It was a busy time of year, so I wasn’t able to dedicate all of my time to it as I like to do. It turned out that we also had to be away the night before the party, usually the time when I’m doing all the last minute decorating. Rushing a cake like this tends to lead to poor decisions and mistakes, and this one was no exception. The biggest mistake I made though, was in the planning. I totally underestimated the weight of, well, the whole thing really. Having two 38 degree days right in the middle of the week didn’t help either – far from ideal weather for cake making. We have air conditioning, but the main aircon is evaporative which cakes don’t like. But enough excuses, let’s get to the cake.
We’ve felt a bit guilty about Serenity’s birthdays for the last couple of years. Although her first birthday cake was my first 3d character cake Dorothy, her 2nd birthday was overshadowed by Seb’s heart condition and a rushed visit to the vet for the cat. Her 3rd birthday was soon after we arrived in China where I was hellishly busy and we had no oven or baking powder (although Marie still managed to make an awesome cake).
This past weekend was Serenity’s 4th birthday party, and we decided to try and make up for the past few years with a very blue Princess party.
It’s been a while between posts, and even longer between cakes. Since my last post my family and I spent 6 months in China, and all sorts of other fun stuff has been happening.
I’ve been so busy I haven’t even had a chance to make many cakes, only 2 since making Elmo and Rani a couple of years ago. In December 2009 I made a Captain Mack cake, and December 2010 just after getting back home from China I made this Ariel cake from The Little Mermaid.
Here we are at the final installment, part 4 of the making of Elmo. Wow, I certainly didn’t intend for it to be anywhere near this long when I started. In Part 1 I talked about planning the cake, making the stand and making the icing. Part 2 covered making and carving the cakes. In Part 3, rice crispies were made and molded into arms, legs, eyes and nose, and blocks and toys were created.
Since last time, the carved cake and rice crispies arms and legs have been in the freezer, firming up the rice crispies. The eyes, nose and blocks have been covered with fondant and overnight you’ll notice they’ve hardened quite a bit since making them, hard enough that you can easily handle them without fear of putting dents in them. If you’ve made them a few days in advance, by the time you get to this stage they’ll be very firm. Finally the cake is almost ready for the final coat of icing, the fur, but first we need to make the smash cake.
You can really do anything with this cake that you like, decorate it however you want. I based mine on a cute cake I’d seen online, but running out of time, I rushed it. I would have liked to put a bit more time into it. I also had special requirements for this smash cake, as the birthday boy has lots of food allergies. The cake was gluten free, and the butter cream icing was made from special margarine. The fondant was designed so it could be easily pulled off before serving. All these considerations went into the design of the cake, but you can do whatever takes your fancy. It’s quite fun making a mini cake like this.
Welcome to part 3 of the making of my nephew’s Elmo cake. In Part 1 I talked about planning the cake, making the stand and making the icing. In Part 2 I talked about making and carving the cakes. In this installment I’ll cover making and molding the rice crispy arms, legs, eyes and nose, and creating the blocks. The final one will cover piping the fur and finishing touches.
We left off last time with the carved cakes in the freezer. I usually put aside whole day for carving the cake, adding rice crispies, and preparing it for final icing, so I’ll carve the cake in the morning and do the rice crispies in the afternoon. Having the cake in the freezer while you make the rice crispies should be long enough to firm up any parts that have started to thaw. Otherwise you can leave the carved cake in the freezer until the next day, or pretty much for as long as you need.
I made the arms and legs from rice crispies. You don’t necessarily need to use rice crispies for the arms and legs, but I’ll talk more about that later. The eyes and nose are also rice crispies covered with fondant. These really are best made with rice crispies. You could also make some or all of the blocks and toys from rice crispies instead of cake. Certainly if you want to make a ball toy, that would be easier with rice crispies than cake. But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s talk about what rice crispies are, and why you would want to put them in a cake?
Rice crispies are a combination of rice bubbles, or some other kind of puffed rice, and melted marshmallows. They’re often used in 3d cakes like this one, for a number of reasons. Rice crispies are light, much lighter than cake. I was quite surprised at first just how heavy some of these cakes end up when you’re talking about feeding 40 people or more. If you want a cake structure that is larger than the amount of cake you need then it’s useful to use rice crispies for some parts just so you can more easily carry it. Also when you’re making tall cakes, or cakes that are top heavy, rice crispies can be used for the top parts so you don’t need such strong support.
In How I Made an Elmo Cake… Part 1 I talked about planning the cake, making the stand and making the icing. In this installment I’ll cover making and carving the cakes. Following that will be making and molding the rice crispy arms, legs, eyes and nose, creating the blocks and piping the fur.
Making The Cakes
As I mentioned last time, when planning the cake I set the size by using existing tins for the body, a pudding tin and a small pyrex bowl. These work well together as the rim of the bowl is the same diameter as the pudding tin. I used the same combination for the head of Serenity’s Dorothy the Dinosaur cake. Going from there it was just a matter of seeing what tin sizes would best fit the head.
As you can see from the plan above, I ended up using a pudding tin, 1/3 of a pudding tin (cut into a wedge), and a pyrex bowl for the body. I used two 20cm cake tins for the head with 1/3 of a pudding tin on top and below. I used two 9cm (3 1/2″) cakes for the smash cake. So I would need:
- 2 x 20cm cakes
- 2 x 15cm (7.5cm or 3″ deep) cakes – pudding tin
- 1 x pyrex bowl
- 2 x 9cm cakes
I’ve had some people ask me for instructions on how I made my Elmo cake, or for more information on the details. Unfortunately due to the disorganized way it was created I forgot to take photos along the way as I have for some of the other cakes, so in lieu of showing progress pics I thought I’d write a bit about how I made it and share the plans I created.
The first step is to plan the cake and make the stand. The size of the cake depends somewhat on the number of people it needs to serve. My Elmo cake needed to serve at least 40 people, so it’s larger than you would need if you were only serving 20 people. I also like to err on the larger side, as I like decent sized servings rather than the smaller wedding cake sized serves which are often used as guides for these kinds of cakes, and it’s always better to have a bit too much than not have enough. With sculpted cakes it’s also important to keep in mind that sometimes as much as half the amount of cake that you start with gets cut away, and so your plans need to allow for that.
As well as the main cake, I’d originally planned to have more cupcake sized blocks and toys around the cake that could have been given to the kids at the party which boosts the serving numbers too.
Also when planning, the size and type of your cake pans come into play. My original idea was to use a pudding tin and a small Pyrex bowl for Elmo’s body. Everything else was planned around that size and I think ended up a bit bigger than I needed. I could have adjusted the plans to use different pans, or cut more cake away, but I didn’t mind making it bigger than it needed to be for the sake of ease. I prefer to let the cake tins dictate as much as possible, leaving less cutting and sculpting, and less margin for error.
Last week was Anastasia’s 3rd birthday,we had a party for her on Saturday, and here’s the cake… well cakes. The Rani one is for Anastasia and the Elmo cake was for my nephew Alekos’ first birthday, just a couple of months late.
You see Alekos’ Birthday was in October, and I’d planned to have this Elmo cake done then, but unfortunately he was unwell, we thought measles, and had to postpone his party. Luckily I had enough notice that I hadn’t actually started the cake yet. As the new party date approached everything seemed to be going ok so I started making the cake, but just before the day the poor kid got sick again so the party was canceled, leaving me with a half finished cake in the freezer. I had planned to finish it at some point before we went to town so I could take it to him, after all even without a party Alekos could still enjoy the cake, But leading up to each trip to town I was too busy to work on it, and on the two occasions Alekos came to visit us I didn’t have enough notice.
So I came to the planning stage of Anastasia’s cake, and I realized that I might not have enough room in the freezer for both cakes. That meant I would have to either complete Elmo, or potentially throw it out (or take it to the old folks as I did with the practice lion). Since there wasn’t too much work to be done on it, and Alekos would be here for Anastasia’s party I realised it was the perfect opportunity to finish it and be able to give it to Alekos. The only problem was that I’d have to allow enough time to make two cakes.
So I planned to have Anastasia’s Rani cake finished on Thursday, finish Elmo on Friday, ready for the party on Saturday. But things never seem to go to plan…
As I’m just getting started on a new cake, I thought I’d post some of my previous ones…
When I was young I always made cakes for my family, especially my little sister as she grew up. After not making any for a few years I was excited to make birthday cakes for my own kids. This is Anastasia’s 2nd birthday cake from December last year.
Even a few months ago though, I had little idea about 3d sculpted cakes, I barely knew they existed let alone had any thoughts of making them. Just before my youngest’s 1st birthday a friend showed me some 3d cakes she’d made using fondant. I was amazed at what she’d done and what was possible. I made, what I sure was, the most elaborate Dorothy the Dinosaur cake ever made (little did I know).
Proud of what I’d done, but having learned a great deal from the mistakes I’d made, I started to investigate further, scouring the net for more examples and information. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What I’d made was quite basic compared to many of the creations I’d found, and I’d found a new passion. I had to learn more. I spent a few weeks absorbing as much as I could, seeing what was possible, trying to find out how it had been done, and planning how I could use all this new information to make bigger and better cakes. A friends birthday was coming up, a great opportunity to get some more practice in. I was a bit bolder with this one, which unfortunately came back to haunt me…