Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A special In the Night Garden Birthday Cake

The content of this post is actually nearly 2 years old! I did not have a blog back then, and this morning, I was looking through my past baking projects, and thought it would be a shame not to write about this very special one. Special because it was my nephew's ( who is very special to me and my husband) 2nd birthday cake, and also because it was the first time I made such an elaborate cake involving fondant. The end result was very satisfying to me, and it felt great to have produced this cake.

It did take me 3 days though, because i worked on it in stages, as you will see below.
But, it was totally worth it and the various steps involved should not put you off, in case you also want to have a go at using fondant.

I should probably explain what In the Night Garden is, in case you don't know. I only know about this children's show because said nephew is a big fan. The show takes place in a garden, and its main characters, which are animated puppets are Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy, the Tombliboos and Makka Pakka ( really). It's very colourful and kids here in the UK love it to bits. In case you are curious about the characters, you can have a look here.

So I thought, what birthday gift would be more amazing than a cake with the characters? I obviously had to do some field research ( i.e. Watching some episodes and googling some images!). It quickly dawned on me that if i wanted to replicate a colourful scene, the cake would have to be covered with fondant ( which before my research I referred to as "that coloured paste thingy). Also, the characters would also have to be made of said thingy.

My research taught me that fondant is also called sugar paste, and that you can buy it in various colours, or plain white blocks ( which you can then colour yourself). And the best thing? It is all available online. I can't remember the website I used, but google, as usual, will have answers. I bought a combination of white and a couple of already coloured fondant packets. Equipped with all my gear, i started by making the characters. I have to say, this does get easier with each one you make. I think my confidence just grew and as a result, the characters, looked really good after the first one. I am particularly proud of my Makka Pakka :)

I made the characters and other props over two days:

A good tip, is to use toothpicks or bits of dry spaghetti to hold the various parts of the characters together. You avoid wobbly heads or dropping arms that way.

Then, the most important thing to decide - the cake itself. After all, if it didn't taste good, what was the point? I made a 3 layer cake for this project, as I thought it required that height. I made a simple chocolate cake, and filled the layers with fresh strawberries, blueberries and cream. This I did the day before the party.

A crucial step when making a cake covered with fondant, is that once your cake is baked, cooled ( I freeze my layers before filling them. Makes them much easier to work with)  and assembled with its filling between the layers, you need to cover the whole thing with a thin layer of buttercream. This was one part of the cake I didn't make. I bought a tub of vanilla buttercream from Sainsbury's, and it did the trick.

There is one final step before you get to the fun part of assembling all the characters and making the cake come to life. That's the covering of the cake with fondant part. As I wanted the cake itself to represent the garden's grass, I coloured white fondant until it became the right shade of green. ( I use gel colours as it is the right consistency. Again, you'll find a range of such gels online. Sugarflair is a known brand). I had a look at some tutorials on youtube which greatly helped with the rolling of the fondant ( I did not really enjoy that part! but with perseverance, it can be done) as well as with the covering of the cake. I think it does help to see how all this is done when you are a novice, and then it is easier to execute.

So, after much hard work, but above all, incredible fun and pleasure, I assembled all the bits the night before the birthday party and I give you my first ever fondant cake!

I cannot describe the feeling of satisfaction and the sense of achievement I felt when I completed this cake and when I took it to the party. My nephew was delighted, and he immediately said "Iggle Piggle!", which at least reassured me that my depiction of the show was realistic, if such a loyal fan could instantly recognise the characters!
So all in all, a great success at the party, and the cake was yummy too.

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