The original plan I had for the twins’ cakes was to sculpt their favorite characters for the tops of the cakes in an eatable media. I know that professionals use Rice Krispies and wire, wood and pipe to form the insides of the characters which they then cover with fondant. I was trying to avoid the metal and wood skeleton. I started with the idea that I could sculpt the insides from marshmallows that I cut to shape and stuck together then I would cover the marshmallows with colored fondant. I rolled some fondant and cut it into short sticks that when dry would act like nails to hold the marshmallows together. And I had three sizes of marshmallows; the small kind which are good in baked goods, a standard large size that are used as in S’mores, and a giant size that is about twice the large size.
I proceeded with that plan for several weeks; it was hard cutting the fondant to cover the marshmallow and that was bothering me. Then, one day I pressed too hard and the dry fondant shattered. That plan was a failure.
I ended up buying toys that I could use as toppers for the cakes. One cake is a Spiderman theme, and the second is a Toothless dragon theme. Each cake has a clown figurine on top; this is the marshmallow covered with butter cream frosting and a plastic head. I needed an eatable figure on the top of the cake just so I didn’t feel totally defeated.
The internals of each cake is the same; they both consist of three layers of yellow cake mix, with the top and bottom layers sliced and filled with a strawberry glaze. I used the apricot glaze recipe that is with my Napolean recipe but substituted seedless strawberry jam. That glaze recipe is in the article Icings, Glazes and Frostings. My article on Making a Pinata Cake gives more detail on the internal structure of the Birthday Cakes.
Toothless Dragon Cake
When I started planning the Toothless dragon cake, I found an Internet site that showed a darling Toothless cake. I am grateful to Rouvelee Ilagan for posting what she made for Isa. I had hoped to capture a similar image when I started. But, I am not the cake decorating artist that is needed to duplicate what is on that cake.
First, the cake has tiers and the decorations extend out to the edge of the cake board. I didn’t feel I could carve too deeply into the piñata cake without really messing it up, so my cake is a circular mesa. I tried to get some texture by using shades of the gray splashed around the tower, but I should have done it directly with the frosting instead of as an after-thought.
I did get a couple things correct- the fish and the creel. I made the creel while I was still working with marshmallows; I made up the colors in Royal Icing and then did the basket weave around a marshmallow. When the icing had dried, I pulled the marshmallow out. The fish were also made around that time when I had the fondant out. I rolled some fondant out, and then with an Xacto knife, carved the outlines of the fish. To finish the fish, I used different sizes of the round piping tips to press curves into the fondant. A large tip created the half-circle gill and small tips were used to create scales.
I had only a small amount of fondant left, and so I colored it with black and green and rolled small pieces of it into the stones that are around the green on top of the tower.
The real challenge in the Spiderman cake is making his web that goes out to help the clown up onto the building. I thought about using sugar strings for the web. I had heard that you could create sugar strings from boiled sugar, and I thought they would look neat. So I researched them, and quickly decided they were not for me. The directions all started by saying “Cover your floor with newspaper; cover the fronts of all your cabinets with newspaper; cover the counter top with newspaper”. At that point, I knew it was messy, and I didn’t want to try it.
I started by making the “string” from the Royal Icing I had for the creel on the Toothless cake. It worked, but was quite brittle. I would need to plan on not putting it in place until just before taking the cakes into the boys; I would have to have extra material in the trunk of the car. And even then, I was afraid that the string would snap and I would be left without any Spiderman web.
So, I tried to identify some other material that would not be stiff and brittle. I looked at licorice twists, fruit leather and jerky. The first has the problem that I need to cut it down to only one or two strands; that is difficult because of the twist. The fruit leather didn’t like to roll into a strong enough piece that it wouldn’t fall apart in the center of the string. That left me with the jerky. I got one of the long sticks of pepperoni and cut it lengthwise into a thin string.
I used Royal Icing to stick the end of the jerky to Spidy’s hand and left it on the counter overnight to dry. Bad thinking; Baby, my cat, decided she wanted some beef jerky and ate Spidy’s web. So now I have a choice of using the licorice twist or Royal Icing. In the photos, you can see I tried both; the Royal Icing is white and broad, while the twist is dark and hard to see.
The part of the Spiderman cake that didn’t work quite like I had hoped was the slant on the roof of the building. I had hoped that I could slice the top layer of the cake on a slant, and then rotate the top piece 180 degrees around the vertical such that the thick part of the bottom of that layer, and the thick part of the top of that layer would be together giving a sloped roof.
What happened is that the angle I sliced the top layer was not great enough to make a good slope to the roof; it is almost a flat roof instead of one side being 2 inches higher than the other side.
The Opened Cake
Here is the final picture of the Spiderman cake as it was cut open and served.