When we last left off, a cake had been baked, layered, crumb coated, and put in the fridge for both the cake and its creator to have a little “cooling off” period.
Well, the cake cooled. I moved on to do a little cleaning and make other food for the party.
After getting our kiddo down for his pre-party nap, I marched back into the kitchen. And faced the facts.
I had the cake. I had the green-tinted icing (with a little blob of untinted), some chocolate rocks, a couple of offset spatulas, and a pouch of “writing” icing. So, what to do?
Our kiddo loves the outdoors. And with the frog invites, I had originally envisioned doing wild things with fondant icing and lilypads. But then I remembered the guests: they would not know what to do with the fondant, and probably leave it on their plates after eating the cake part.
I had bought some little candles with farmyard characters on it. Since we live in a country-ish part of the world. But it lacked context – I kept thinking I should clad some graham crackers with red fondant and pipe barn boards onto them to fabricate a 3D barn.
“Keep it simple,” I said to myself as I dived in.
First order of business: build a pond.
Using the little blob of untinted icing, I started spreading a circular shape on the top of the cake. When I had it to a size I liked, I started using the chocolate rocks to make a border. This served two purposes:
1. Create a barrier between the untinted and tinted icing so there wouldn’t be any bleeding between the two as the icing continued to warm up.
2. Contain the blue gel icing I was going to use on top of the white to give it the watery look I was going for.
In the end, I used a couple rows of rocks to give it a little more oomph. But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be!
Next up: Ice the rest of the cake.
I wanted a nice green for the icing, to imply grass. I did not want to imply PGA, which I started to worry would be the case as the icing warmed up to room temperature.
And, the temperature of the icing turned out to be a bit of a problem for me as I worked with the cake. I had let it sit out for about an hour before starting to work with it, but there was a good chunk of it that was still, well, a chunk as I started to spread the icing around. No damage was done to the cake, but I was kind of lecturing myself halfway through the icing process that I should have followed my gut instinct and gotten out the hand mixer to whip it a bit before working with it. Oh, well…
Now, the Fear Factor moment: what do I add to this that makes sense, but only uses what I had collected for the project? It was a tough mental battle not to run out to the store and find other bits of inspiration to add to this. I felt a little lost. And ashamed: I mean, this is a cake for a 3 year old, not a 43 year old! It does not need to be a work of art to the world, just something that would make my son go “yum, mommy!”
Time to take a breath, step back, and think.
The pond needed something, and pulling one of the rubber duckies or toy frogs from my son’s playthings would no doubt create a public health hazard. But for posterity, when cakes become a blur to me and I don’t know what I did when, knowing the year would help. And that’s how that white 3 wound up floating there.
In addition to the farm animal candles I had picked up, I also grabbed some cool-looking letter candles that spelled “happy birthday.” Holding them up to the cake, I realized they’d add both more color and dimension to the cake. So, in they went.
Writing out the name of our honoree? It doesn’t look perfect. But it looks a lot better than the practice scripting I had done on those slips of parchment I had acting as a “bib” around the cake.
A few more chocolate rocks around the base, and this cake was ready to party.
So, how did it go over with the guests (and the birthday boy)?
The room got quiet. All one could hear was chewing sounds and the gentle scrape of forks to plates as the cake was devoured.
There was also some silent admonishment coming from the corner of the room where my son and his grandmother were seated. Mostly from the grandmother who thought the piece of cake he received was too big, only to be tempered with admiration of the gusto with which he dove into his cake.
By the time everyone went home and we were cleaning up, there wasn’t much left. Just enough to deliver a care package to our son’s great-grandparents today, and to nibble on with a cup of coffee while I write this post.
But the whole experience has definitely given me some ideas of where I can go with cake decorating in the future. And what works for a crowd this size for the birthday parties to come!