Saturday, March 5, 2011

Let them eat cake! Please! Eat some cake!

Today is my grandson's first birthday party. Yesterday was a busy day in my kitchen. I wish I had started some of the decorating earlier but this past week just didn't allow for that. I crammed a lot in four hours, and warm hands and squeezing decorator bags don't mix. Of course chilling those bags and making harder work for tired hands isn't such a good idea either.

The theme to this party is Jungle Safari. First we have a monkey cake. The batter is chocolate, the icing is regular buttercream tinted brown (not chocolate buttercream).
Next is a yellow batter cake with buttercream icing and Wilton jungle/zoo animals and leaves in the border. The larger animals in the middle are made from candy clay. I will explain that later.
The last cake is a single layer 6" yellow cake, just for Colton. The monkey faces were made at a local cake and candy supply store.
I've been lazy the last few years and used canned frosting much of the time. I had forgotten how quickly homemade buttercream can set up or dry. The cakes aren't as smooth as they should be, but I can vouch for the icing tasting good.

Now about the candy clay...
It isn't hard to make. You melt a bag of Wilton Candy Melts, stirring often. Once they are all melted, you add 1/3 cup light corn syrup and stir that in. It will form a clay-like ball. When the corn syrup is fully blended, pat the candy clay out on a sheet of wax paper. I spread it into a somewhat rectangular shape to cool. Blot this a few times with paper towel to absorb some of the liquid that will be present. I wrapped the wax paper around this, folding the "clay" and put it in a zip lock bag overnight.

My test samples earlier in the week were made with yellow candy melts. They aren't quite as bright as they appear here. What I learned from the samples was to  1) work with a small amount at a time 2) that if you let body parts get too dry, they won't adhere and 3) edible markers, even fine tipped ones, are too large to fill in small holes if you use a toothpick to make an indentation for an eye. Not the best picture collage here, but you can see what I mean about the eyes and marker. The balls in front of the puppy were supposed to be balls of yarn...I was getting ready to leave for knitting when playing with this.
The day after the clay was made, I thought it was a huge mistake. The blob in the zip lock bag seemed really hard, but breaking a piece off (or cutting it off), it was ok to knead by hand.

I knew I didn't want to buy a bunch of Candy Melts in various colors and I had a pound of Guittard chocolate melts from the candy supply stores. Guittard is a very good chocolate for molding tasty candy, but it wasn't as good to work with for this project, at least not in my opinion. I used the pound bag of  white Guittard  to make the clay and used paste coloring to tint small amounts as needed yesterday. The tiger orange was orange coloring added to some of the yellow clay. I was worried that the colors would stain my hands but they did not. I washed between each dye job, not only to prevent color blending but to cool my hands off. That isn't something you'll hear from me often. I am usually cold and running them under warm water!

If I had made the animals a little larger, the smaller details would have been easier to manage but do I think a one year old or his young cousins are going to mind? Hardly. I will definitely do this again. It was fun, and would be fun to do with a child. 

The leftover clay is in zip lock baggies. I need to look up how long I can expect it to keep. Of the samples I made last Sunday, some I kept in a plastic storage container and one I kept out in the air. Both remained pliable enough to bite without effort. The clay critters would be a bit sweet to eat an entire one, but I like that they have a decent taste and texture. Sometimes decorations are cute, but nothing you really want to taste.


Chatty Crone said...

You made 3 cakes - whew - good grandma.
And you sure went to a lot of work!
They all turned out nice.
I take it he loves monkeys.
Did you know the candy melts - there is a package of mixed colors you can buy?
Have fun at the party and eat some cake.

Jaclyn Hicks said...

These look amazing! You are so talented, and a wonderful Grandma!

Sewconsult said...

Such a great job! Before I had hand issues, I was the family cake baker/decorator. Back in Dec, my sister called and asked what kind of icing I used for her son's cakes when he was little. He was turning 27 and wanted a cake like Aunt Beckie use to make. Such a compliment.
Beckie, who would love a piece of cake!