There's a saying among cake decorators that get overwhelmed with business: "Don't let the neighbors find out!"
That boils down to the fact that you want to do nice things for your neighbors, don't want to charge them full price for a cake because you want to be friendly, and end up kind of short changing yourself because they don't understand the value of what you just gave them.
So it's best just to not let them find out, right?! Well, too bad for me! How can you resist this face!
My next door neighbor's daughter turned 3. My neighbor is one of those people that thinks of every detail for a party and doesn't let any guest go home without saying "That was the BEST party!". So WHO would she need to make the cake? Yes, yes, she twisted my arm. We spent hours pouring through pictures of carnival/circus cakes on www.CakeCentral.com
and came up with a pretty cool design. So I'll talk you through the details of what's on the cake. I hope you enjoy it!
The recipes (chocolate and vanilla) came out of the Confetti Cakes book, one of my many favorites at the Sweet Wise. The base layer was chocolate, 6 inches high, 12 inches round. I filled it with Swiss Meringue buttercream without icing the outside, and froze it solid. Once it was frozen, I took a 10" cake circle and marked a circle on the top of that cake. I used an electric knife (cake still frozen) and carved down towards the outer edge of the cake to create the shape of an elephant stand. She loves buttercream, so the yellow icing on there is buttercream, not fondant. I did make the details in fondant - you know it just looks better. The blue triangles are fondant (I colored them with Americolor Royal Blue) and red stars (colored with Americolor Super Red). Little balls of fondant (thank you, John, for rolling out hundreds of them for me) in red, blue and yellow, of different sizes for the border.
For support, I pushed in the 6" hidden pillars and placed an 8" smooth edge round cake plate (covered with yellow fondant to disguise it) into the pillars, directly on top of the cake. I had found a beautiful clear vase, really a large apothecary jar, that I turned upside down to support the next layer of cake. My reason for using that instead of pillars was stability and vision. Inside the jar I put an edible carousel. Yes, edible. The base of it was the rotating light up topper base from Wilton. I made another base out of white chocolate to go on top of the base so I could attach the horses. The horse I made out of white chocolate with the chocolate mold we have at Sweet Wise. Made another top out of white chocolate and glued it all together. Painted the horses with luster dust and trimmed the whole thing out with fondant details. Yes, it rotated within the glass jar! John snapped a picture of me wrapping the posts of the the carousel horses with colored gumpaste, which I cut perfectly with my new favorite tool, the multi-ribbon cutter.
The next layer was white (with Almond Oil for extra yumminess!). Basic 10" square, built on top of a 10" square piece of foam core board for support, which I hot-glued onto the base (now the top) of the glass jar for stability. Covered in red fondant, used the funky lower case tappit cutter for Katie's name, and trimmed out with some details in piped royal icing. Standard cut dowel rods to support the next layer, which was a 7" round (also Almond cake), simply covered in yummy green buttercream. Used the MASSIVE grass tip that we now have in to save me lots of time! Again, standard dowel rods inserted in this layer for support.
Top layer of cake replicates an actual tent that Katie had at her party. Stripes of red, blue, and yellow fondant (again, cut to the same size with the ribbon cutter). It was a 4" cake, 3 layers high, top carved to a rounded shape, with a gumpaste flag on a tooth pick stuck in the top.
So that's the structure, now for all the fun details! At the base, you'll see popcorn. It's cake, carved, covered in white fondant, and, of course, red stripes cut with the multi ribbon cutter. Individual popcorn was made from buttery yellow gumpaste, shaped into two sizes of balls, hollowed slightly with PME ball tool (one end large, one end very small), glued together with clear piping gel, centers colored with brown luster dust.
Peanuts are scattered about. I took light brown fondant and simply rolled it between my fingers to make the peanut shape. Need a small rectangle shaped SOMETHING to make the indentions in the shell, which I didn't have, so I shave the flat end of a skewer to do the trick. Wow! That looked great! Dusted the peanuts lightly with some cocoa petal dust to make them looked natural.
Carnival/circus food: Hot dog. Carved cake into the bun shape, covered it in light brown fondant. Separately shaped a weiner out of the same light brown fondant with a bit of the red mixed in. Scored each end to make it look real. Sprayed bun lightly with Wilton yellow color mist and touched some brown color to the edges to make it looked toasted. The color was tricky, but this is the combination that worked for me. I put the wiener into the bun then rolled out thin snakes of yellow and red fondant and attached to make ketchup and mustard. I think I was MOST proud of the hot dog!
Also made a corn dog! Carved cake in a tubular shape, covered it with fondant colored light brown, placed it on a wooden dowel rod. Poked gently all over with the sharp end of a skewer for texture, then gave a light, uneven spray with the yellow WIlton color mist on this. Ketchup and mustard on this guy, too.
Funnel cake!!!! Probably my favorite carnival food. Shaped light brown fondant into a very thin snake, and let it fall into a funnel cake shaped mound. With it being brown,it looked a little unappetizing, as you can imagine. I won't say what it looked like, but it needed some help! Well, funnel cakes come on paper plates, let's make one of those: a thin round of white gumpaste, ruffle the edges and let dry. That helped alot! A little powdered sugar on top, and it did the trick! At the end of the day I didnt want to put this on the cake because I didn't plan ahead. Let this be a lesson to all decorators: my problem was that it was NOT size appropriate to the other food; it was WAY too small. She wanted it on the cake, though, so on it went!
The last of the food was cotton candy. I simply shaped a cone out of white gumpaste and then wrapped it in a long stripe of white gumpaste. She had a cotton candy machine at the party (I did tell you that she's quite the party planner, right?), so I indulged myself by having her put the actual cotton candy on once we got the cake next door. Awesome!
I cut stars out of thin gumpaste and attached them to wires. I didn't like the wire showing through the gumpaste, so I ended up wrapping the tip of the wire in a bit of the same color of gumpaste and then attaching it to the back of the star. That worked well. Before I did that, though, I shaped the wire into a spiral by wrapping it around a dowel. They looked like they were shooting out of the cake! Dusted them with a little pixie dust and they were spot-on!
The last piece to the cake to put it over the top are those flag poles! I took plastic dowel rods and wrapped them in strips of gumpaste (yes, cut with the multi ribbon cutter). Attached them with the magical clear piping gel, which has SO many uses! To have them dry with out messing up the gumpaste, I took a cake dummy and stuck wooden dowel rods into it and slid the gumpaste wrapped plastic dwel rods over them so they could stand upright to dry. I used a steamer to make the color pop and to make the cornstarch disappear. It really gave them a finished look. I took a stencil cutting tool (or a really hot knife) to cut two tiny slits into the top of each rod. This was so the string could sit down in the rod slightly and not roll off. Separately, I made flags out of yellow gumpaste by cutting small diamonds, then wrapping them around a thin skewer to dry. As they were drying, I piped lettering to say "Happy Birthday Katie" on the flags in blue royal icing. Once all this was dry, I removed the skewers and simply threaded the flags with white sewing thread, put them into place, and secured the top of each string at the pole with a nice blob of round blue fondant.
Whew! Yes, it was alot of work. DId I say it was alot of work? It as alot of work. Over 3 feet tall once all was said and done. She was really pleased, and followed instructions to tell everyone that because I am so busy with the store and teaching, that I do not make cakes except for her, but I am glad to pass on the names of other cake decorators (that's YOU!).
So that's it! I hope I didn't ramble too much, and I hope my instructions were pretty clear. You know you can always come into the store and ask for some help if you have an idea in mind and aren't quite sure how to execute it. That's what we're about; just bring your imagination; we've got everything else!
Here's the finished product. Just like we all do when we make cakes, I see TONS of flaws. Just ignore them. :)