My friend Melinda had her baby shower and of course I volunteered to make the cake. Strange, huh?
Step #1- Find a recipe.
I sent a list of about 1.34 million choices in cake, filling, and frosting to Melinda (world's pickiest and most indecisive person) and she suprisingly came back with two cake choices. I picked the one I wanted from that and voila! we have orange cake with orange mousee filling and chocolate ganache on top. Interesting flavor idea, if I do say so. I haven't made an orange cake before. So I decideed to try a few recipes out first, which was a BRILLIANT idea. I spent one whole Friday off baking two recipes. One from the Whimsical Bakehousecookbook I check out from the library an awful lot. The other I found with a Google search, Ina Garten's Orange Pound Cake, which I found on this blog. I'm glad I tried both beforehand, because I had issues with the Whimsical Bakehouse cake and it did this strange thing where it only cooked in layers in the pan with lenses of tough, doughy batter throughout. But the poundcake came out nice and moist and orangy. Plus, the pound cake texture lends itself well to stacking.
Step #2- Pick a design.
Somewhere around two years ago I saw this cake on my very favorite website and saved the link on the computer, knowing that Melinda would need a baby shower cake. I also began reading the story of Sweet Baby James. Plese feel free to dig around, it's a beautiful, sad, and amazing story. But the interesting thing is, the cake design was taken out of the Whimical Bakehouse cookbook I get from the library so often. I suppose the cake world can be oddly small sometimes.
Basically, all the animals are created from chocolate. I hadn't done it before, so why not try it out on a cake for a particularly important day for Melinda? I loved it and I'm looking for more reasons to use this technique.
I took the design of the cake from the nursery bedding. It's Fisher Price Precious Planet and ever so adorable. Melinda even had coloring books! So she scanned the images for me. All the critters are made from chocolate that I dyed and then piped onto parchement paper layed over the prints of the images Melinda gave me. Each color is allowed to set before adding the next one.
But you're just here for the pictures, right? So without further ado:
The beautiful (and enormous) mommy:
If you aren't familiar with Melinda and the baby, in Melinda's first ultrasound, the baby bore a strong resemblance to a shark and has been called "Sharkie" ever since. Partly because the parents-to-be are not finding out the sex of the baby before the birth. It's a pain in my butt (lol) but they're sticking to their guns. And I suppose Sharkie is fairly unisex anyway. So the star of the cake was the shark:
The top layer included the marine-type animals. I thought it was a rather ingeneous way to take care of the "I have a tiger and a shark, how do I get them both on one cake?" issue I ran into.
The giraffe was just too stinking cute! And check out the leaves behind him. These are fondant, but also modeled after the Fisher Price design.
The tree trunks of the jungle were made from modeling chocolate. The hubbin walked in when I was about half done covering the sides with them. He complemented me on my "poo sticks."
This was the iceberg in the ocean. :) It was another issue of "how does a polar bear and a penguin fit into this?" And so, an iceberg solved all the problems.
Now I read a whole mess of food blogs and they always have pictures throughout the entire cooking process. All these artsy-fartsy shots of whisks dripping batter, cake right out of the oven, spoons and artfully created plate settings. And I ain't got a clue how they manage it. My kitchen has been a massive wreck for a week now working on these things and there's not a surface that doesn't have chocolate on it. I woke up this morning with chocolate on my pillow and I'm not really sure how it ended up there. But I did get a few shots to show the chocolate process.
This last one is a lesson learned the hard way. There are only three months in Phoenix when it makes sense to take on a chocolate project. The middle of July when temperatures have topped out at 116 is NOT the time to do it. So these poor little buggers were semi-soft most of the time and melted to the touch. And so transporting them the 50 minute drive to the shower location was probably the biggest challenge of the entire cake. What you see is the floorboard of my little blue car on the way. There's a towel, then bags of ice that the metal pan is sitting on. Then I had the A/C on full blast at my feet. Is is possible to get frostbite on your toes in Phoenix in July? It is when you're carrying chocolate. But everyone made it safe and sound to the party.