Monday, 7 March 2011

A penguin birthday cake for Mr Cupcake

As Mr Cupcake's birthday approached I asked him, predictably, what he would like in the way of a cake.
Not being as obsessed as I am with cakes, Mr Cupcake did not know what he wanted.

"Anything," he said. He then specified that he would like a Sacher torte as the kind of actual cakey substance but that he wouldn't mind if I paired that with a fondant icing rather than the normal glossy chocolate icing of true Sacher tortes.
The weather in Tasmania has turned very cold so suddenly that a icy penguin tableau seemed quite apt for a March birthday. I decided to try something I had seen in Planet Cake Cupcakes.

This was only the second time that I have decorated a full size cake with fondant icing. Planet Cake definitely wouldn't give me a job based on the end result, but as a beginner I was reasonably happy with it.

After I had baked the Sacher torte, I split it horizontally and filled the centre with blackcurrant jam. Then it was time to ganache and hot knife for a smooth finish.

It took an awful lot of ganache to cover all the top and sides, because it needs to sit in every little uneven crevice and be built out to an even edge. This is the ganache finish.

 For some reason Mr Plums was fascinated with the whole decorative process and every time I got up from my chair he took a front seat to watch the proceedings.

I measured the cake (top and sides) so that I would know how large a piece of rolled fondant I would need to cover it. Then I rolled the fondant to about half a centimetre thickness and draped it evenly over the cake. I smoothed it by hand from the middle to the top edges and then down the sides, and trimmed around the base. 

The penguin took a while. I modelled him from a single large ball of fondant, but had to lie him down to dry out because his head kept drooping forward. He looked crushed and sad. However, he hardened up nicely while lying down with his little head supported by a foam pillow to keep his back hunched.

His flippers were rolled and hand cut, then left to dry completely before moving them. I cut deep slots in penguin's sides to stick the flippers in.

Penguin had to be painted. I used a black gel food colour and a fine brush to do his head, back and one side of his flippers, leaving his tummy white.

The white side of one flipper got a bit of black on it - I thought this was terminal but managed to remove the stain by wiping with a damp cloth - good to know for future reference.

When penguin was dry, I stuck tiny white fondant balls on for eyes and dotted a black pupil in each with a paint brush. I stuck his flippers into their slots and put him on the cake, then placed his feet in front of him.

It was time to cut a hole in the 'ice'-ing to go fishing! I made the hole with a small circle cutter, going right down to the ganache layer.

Then I peeled the fondant away, but replaced it with a very very thin layer of white fondant, just so that the blue gel would really shine.

I squirted a thin layer of blue gel into the hole using Wilton's cake decorating gel - it comes in a range of colours, very useful for water effects.

Then I modelled a fishy from white fondant (actually, I only needed half a fishy), and painted him using 'ivory' gel colour (it looks light brown when concentrated), decorating him with green dots and black ridge along his fins. I stuck white balls of fondant on for his eyes and dotted black paint for the pupils, as with penguin. Then I placed fishy in his icy pond and piped another layer of blue gel around him.

In photographing the cake I thought this pic which was taken in direct sunlight seemed to make the 'icy' setting more realistic. The sun gleams off the water beautifully!
I finished up with Happy Birthday candles in green and orange to go with the fishy and a matching green ribbon at the base of the cake, which apart from providing a bit of colour to what was a very pale cake, also served to hide some little imperfections at the base.
Mr Cupcake was somewhat bemused by the choice of decoration. This is his bemused look.
Happy birthday Mr Cupcake... just like the penguin's successful fishing expedition,  may this year present you with many delicious surprises!

1 comment:

  1. So beautiful! Got as far as reading a recipe for Sacher and went there whilst in Vienna many moons ago. As for creating a penguin....well Mr Cupcake would be splitting his sides if I'd tried that. Well done! Lucky Mr C.