methods (or follow my tutorial).

While the crumb coat is setting up, prepare your chosen candies and chocolates. As Henri’s birthday is in January, I used Smarties, Aeros and KitKats left over from Hallowe’en. Unwrap everything and crush up anything you want to use crushed (like my Aeros). You want everything ready and at hand while the next layer of icing is still wet, so it will stick well.

Add a clean layer of icing to the cake on top of your chilled crumb coat, and then stick your candies into place. Lining the edges in Smarties is fun, easy and colorful. You can sort by colors and place in a pattern (as I did here) or you can use them randomly as with this cake (or this example).

Finally, you can decorate the top. Use KitKat bars to spell out an initial or age and fill in the remaining surface with crushed Aeros. Pat down gently with a clean, dry hand to embed the little chocolate bits into the icing well, so they don’t fall off when you move or transport the cake.

Candy and cake make a great combination and the great taste will belie just how easy this is to put together for any holiday or occasion.

Henri’s other birthday cakes


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How to make an Undertale Tem Shop Cake

Henri is going to be 13(!!) on Saturday, so between now and then I’m going to share some of his past birthday cakes that haven’t hit the blog yet, with full tutorials for the ones that are possible. First up is this Tem Shop cake from his 8th birthday, back in 2017

The kids (and I, if I’m being honest) were bit hard by the huge phenomena that was Toby Fox’s Undertale. The name “Flowey” instantly evokes a bigger horrorscape than the trippy sequence in Fantasia, we use “determination” in more sentences than appropriate and often have Megalovania and the rest of the incredible soundtrack on repeat. For a while Henri’s favorite character was Temmie and in addition to adding “Hoi!” to nearly everything he said, he was determined to have a Tem Shop birthday cake.

A few days before his party I baked up 2 cakes in my usual way and set them aside so I could work on the fondant toppers.

I found a reference image from the game online:

Then I resized it to the scale of my cakes, using the baking dish as a guide.

The bottom third of the cake would be the black text box that’s always present on screen, so I scaled my reference image to fit 2/3 of the cake and printed it out.

I rolled out some white fondant onto my Wilton measuring mat, using my roller with spacers to get an even thickness. Then I used the blade tool from my gum paste tool set to carefully cut out each piece.

I set the pieces aside for a few days, flipping them over about twice per day, so they would harden. The more moisture that gets removed from the fondant prior to painting the better, since painting will add moisture and I don’t want the sugar to melt down.

Anytime I do fondant painting (ex: Minecraft cake, Charlie & Lola cake, Skylanders cookies, Montreal Canadiens cake) I always like to assemble all my supplies within reach. This includes the paintbrushes and palette I use exclusively for food, Wilton and AmeriColor gel colors, a small jar of vodka for diluting icing gels, toothpicks for getting the gels out of the tubs, plus icing sugar for thickening my homemade edible “paints”.

Gel colors dilute super easily, so a tiny dab on a palette is often all you’ll need for beautiful, rich colors.

I painted each piece to match its in-game counterpart. Most are easy enough to eyeball but if ever you’re not sure of dimensions you can sketch lightly over the reference with the tip of a pin and emboss guide lines into the fondant.

Once the pieces were touch-dry I prepared the cake itself. First I gave it a crumb coat.

Then I tinted some icing to match the wood background of the shop and applied it over the shop section of the cake, making sure to apply it thick enough to lightly carve into without reaching the cake below.

I used a toothpick to score lines for the wood wall then diluted some brown gel color and carefully flooded it into the grooves.

The final touch was to add some nail heads, and the wall portion was done.

After that I tinted icing black for the text box.

Pro tip: if you start with chocolate icing (instead of white vanilla) you’ll use much less black coloring, which will avoid any bitter taste in the icing.

I covered the remaining part of the cake in black, and then added the figures, and then finished up the outside and edges of the cake with white icing to clean everything up.

If you add the fondant toppers while the icing is still moist, they’ll stick in place without issue. If your icing has already started to crust over then you can paint a little bit of water on the back of the fondant and that will adhere it in place. Try to avoid getting too close to the edges with the water, so it doesn’t leak out around the edges and cause bleeding onto the base icing.

Final step was to use a set of mini alphabet cutters to cut out the message in Temmie’s mixed-caps word style.

Again, for reference, here’s the image of the Tem Shop in the game:

and my cake:

RATED TEM OUT OF TEM 🙂

Henri’s other birthday cakes

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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How to Make a Wedding Dress Cake

Three-years ago today my baby sister Laura got married. Since I never shared the cake I’d made for her bridal shower, here’s a full step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own Barbie/Fashion Doll wedding dress cake!

One important step that often gets overlooked is transport. As I’d be driving the cake to the party, before even starting to bake I had to make sure I had a way to bring the cake with me safely. First I selected the platter I wanted to use – in this case a pizza oven tray – and made sure I had a box that fit. This crate saved from a Costco run worked perfectly. I used scissors to cut one of the sides so I could flatten it and slide the cake in, and the packing tape was there to re-tape the box again for the ride.

Once I knew I had a way to get the cake to the party I was able to plan the cake itself. My mom and I had spent an afternoon looking for a brunette Barbie/generic “Fashion Doll” that would resemble my sister. Knowing the doll’s height allowed me to plan how many cakes I’d need to bake. I used a Wilton “Wonder Mold” dress pan to bake a vanilla cake and added height with an additional chocolate cake baked in a pan that matched the width of the dress mold.

Note- as this is a very picture-heavy post I tried to group as many together as possible. You can click on any image to view it larger if desired.

As explained in my “How to bake a cake” post, I always bake a few days in advance. Optional: make a simple syrup by boiling together an equal amount of white sugar and water and set that aside to cool completely. While it’s cooling prepare a few batches of buttercream icing using your favorite recipe. I used Wilton’s. You can flavor them as you like; in my case most of it was left plain but I took out enough to fill the chocolate cake and mixed in crushed Oreo cookies to make an Oreo icing. After the syrup is fully cooled, tort and fill each cake (I like using my favorite cake leveling helper) adding a drizzle of syrup to the layers to keep the cake moist until the party. For mine, the chocolate cake was split into two layers with the Oreo icing in between, and the vanilla cake was split into three with the plain vanilla icing. Don’t forget to “glue” your cake to your platter of choice with a dollop of icing.

You can see the significant height difference achieved by torting & filling the cakes!

Once the cake base was ready I used watercolor pencils to change the doll’s eyes to match my sister (using techniques from Poppen Atelier) and tucked the doll’s hair up to keep it out of the way. I also wrapped her lower body in saran wrap. It’s an optional step but as I wanted my sister to be able to keep the doll it made it easier to keep it clean.

Decide where the doll would be inserted and use a knife to carve out a channel for her legs. Note- I didn’t realize my channel was off-center. This resulted in the dress looking bulkier in the front than the back. Just something to keep in mind when making your own.

Then cover the cake using the remaining icing. Smooth it but don’t stress about making it too even as it won’t be seen later. Once fully covered, roll out white fondant to a diameter matching the height of the cake, doubled. Using a rolling pin with levelers can help keep your work even.

Cover the cake base with the fondant and trim the lower edge. Use a separate piece of fondant to make a dress bodice and moisten the inside with a bit of water to help adhere it to the doll, then insert the doll. To finish prepping the dress, roll out a fondant snake to fill in the gap between the dress and bodice, and smooth to blend evenly.

If you are planning to have wording around the base of the cake platter, cut out your fondant letters now so they have a chance to harden. We were having the party right after my sister’s birthday so I cut out the words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRIDE-TO-BE” and brushed them with gold “paint” made by mixing pearl dust with vodka. Tip: use a medicine syringe for easy dispensing of small amounts of vodka to avoid over-diluting your dust and needing to add more.

Now you’re ready to work on the dress’ ruffles. Be forewarned – this takes a long time. Cake decorating always does, but looking at timestamps from my images I can see the ruffles portion alone took about 3.5 hours. (It also adds a lot of extra weight to the cake which is partly why I used the pizza tray as my platter – I didn’t want to take a chance on a plastic platter cracking under the weight).

Roll out a piece of fondant and cut it into strips. My Wilton fondant mat was really helpful here for easily cutting at 1-inch intervals. Cut enough strips so that you’re not stopping too often but not so many that they stiffen or harden too much to be usable by the time you get to them.

You will need a ball tool and shaping foam mat in order to make the ruffles. Note: I’ve deliberately darkened the contrast & shadows in this image to show you the ruffle texture. Using the ball tool, roll over one edge of your fondant strip to thin and flare it out. Don’t go so thin that it tears through. As I was making my dress have an ombre effect, I used more pearl dust gold “paint” to add sheen to the ruffled edge. Don’t bother painting the flat edge as it won’t be seen.

Use water and a food-only paintbrush to moisten the back of the ruffle’s flat edge and add it to the cake. You can use a smoothing tool or your fingers to help secure.

For the ombre effect, vary the tone of your colors as you go. In my case I lowered the ratio of gold pearl dust to vodka as I went, so the lower tiers have a darker gold shine and it fades to white as it goes upwards.

Repeat the process until you’ve covered the whole cake. Just like when icing or other decorating, a turntable is REALLY helpful during this process.

On your final layer, smooth out the ruffle’s flat edge to blend into the bodice.

Make sure to smooth it on all sides. You can stop there or add decorative finishing details.

I added a gold paint trim and a fondant “belt”, and then sewed some gold tulle fabric into place as a veil using thread that matched the doll’s hair color. I also added the doll’s original gold bracelet.

Add your lettering (if using) and you’re done!

Here you can see how I’d accidentally offset the doll’s placement. I would prefer to have her centered, or at least have the extra pouf in the back, but I didn’t realize until too late. A good reminder to always view your cake from all angles, not just the front!

Make sure to leave yourself enough time to decorate! I wound up finishing the cake at around 5:00am and had to be at the bridal shower by 11:30 to help set up.

I slid the cake into the box and then taped the front back up into place using packing tape. This made it really easy to carry the box around and the dab of icing under the cakes guaranteed it didn’t slide around on the platter.

The cake slices do wind up very tall, but it did give the option of splitting a piece so one person could have the vanilla half and the other the chocolate.

As a bonus for those who made it this far down, here’s a pic of my sister at her wedding. 🙂

I hope this post helps someone create their own wedding dress cake! The customization options are endless, and you can really have fund with the details.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Same-Size Fondant Balls Trick

It’s National Cake Decorating Day today so I’ve decided to share a project from my personal archives along with a tip to help you level up your cake decorating skills.

A few years ago I made this baby shower cake for one of my sister’s friends.

I didn’t take too many progress pictures so I can’t share a visual step-by-step, but the process is pretty similar for most of my cakes. A few days before the event I bake the cake(s) and then wrap them in saran while still warm to trap in the moisture while they cool down.

I’ve already shared a full post breaking down every step of baking a cake and getting it ready to decorate, and I followed the same steps for this cake except I covered the layers with fondant instead of icing.

The step that took the longest with this cake was to create the fondant topper. The dad-to-be is a hockey player so I was asked if I could create a baby ice skate for the top. It’s fully fondant except for the lace, and I made it about a week in advance so it would have plenty of time to dry out and harden before the party. I wanted the skate on a long skewer to make it easy to slide securely into the cake after delivery so I put the skate and blade together while soft so I could slide the skewer in and make sure the holes were lined up, but then I took them apart to dry separately. I didn’t want the weight of the skate to distort the blade before it was fully set up.

When there is going to be a lot of weight on a cake it’s important to have enough support in the lower layers so the cake doesn’t sag. First I covered the lower layer in a base of baby blue and then I broke a dowel into 5 pieces to create a support to hold the weight of the upper tier. I didn’t want to take a chance on any splinters getting into the cake so there’s a cut length of straw around each dowel. I also made a note for the recipient letting them know how many supports there were so there would be no chance of a guest receiving more than they bargained for on their plate.

I don’t have progress pics of the decoration itself but it’s fairly simple – the base tier was covered in strips of fondant in various shades of blue and white and then topped with a disk of gray on top to clean up the edges and hide the supports. The top tier was covered with white fondant and then fondant circles of blues and gray in assorted sizes. To get the smaller circles I used an assortment of cookie cutters as well as straws of varying thicknesses.

This is where the tip comes in! When creating a fondant pearl border for the cakes the easiest way to make sure you get all your balls the same size is to use a cutter to cut out identical pieces of fondant before rolling. You can use a straw for really small pearls or a cookie cutter like I did to get larger ones, or any size in between! It’s super fast and easy and eliminates the guesswork of judging how large a piece of fondant you’ll need to roll. You can use the same tip for clay work as well!

As you can see with my pearls, there’s still a tiny bit of variance. This is because I didn’t roll my fondant to the same thickness each time. I’d advise using guide rings on your fondant roller to get the same thickness every time.

I added 2 more circles of blue on top to give a contrast for the skate, and then the cake was ready for pick-up.

My box wasn’t tall enough for the cake so I used 2 skewers to hold the lid in place, and set the skate in a bed of paper towel in the plastic container from a package of strawberries. The holes in the plastic were perfect to slip the skewer that was inserted in the skate through.

Here’s the finished cake. I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

I also really love this image I was sent of the cake in place among the other desserts at the shower. ♥

Here’s an easy-to-pin reference image for those who don’t already follow me on Pinterest. 🙂

Hopefully this little trick will help out the next time you’ve got to make a whole bunch of identically-sized fondant (or clay) balls!

Note: Today is also World Mental Health Day. This year’s Mental Health campaign is focused on showcasing the efforts various countries have made to bring mental health care to their populations, especially during the pandemic. For more information about the campaign, please click here, and if you’d like to donate to the World Federation for Mental Health you can do so here.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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How to Bake a Cake and Prepare it for Decorating

Henri’s 10th* birthday party was last weekend, and while I’m not a professional by any means, I have made enough cakes by now (not to mention the 40 or so ones I’ve yet to post) that I often get asked for tips or help.  So I decided to put together a step-by-step guide on how I prepare a cake for decorating.** 

I’ll get more into the “how to bake a cake” part in a future post, as there are a lot of little tweaks and tips for the baking part itself…but this post will cover specifically how to prepare a basic cake for decorating.

Note #1- I typically bake my cakes 1-2 days prior to when I plan to decorate, which – depending on the desired outcome – is 1-2 days prior to the cake’s due date. (IE: if the cake is for Sunday, I’ll bake it Thurs or Fri night, then decorate Saturday night. If it’s a very involved, sculptural cake, I might bump those dates back a day each to leave more time for decorating.)

Before you can bake the cake, you need to prepare your pan. This step ensures you’ll be able to remove the cake from the pan once it’s baked. Some people line their pans with parchment, but I use this method:

  • Grease the pan’s bottom and sides with either Pam, margarine, or butter
  • Drop a tablespoon of flour onto the greased pan
  • Over the sink (I learned the hard way) slowly rotate and tilt the pan until the flour fully coats the bottom and sides, tapping if necessary to move things along
  • Make sure it’s fully covered, touching up bare spots if necessary
  • To remove excess flour, hold pan upside-down over the sink and smack the bottom of the pan a few times. The loose flour will fall into the sink.

Note #2- They make a ‘baker’s’ version of Pam that has flour mixed in already.

Note #3- I’ve heard of, but never tried, using Pan Grease in lieu of the above. I’m planning to try it out sometime when I don’t have a deadline looming 🙂

  
Pan Grease

1 cup shortening
1 cup flour
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix well with electric mixer and store in airtight container. Does
not need refrigeration.

Note #4- It doesn’t matter what kind of flour you use. One time I’d bought the wrong kind of flour for a recipe and had no use for it, so I used that one for preparing pans until it had been all used up. Ever since I use all-purpose, but you can use whatever you’d like, including nut-based and gluten-free flours. I’ve also seen people use cocoa powder when preparing pans for chocolate-based recipes.

Note #5- Don’t try to tap out the excess flour over a garbage can unless your pan is small enough to hold lower than the rim of the can. I learned this the hard way…

Once the pan is ready, you can prepare your batter, then pour it in. Some cakes need to be left alone, but for my regular birthday-type cakes, I drop the pan on the counter a few times so the air bubbles in the batter can raise to the surface and pop.

Once the cake is ready to come out of the oven, a very important step is to let the cake set in the pan for about 10 minutes. Try to remove it too soon and it will fall apart, but wait too long and it will get very difficult to remove. My standard is to set my oven timer for 10 minutes and use that time to get out the items I’ll need for the wrapping step coming up.

Once 10 minutes are up, your cake is ready to remove from the pan. Loosen around the edges with a knife. I also like to sort of “tuck” the knife under the cake and give it little test lifts to help ease it from the bottom of the pan.

The photos above show how I used to remove the cakes from the pan- I’d flip the pan over onto a flexible cutting board, then use a 2nd board to flip it back to right-side up, before sliding it onto a tray to allow it to cool overnight.

However- I don’t do this method any more. Instead I remove the cake from the pan and place it immediately onto a long length of Saran Wrap, which I then fold over to seal. Then I turn the cake 90 degrees, place it onto a 2nd long length of Saran, and wrap it again, so the 2nd layer covers any gaps in the 1st. I do this immediately after the 10 min rest in the pan.

Once the cakes are wrapped in Saran, you can leave them to cool. I’ve done this up to 5 days in advance of serving, and the cakes still came out perfect. In fact, I’d recommend this even more for cakes made in advance- unlike my previous method of leaving them uncovered, the Saran traps the heat and steam into the cake, leaving them dense and moist and delicious instead of dry and crumbly.

Leave the Saran-covered cakes somewhere dry and cool where they won’t be disturbed. (Don’t leave them stacked as the top one might sag, I only did this when I took the photo as I was trying to estimate how tall the finished cake would be).

Allow the cakes to cool at minimum overnight. A cake might feel cool on the outside but still have residual heat trapped inside, and icing and decorations will slide right off.

Once cooled, you’re ready to level and tort. (Tort is just a fancy word for “cut the cake in half, horizontally). For best results, use a knife long enough to fit across the narrowest edge of the cake.

Slowly and evenly cut off the rounded cake dome, starting at one corner then easing your way across until you can go straight down along the cake. Keep your hand steady and try to hold the knife as flat and parallel to the table as you can. Once you’ve cut all the way across you can remove the scraps for eating or other uses. I always like to have a storage container handy as well to hold the cake scraps which I use later with any leftover icing to make cake pops for my kids.

In the demo cake shown here, I didn’t tort, but if I would have it would have been at this step. Using the same knife as above, cut the cake horizontally into two layers.

Note #6- I recently picked up these cake level guides and OMG they’re perfect! I clipped one to my knife and held it flush against the table as I cut and I’ve never had a cake turn out as perfectly level before. I <3.

Before you can begin decorating, you must consider your base. Is the cake to be moved? Is it going to be heavy, and need a cake board? For the cake shown, I iced, decorated and transported it on the white tray, and I would use the same method with any other tray or cake stand. If this was a tier in a larger cake, however, I’d be using a cake board.

Put a dollop of icing into the center of where your cake will go. This will “glue” your cake to the tray/board and keep it from sliding around. Center the cake into place and give it a little push down to adhere.

Fill your cake. Do a border of icing around the edges of the cake and then fill it with more icing, jam, whatever you’d like. Then place your other layer on top and press down lightly. I often flip it so the flatter bottom of the cake layer becomes the top of the cake, but this 9×11 was a bit too large and thin for me to feel comfortable flipping without risking breaking. I’m a klutz after all…

Before I begin to ice the outside of the cake, I protect the tray/stand/surface with parchment paper or wax paper. Cut off a narrow piece and then cut that into pieces to fit around the edges of the cake. For a rectangle or square cake I’d cut 4 narrow strips, if it was a round cake I’d cut the full-size strips into thirds and slightly overlap them to surround the cake with a hexagon of paper.

See the crumbs on the parchment? That’s why it’s there- to protect the base from crumbs and icing. The crumb coat (shown) isn’t part of the decorative exterior, it’s used (and named) to capture any loose crumbs that would otherwise fall off as you work. Ice the cake on the top and all sides, but don’t worry about covering every inch of the cake. The main thing is to trap the crumbs and fill in any gaps in between the layers of the cake.

Note #7- Mine is sloppy. Both the crumb coat and the upcoming icing. This cake was for fun. If you are planning to cover the cake in fondant later OR planning to have smooth or knife-edge sides, then you should make sure your crumb coat is smooth as well, or it will be more difficult later.

After the crumb coat I like to put the cake in the fridge to set the icing. This isn’t completely mandatory, so don’t stress if you don’t have room in your fridge. Place the cake somewhere cool and undisturbed for about 30 minutes, or until the icing crusts over.

Once the crumb coat is done you’re almost ready to decorate. The cake just needs one more layer of icing. If I’ll be covering with fondant, I put a thinner layer. It’s more to smooth the top/sides and give the fondant something to ‘stick’ to vs a layer of icing to eat. If I’ll only be using icing, then I put a thicker layer, making sure to cover the cake completely.

For the cake in these examples, it was just for fun and I wasn’t going to be adding decorations, so I gave it a quick layer of thicker icing. I made it even but didn’t spend any time trying to make it smooth.

Whether or not I’ll be adding fondant, or additional decorations, this is the point at which I’ll remove the parchment/wax paper strips. Gently lift them away, making sure not to drop any icing blobs onto the cake or tray. If necessary, use a sharp knife to break the seal of any hardened icing that is connecting the papers to the cakes.

Note #8- Even if the icing on the strips looks clean, I don’t add it back in with any remaining icing to re-use. It’s more likely than not that there are cake crumbs within.

And here’s the baked, iced cake, ready for topping with fondant decorations, candies, candles, or anything else you have in mind.

Hopefully this basic instructional was helpful! If you have any questions that weren’t answered, leave them in the comments and I’ll update it with my answers.

*I know, Henri is 10 already!  Can you believe it? 

**This is only how I do things, after the last 10 years of trial and error.  I’m not saying it’s the only way, nor even that it’s necessarily the right way.  It’s just my way, and if it helps you, it can be your way too 🙂


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Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake

Only 3 months late, here’s (finally) the completed Pitfall: The Lost Expedition birthday cake.
pitfall the lost expedition birthday cake
The morning of Henri’s party I woke up and went downstairs, peering cautiously into the gloom of the laundry room to see how the cake had held up overnight.  There’s always the chance for decorations to slip, or icing to crack or worse – to discover that one of the kids had found the cake and begun to dig in…so I was nervous when I slowly approached.

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Then I breathed a sigh of relief.  It looked good.  I’d finished so late in the morning that I’d passed out, so seeing the cake again was a pleasant surprise.  I was actually feeling quite proud of myself.

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Oh yeah, I thought- Henri’s gonna love it!  All that remained was to transport it to the party without incident and then it would be-pitfall-cake-party-day-01

W-wait.  Why does something look wrong…?

Oh.

Oh no.
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Do you see it?

Remember in my last cake post when I was all cocky about the vines working out?  Hmm.  Looked like I’d spoken too soon.  The first vine I’d attempted had had a chance to set up while laying horizontally… so when I hung it over the edge of the back board to test out it held its shape perfectly.  The new vines, however… I’d rolled each out and tucked them into place under the top cake right away.  And they’d looked good.  ‘Great’, even, if I may be so bold.pitfall-cake-party-day-04

But overnight gravity took hold, and the once relatively-uniform vines began to sag slowly.  Some had narrowed enough to look delicate and thin, twisting and tangling among others in a pretty cool, natural way (see the ones on the right).  Others, though… like the ones on the left… they’d basically collapsed.  Luckily they’d thinned before falling, so the resulting puddle of vines still looked pretty natural, I guess…which was good because it would have seriously messed things up to try and detach them.  The only one I did detach was the vine that had attached itself to the waterfall.  I thought it ruined the illusion of flowing water to have a vine stuck up alongside.  😛pitfall-cake-party-day-06

This pic was taken on my lap in the car en route to the party, and is probably the only pic taken strictly with sunlight.  The color is pretty accurate though I find the blue too bright.  (That may have been my phone, it’s notorious for having a hard time photographing blues and purples accurately).
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I took a last quick set of pics at the party before serving.  Here’s the backside.  You can see how the vines here too have thinned and sagged.
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And here’s the finished cake, complete with Pitfall Harry himself.
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I waited until the very last moment to stick him in the cake, partially to avoid the risk of snapping the figure, and partially so he wouldn’t absorb moisture from the cake/icing and then have the fondant soften and fold over.  I likely needn’t have worried… there was probably enough ‘paint’ on the front at least to seal the moisture out, but the back was still bare fondant and I didn’t want to take a chance.pitfall-cake-party-day-10

Add one quick candle for the birthday boy’s age, and then I wheeled it over to his table.  It was a huge hit!  The kids got their choice of location to eat from and we served some to the parents as they came to pick up their children.

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In the end this is all that was left – a tiny bit of cake and a filthy board.

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I had planned to take it home and pop the fondant off the base stand so I could use it again, but sadly I broke it.  The fondant ‘glue’ was so strong in adhering the stand to the cake board, that when I was trying to separate the two I cracked the plastic of the stand itself.  I was impressed with the strength… but unfortunately it meant I had to throw out the stand.  Ah well.

PITFALL CAKE COLLAGE SQUARE

All the ‘making of’ posts:

1. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 01

2. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 02

3. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 1- Pitfall Harry, crocodiles and a healing spring

4. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 2- assembly

5. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 3- finishing


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Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 3- finishing

It’s been brought to my attention (*cough*Michelle*cough*) that I never finished posting Henri’s Pitfall cake.  That is correct… February sort of got away from me, so I’ll take care of that right now.  This post will cover the final details of finishing the cake the night before the party, and my next post will show the final cake at the party, complete, and enjoyed.  🙂

In my last Pitfall cake post I left off with the cakes assembled and dirty-iced.  I set them aside for a little bit so the icing could crust and mixed up some green for the grass.  I deliberately gave it a bit of an aged, almost faded color so it would match the tones of the fondant leaves and the brick wall.  The wall was so dirty and stained/old-looking that a bright, primary-colored grass base would have looked really, really out of place. pitfallcakeday03part03-04

I covered the top cake with the same cake-filled chocolate icing as I used on the lower base, blocking out an area for the small pool at the top of the waterfall.  Then I used green icing to block out the larger pool at the bottom.  Once the brown and green were done I used more white icing to thicken the base coat on the various water areas.pitfallcakeday03part03-05

Then I realized that the pool I’d created wasn’t wide enough to fit the crocodile I’d already made.  Oops!  So I used more white icing to widen the water.

My cakes are often like this.  Very rarely is something sprung to life, fully formed, exactly as it was in my head.  It might be close, in the way this cake very closely resembles my initial sketch, but the actual details in the getting there are always very fluid, and often borne of the desperation and delirium that comes from cake decorating in the wee hours of the night when stores are closed and coffee is cooling.pitfallcakeday03part03-06

Next I mixed up some blue for the water and layered it on over the white.  I didn’t worry so much about the edges where the water and grass meet as I knew I’d be placing leaves there, and I deliberately left it choppy on the waterfall where I wanted it to look like there was some motion and churning.  I also played with swirling my knife around to make the water look a bit rough because the waterfall would prevent it from being a clear, calm pool.  Above you can see the cake as I worked on it (with the parchment protection) and then how it looks once I removed the parchment.  I always keep the parchment in place until I’m ready for the finishing details as it’s much easier to remove dirty parchment from around a cake than icing from the cake board.

One of the things I’d been thinking about in the days leading up to D-day (decorating day) was how to make vines.  I figured I’d just roll out some fondant pretty thin and hope it wouldn’t crack once it dried.  But when at the dollar store that afternoon during my unexpected child-free time I hit on the idea to try using caramels.  pitfallcakeday03part03-01

I figured they were already pliable, and edible, just like fondant… but had a better stretch.  Hmmm…could this work?

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I’d decided to do a quick test before going to pick up the kids from the party.  I softened 2 caramels in the microwave and then when they’d cooled enough to touch, added a touch of green food gels.  I kneaded it together just like dough/fondant and was thrilled that the caramel took the color evenly, with no streaking or dissolving from the added moisture.  I quickly rolled out a quick, curly vine and set it aside to dry while I was out.pitfallcakeday03part03-03

This is what I came home to (above).  A perfect, jungly-green colored, held-its-shape vine that was smooth, crack-free and best of all, delicious.  (Okay, there had been 2.  Yum.)

Sweet!

(Pun intended).vinepintereststrip

For my Pinterest friends, here’s a graphic for you!

Now that I knew I had the solution for the perfect vines, I got to work.  I wanted to set the vines in place before finishing the grass because I knew working on one could destroy the other.pitfallcakeday03part03-07

I rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled, placing each vine in place before rolling out the next one.  The vines that draped around the wall stuck pretty well with a tiny touch of water, only on places where I wanted a curl or end to stay up.  For the most part, though, I left them unstuck so gravity would work on the caramel and make it look more natural.*

I had an image in my head of vines hanging down like curtains, helping to hide the secret healing spring.  So for those vines, as I made each one I used the tip of a knife to lift the cake board that the top cake was sitting on, just enough to wriggle the end of the caramel underneath, and poking it in with a needle tool if I had to.

After the vines were done I tackled the grass.  My first thought was to use my grass tip and pipe out the grass like I’d done around the Betty Boop cake.  Only problem was I knew I was going to use my remaining green icing to do grass around the edges of the cake where it met the board and I didn’t think I had enough icing left.  I was tapping some piping tips against my palm, trying to figure out if I had enough icing mixed up for all the grassy areas, when I looked at the marks I’d left on my skin and got another bout of inspiration.  (My pain = cake gain).pitfallcakeday03part03-08

I used an open star tip and basically poked the hell out of the grass areas.  My icing had crusted enough to be an ideal surface, but if your icing is still soft I’d stop every now and then to clean your tip, as the grass effect works better with smaller pokes vs larger flat areas.  It was remarkably convincing for grass, and I’m really, really happy with how it came out.

Plus it left me with enough green icing left to pipe long, marshy grass/weeds around the base of the cake.  I did that, then stuck down the leaves I’d darkened, then decided to call it a night.

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In the back you can see the remaining leaves I didn’t end up using.  Don’t worry, they didn’t go to waste.  The kids ate them all over the next few days.  🙂

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I tried to vary the lengths of the grasses to make it look more natural than an even, trimmed border.  pitfallcakeday03part03-11

In these final two pics you can see the two sides of the cake, and the finished vines and grasses.  I’d added some long grass to overhang the vines as well.pitfallcakeday03part03-12

Next time – the cake in situ!

*remember this for my next post :/


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Elmo Birthday Cake

I interrupt my run of Pitfall-themed posts because today is a very special day!  Do you know what today is?  It’s Elmo’s birthday!  Once again the red-furred baby monster has turned 3.5 years old, and in honor of the occasion, I’m sharing a cake that I made waaaaaaay back in 2012.  That’s not near to now, that was faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar away!

(Sorry.  Wrong muppet.  *coughs*).

elmo cake square

Back in 2012 I made this cake for my cousin’s son’s 2nd birthday.  I honestly don’t remember if it was a chocolate or vanilla cake, but it clearly had vanilla icing (lol).

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I made the face from fondant using a sewing pin image-transfer method (tutorial coming soon) and made fondant letters for his name, too.elmo cake 02

The sides were decorated with colorful Smarties  (that’s like M&Ms to you American folk, not the candy Smarties which we call Rockets here).elmo cake collage

Happy birthday Elmo!

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