It’s been brought to my attention (*cough*Michelle*cough*) that I never finished posting Henri’s Pitfall cake. That is correct… February sort of got away from me, so I’ll take care of that right now. This post will cover the final details of finishing the cake the night before the party, and my next post will show the final cake at the party, complete, and enjoyed. 🙂
In my last Pitfall cake post I left off with the cakes assembled and dirty-iced. I set them aside for a little bit so the icing could crust and mixed up some green for the grass. I deliberately gave it a bit of an aged, almost faded color so it would match the tones of the fondant leaves and the brick wall. The wall was so dirty and stained/old-looking that a bright, primary-colored grass base would have looked really, really out of place.
I covered the top cake with the same cake-filled chocolate icing as I used on the lower base, blocking out an area for the small pool at the top of the waterfall. Then I used green icing to block out the larger pool at the bottom. Once the brown and green were done I used more white icing to thicken the base coat on the various water areas.
Then I realized that the pool I’d created wasn’t wide enough to fit the crocodile I’d already made. Oops! So I used more white icing to widen the water.
My cakes are often like this. Very rarely is something sprung to life, fully formed, exactly as it was in my head. It might be close, in the way this cake very closely resembles my initial sketch, but the actual details in the getting there are always very fluid, and often borne of the desperation and delirium that comes from cake decorating in the wee hours of the night when stores are closed and coffee is cooling.
Next I mixed up some blue for the water and layered it on over the white. I didn’t worry so much about the edges where the water and grass meet as I knew I’d be placing leaves there, and I deliberately left it choppy on the waterfall where I wanted it to look like there was some motion and churning. I also played with swirling my knife around to make the water look a bit rough because the waterfall would prevent it from being a clear, calm pool. Above you can see the cake as I worked on it (with the parchment protection) and then how it looks once I removed the parchment. I always keep the parchment in place until I’m ready for the finishing details as it’s much easier to remove dirty parchment from around a cake than icing from the cake board.
One of the things I’d been thinking about in the days leading up to D-day (decorating day) was how to make vines. I figured I’d just roll out some fondant pretty thin and hope it wouldn’t crack once it dried. But when at the dollar store that afternoon during my unexpected child-free time I hit on the idea to try using caramels.
I figured they were already pliable, and edible, just like fondant… but had a better stretch. Hmmm…could this work?
I’d decided to do a quick test before going to pick up the kids from the party. I softened 2 caramels in the microwave and then when they’d cooled enough to touch, added a touch of green food gels. I kneaded it together just like dough/fondant and was thrilled that the caramel took the color evenly, with no streaking or dissolving from the added moisture. I quickly rolled out a quick, curly vine and set it aside to dry while I was out.
This is what I came home to (above). A perfect, jungly-green colored, held-its-shape vine that was smooth, crack-free and best of all, delicious. (Okay, there had been 2. Yum.)
For my Pinterest friends, here’s a graphic for you!
Now that I knew I had the solution for the perfect vines, I got to work. I wanted to set the vines in place before finishing the grass because I knew working on one could destroy the other.
I rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled, placing each vine in place before rolling out the next one. The vines that draped around the wall stuck pretty well with a tiny touch of water, only on places where I wanted a curl or end to stay up. For the most part, though, I left them unstuck so gravity would work on the caramel and make it look more natural.*
I had an image in my head of vines hanging down like curtains, helping to hide the secret healing spring. So for those vines, as I made each one I used the tip of a knife to lift the cake board that the top cake was sitting on, just enough to wriggle the end of the caramel underneath, and poking it in with a needle tool if I had to.
After the vines were done I tackled the grass. My first thought was to use my grass tip and pipe out the grass like I’d done around the Betty Boop cake. Only problem was I knew I was going to use my remaining green icing to do grass around the edges of the cake where it met the board and I didn’t think I had enough icing left. I was tapping some piping tips against my palm, trying to figure out if I had enough icing mixed up for all the grassy areas, when I looked at the marks I’d left on my skin and got another bout of inspiration. (My pain = cake gain).
I used an open star tip and basically poked the hell out of the grass areas. My icing had crusted enough to be an ideal surface, but if your icing is still soft I’d stop every now and then to clean your tip, as the grass effect works better with smaller pokes vs larger flat areas. It was remarkably convincing for grass, and I’m really, really happy with how it came out.
Plus it left me with enough green icing left to pipe long, marshy grass/weeds around the base of the cake. I did that, then stuck down the leaves I’d darkened, then decided to call it a night.
In the back you can see the remaining leaves I didn’t end up using. Don’t worry, they didn’t go to waste. The kids ate them all over the next few days. 🙂
I tried to vary the lengths of the grasses to make it look more natural than an even, trimmed border.
In these final two pics you can see the two sides of the cake, and the finished vines and grasses. I’d added some long grass to overhang the vines as well.
Next time – the cake in situ!