Monday, July 2, 2012

Baby Shower Cake: "Welcome to the Nest"

A good friend of mine is expecting her second little girl and the choir threw her a baby shower at church. I think she was a little over the traditional idea that everything for a girl needs to be pastel pink, so I decided to step outside the world of stereotypical baby shower cakes. She likes birds so I decided to do a "Welcome to the Nest" theme. After a quick search on Pinterest, I found this cake and used it as my inspiration. 

Materials needed:
  • 2 Cake mixes of your choice (I used a chocolate Duncan Hines mix.)  
  • Icing (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 boxes of white fondant (You can find this at any craft store.)
  • Gel food coloring (I used Wilton . This works much better than the food coloring drops.)
  • Wilton Nature Fondant and Gum Paste Mold
  • rolling pin or fondant roller
  • 2 round cake pans (6 inch and 8 inch)
  • confectioner's sugar 
  • Roll and cut mat (optional, but helpful)
  • Fondant smoother
  • a cutting tool with a small, sharp blade. (There are special fondant tool kits that you can buy, but I used the cutting kit that came with my Circuit machine. A small knife or an exact-o knife will work, too, if you're on a budget.)
  • Cupcake liners 
  • paintbrush
  • shaping foam (in the cake aisle)
  1. Bake your cake (and cupcakes if desired). I decided to make a small cake surrounded by cupcakes. I used Wilton Color Cups, which I found at JoAnn's (36 for $3.00). The liners are made of foil, so they cook evenly and retain their color while baking. You can even bake them without a cupcake pan.                                                      
  2. Let your cake cool completely before transferring to a working surface. Put the cake on top of something that you can move easily (a cake board, a cookie sheet or thick piece of cardboard covered in tin foil).
  3. Mix your fondant colors. Divide one box into 4 equal parts: pink, green, brown. Add the left over quarter of white fondant to the entire 2nd box of fondant and color it blue. I am a novice at this, so here is a link to a really great website that explains how to color fondant. Be sure to read all of the tips! 
  4. My K-imperfect moment on this cake: I made the mistake of only buying one box of fondant to cover my two tiered cake. So I rolled out the fondant thinly enough to make the circle cover both. If I could do it over, I would have covered each tier individually.
  5. Roll out the fondant. Lightly dust your smooth work surface or the Roll & Cut Mat and your rolling pin with confectioners' sugar to prevent sticking. Roll out fondant sized to your cake. To keep fondant from sticking, lift and move as you roll. Add more confectioners' sugar if needed.
  6. How big does your circle need to be? The diameter (the distance across) + the height of the cake + the height of the cake + 2 inches of wiggle room.  This means that for a cake pan that is 8 inches across and 3 inches high, you would need (8+3+3+2=) a circle that is 16 inches across.   
  7. To move your fondant in one piece, roll it onto your rolling pin and then unroll it over the cake.
  8. Smooth out the fondant with a fondant smoother. This is probably the hardest part.   
  9. Trim away excess fondant and tuck the ends under the cake gently.
  10. Don't worry too much if there are some minor tears or creases in the fondant, especially around the base of the cake. This is a good cake for beginners because there is an easy way to cover these mistakes.

How to make the decorations:

This part is simple, but time consuming. I did this while watching a movie. :-) I didn't finish in one sitting, so I put the pieces that I had finished in a tupperware container until I was ready to decorate.

Use the mold to make the pieces you want (leaves, flowers, branches) by pushing pieces of fondant into the mold. Bend the mold to make the pieces come out and them trim them using your tools. To trim them, I laid them on a piece of shaping foam. (This is optional, but it was nice to have.)
A branch on the shaping foam.

Attach the branches on the cake first. To attach pieces, paint the back of the decoration with water using your (new) paintbrush and press onto the cake. You can use frosting, too, but I thought painting them was easier and I didn't have to worry about excess frosting being smushed out around the decorations. 

The first thing I did was cover any creases or bumps along the sides of the cake. Then add more branches to fill in the gaps. 
The first branches placed to cover the imperfections.

Next, add your flowers and leaves. 

Cover any problem areas first and then fill in the rest.

How to make the bird family:

One of the party hosts had bird napkins that she'd picked up from IKEA, so I modeled the birds (one for each family member) off the napkins. 

1. Roll a ball of fondant into an egg shape in the size that you would like the bird to be. flatten the bottom of the egg so that the bird will stand up.

2. To make the wings, I used the leaf mold and then pinched the end to make it look a bit more pointed. Attach it to the bird with a wet paintbrush.

3. To make the tail, roll out a small rectangle of fondant. Use your cutting tools to add line impints to it to resemble feathers. Attach it to the egg shape in the back with a wet paint brush.

4. Shape tiny eyes and a small beak using leftover fondant. Attach to the face. 

5. To make the nest, make a few brown fondant branches using the mold. Twist them into a nest shape. For the egg you can just roll a small piece of fondant into an egg shape, or use egg shaped candies. Jordan almonds would work well, too, but I didn't want to pay $7.00 for the bag.

Overall, I think it turned out very well considering it was only my 2nd time using fondant. Don't refrigerate the cake because the moisture will make the fondant sticky.  

Extra tips and suggestions:

  • Use the 40% off coupons to craft stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby to buy the mold, fondant, and any of the other higher priced items needed to work with fondant.
  • If there is a step you don't quite understand, google it. Chances are good that you will find several links and youtube video tutorials that will help you. 
  • I love some of the specialty cakes from Publix, like vanilla with strawberry cream filling, that I have a hard time recreating. You can always order an undecorated cake and add the decorations yourself. 
  • If you want to make your cake in advance, you can freeze it. Just cover it in saran wrap and, for extra measure, tin foil. De-thaw it to room temperature before decorating. 
  • For a really moist, thicker cake I always prepare my cake mix with: 4 eggs, 1 (3.4 oz.) package of instant pudding, 1 1/4 Cups of water, and  1/2 cup of oil to prepare the mix. Add approx. 15 minutes to the listed baking time. (Note: this works really well on chocolate cakes.)   
  • Wrap your cake board in wrapping paper that matches your cake if you don't have a pretty platter or cake stand to display it on. 
  • If you're making a large version of this cake, follow these rules for stacking a cake.
  • This is a link to a chart for the amount of fondant needed to cover other shaped/sized cakes. I think they over estimate the amount of fondant needed, but that couldn't possibly be because they are trying to sell you something, right?