My little girl’s birthday theme this year was big cats. Actually, she wanted a carnivore party, but we decided to narrow the scope a bit 🙂 I just love making cakes for my children and involving them in the creative process. I also like to see if I can actually execute on their vision. We sketched out an idea and in the end, we decided on lions, tigers, and a cheetah. We decided to have the tigers swimming, since as my daughter says, “they are one of three big cats that like the water.” She asked if the lion could look like it was roaring. I said yes, before I realized that I had to make the mouth stay open and add a tongue and teeth. But, it was all worth it to see her smile. We also got her a really cool big cat shirt for the party, and of course had gift bags with a picture of a baby lion…she got girly on me with the gift bags!
I hope you enjoy the cake. I have included some directions below.
Her cake was a homemade chocolate cake. The icing was a basic homemade buttercream, made with real butter. This type of buttercream is more difficult and temperamental to work with than the vegetable shortening variety, but is so much better. A sheet cake takes a whole lot of icing (see the recipe at the bottom of the post).
When frosting a cake, frost the top first and then the sides. Place a large amount of icing on top of the cake (you can remove excess later), to prevent crumbs from mixing with your icing. After icing the top and sides, gently take off excess icing and smooth with a large icing spatula. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as the next step is where the real smoothing takes place. Place the cake under a stove fan and light for about 20 minutes to slightly dry the icing. Smooth the cake by using parchment paper or a smooth paper towel, and lightly smooth a little at a time. After that, the cake is ready to decorate.
I used a spray color on the cake, in order to get the color variations of dry sand (blue for the water, and a combination of gold, yellow, and black for the sand). After spraying, I gently pushed on the bottom of the cake to crack the icing a bit, to make it look more like dry ground.
The decorations are made out of fondant and gum paste and colored using food coloring and food-safe paint dust and markers. Gum paste glue adhesive was used to affix parts together and to the cake (made from water and gum paste).
- The big cats are made out of fondant, and toothpicks were used to attach the heads to the bodies. The tiger tails have gum paste flower wire to keep them up. I looked at pictures and models to sculpt the cats. I don’t have a great deal of experience, so the faces were very difficult for me. The lion’s mane was relatively easy, but time consuming. I used a sharped edge fondant tool to create the appearance of hair out of the mane. I used the markers to create the cheetah spots, tiger stripes, and facial features. I also used brown color dust on some of the cats.
- The birthday letters were made out of gum paste and alphabet cutters, and then painted with pink and purple color dust.
- I made the rocks out of copper colored fondant and formed them by hand, and then painted them with brown and silver color dust, to give them variation and depth.
- The tree trunk has 4 lollipop sticks inside tied together (Two are higher than the others and two are lower. This enabled the tree trunk to be inserted into the cake and the tree covering and branches to be attached to the trunk top). I wrapped the lollipop sticks with a copper colored fondant, and then painted with brown paint dust (I did not cover the two lollipop sticks on either side). The tree branches are lollipop sticks, which are concealed under the tree covers. The green tree cover is made out of green gum paste, which was hand-cut and hardened at different angles (gum paste will dry however you place it). Once the gum paste dried, I used gum paste flower wire and gum paste glue to affix the tree covering to the lollipop sticks. I also used wires to attach the tree trunk lollipop sticks to the branch lollipop sticks. I finished the tree covering off with green paint dust to create some variations in the color. When I attached it to the cake, I also drove some toothpicks through the bottom of the tree into the cake for extra stability. When putting any large or top heavy decoration on a cake, you always have to think through the structural integrity and stability. I put the tree on about 2 hours before the party, to ensure it made it to the big moment 🙂
I will share more cakes that I have decorated and ideas for your next birthday party soon. I would love to hear from you. Let me know if you have any feedback or questions 🙂
- 6 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
- 8 cups pure cane confectioners sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp real vanilla extract