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Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 01

For Henri’s 7th birthday party he wants a Pitfall cake.  As in Pitfall: The Lost Expedition.  As in the old PS2 game all 4 of us at home play, and love.

This gave me a bit of a challenge.  The most iconic visuals from Pitfall are, well, the pits.  And Pitfall Harry swinging on vines.  Pits would be easy enough to make, but vine-swinging?  Hmm.  This required a think.

My first thought was to make a framework that would go over the cake with vines and a little fondant Harry hanging down, but while I poked around at work, looking at unused frame displays, a new idea struck.

I found a 2-level display that got my creative juices flowing.  In order to plan properly (and avoid scale mishaps like in the Diego & Dora cake) I took iPhone pics from a few angles and then printed them out really pale, so I could sketch over them and have a rough idea of what I wanted to do.

It’s difficult to photograph something clear but you can get a rough idea of my process here:

pitfall lost expedition paper demo collageFirst I sketched my plan onto paper.  You can sort of see in the first image that I have a brick wall with a balcony-like upper tier.  The blue overhang is supposed to be a waterfall that flows down onto the cake below, and it’s not easy to see unless you click, but there’s a healing spring/fountain hidden behind the waterfall.  Once happy with the sketch I needed to see if it would work, conceivably, and so I used some scrap paper and made a quick mock-up of where the actual cakes would go.  There’s one layer of cake on the top tier, the ‘waterfall’ hanging down, and then a layer of cake the same height as the bottom tier, butted right up against it.

Okay… maybe there’s something here.

This was Thursday, and his party would be on the upcoming Sunday afternoon, so I knew I had to get started right away.  After work I stopped at a bulk candy store for supplies like green sprinkles and extra fondant.  I also picked up 2 cake boards.  I usually use trays for my cakes but I didn’t know how well the stand would fit and I didn’t want to be limited by side edges.  I bought 2 so I could ‘glue’ them together with icing, as I didn’t think 1 board would be strong enough to support the heavy cake.

pitfall lost expedition home paper demo collage

Here’s the same paper mock-up at home, on the actual cake boards so I could test for fit.  What I was hoping for, and am happy about, is that the board is long enough for me to extend the lower cake section beyond the paper template.  I plan to have crocodiles in the water but hope for room to put a pit as well, and I think this will give me enough.pitfall lost expedition night 1 01

Next I cleaned the display stand and wrapped it in saran wrap, and used duct tape to block off the two open edges.  I also cut 2 cardboard ovals to fit over the tiers, as they have large cut outs where the products are meant to sit.  The top one will be used as a cake board, and the lower one will merely be covered in icing.

pitfall lost expedition night 1 02

Next I tinted some white fondant to a beige-ish shade and rolled out enough to cover the back of the display…

pitfall lost expedition night 1 03

…and then trimmed it to size.  At this point I realized that even dampened, the fondant did not want to stick to the saran, and I removed all the coverings.  D’oh.  I make the mistakes, so you don’t have to.

Water-dampened fondant DID want to stick to the clean plastic stand just fine, luckily, and I covered the back with the large sheet, smoothing it down well against the back and around the edges, blending it out with my fingers.  I did the same for the larger areas of the front as well, and then carefully wrapped one thick-ish piece around the open edge of the upper tier, smoothing it into place above and below while being VERY careful to not tear through the open front.pitfall lost expedition night 1 04

Once the fondant was secure I used a scoring tool to scribe a brick pattern into the fondant.  I had to be careful to not pierce the open-fronted balcony edge, but for the rest it was all flush against the thick plastic, and I could press pretty hard if I needed.

For the back and the upper tier I did a rough approximation of a brick pattern found in the game, as seen in the background here:

pitfall bricks

I did the back first, then copied the dimensions over onto the front.  For the lower tier, I wanted it to look more like a cave than a brick wall, so I wet the fondant and pressed on little pieces with my fingers, smoothing and adding more until I had something that resembled a natural rocky wall.

pitfall lost expedition night 1 05

I also used the same beige fondant to cut out shapes to let harden.  On the left are a sleeping croc for in the water, round pieces and a tiki head for the healing spring, and a croc’s open mouth with poor Harry struggling to break free.  (Or, what I HOPE will look like that eventually).  I tinted my remaining beige into a few shades of green and used a leaf-press cutter to punch out 2 sizes of leaves, which I set over the edge of a Styrofoam food tray (saved from buying vegetables) to dry.  I also cut a few strands of tall grass but I’m not sure if I’ll end up using them.pitfall lost expedition night 1 06

At this point it was about 1am and I set everything aside to dry by the dehumidifier and went to bed, knowing the next few nights would probably be pretty late ones to get everything done in time.

 


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The Wiggles cake

Continuing to add Henri’s backdated birthday cakes as we count down to this year’s party, here’s the cake I made for his 2nd birthday, which had a The Wiggles theme.

I’ve posted about the party before, but sorta glossed over the cake, so here are some more details.

the wiggles big red car cake

The first thing I did was to cut out a LOT of man-shaped cookies.  Each invitee was going to receive their own set of Wiggles characters in their lootbags, and I needed to have extra for the cake, and in case of breakage.  Once the cookies had baked and cooled I tinted up some homemade royal icing and got to work.the wiggles cookies

A little while later I had these guys.  (The black icing marker details were added a few days later, to make sure the icing had dried enough).

the wiggles cookie lootbags

Once thoroughly dry, the cookies were packaged up and attached to assorted coloring books to be given out after the party.

Then I was on to the cake.  I had rented a Wilton 3D Cruiser cake pan from our local cake supply store.  I baked the car-shaped cake out of chocolate cake mix, and for the base I baked a 9 x 13 sheet cake out of vanilla cake mix, as I wasn’t sure the car cake pan itself wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone.  It took 1.75 boxes of cake mix, but it’s an odd shape, so I couldn’t guarantee it would be cut in a way that would give enough slices.  It took me about 3-4 hours to make my own buttercream icing, tint the colors I needed, crumb-coat and then decorate the cake.

the wiggles big red car cake 01

The cake as baked wasn’t a convertible, so I used a knife and carefully cut it into a more appropriate shape for what I was trying to duplicate.the wiggles big red car cake 02

I remember being panicked that I wouldn’t be able to ice the cake smoothly, which is why I’d ended up filling it all in with a star-tip in my piping bag.  the wiggles big red car cake 03

I copied the Big Red Car’s colors off a DVD case we had at home, and used leftover of the 4 main icing colors to cover the sides of the base cake.the wiggles big red car cake 05

The logo and the front windshield were the only two spots I dared attempt to smooth over.  After the basic shape was down, I piped the letters with a narrow round icing tip.the wiggles big red car cake 04

I waited until right before serving to add the 4 cookies I’d reserved, as I was afraid they would absorb moisture from the cake and crumble or break at the attachment points.  So I brought them to the party in a flat tupperware and stuck them in at dessert time.the wiggles big red car cake 06

I let Murray have a chance to drive. 🙂

the wiggles big red car cake 07

Henri’s other birthday cakes so far


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Henri’s Football Cake

Henri turned 7 last week.

I know, I don’t know where the time went either.

One minute he born, the next he’s this: Photo 2016-01-08, 7 11 31 AM

…this super-cool, chapter-book reading, rational-thinking, butt-shaking, quote-spewing funny, loving, sweet, creative, hysterical wise old soul.

His party is coming up and it got me thinking that I’ve never gotten around to posting all his cakes from prior years, so I’m going to amend that.  First up: his first birthday.

When Henri turned one Yannick suggested a football theme, as the Superbowl was coming up and his favorite team at the time, the Indianapolis Colts, were playing.  Using Yannick’s hat and jersey I set little Henri up for a photoshoot and got this pic:IMG_0248

Then, using the front and back of a Colts trading card for reference, I made up this invitation:Photo 2016-01-15, 2 36 58 PM

Love his stats 😀

The cake was only my second or third attempt at using fondant, so looking back on it now, I cringe, but at the time I was pretty proud.  I’d tinted white fondant to as close a match to Colts blue as I could and then cut a huge cake into roughly a jersey shape.  White fondant was used for the accents.  I remember being afraid to trim the edges and have cake show through underneath so I’d left them look ‘messy’, hoping it would appear like rumpled fabric.  Heh.Photo 2014-01-17, 6 57 19 PM

I shaped one of the cut out cake sections into a football which I covered with fondant I’d tinted brown.hfootball01

The smaller cake not only provided a place to put his name without messing up the look of the jersey, but it also was a perfect ‘smash’ cake to give him, so he could get his first taste of sugar and try to feed himself.

It was a hit 🙂

Henri’s other birthday cakes so far


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How to Make a Minecraft Cake

From the lootbags to the toppers, next up in the Minecraft-themed birthday party is the yummiest part… the cake!minecraft cake

Jakob turned 8 over the weekend.jk8

I know.  I don’t know where the time went.  I’ve been blogging since before he was born, and now he’s 8 and such a good kid.  Of course he wants a Minecraft-themed party too, but, um, I haven’t begun to do anything for it yet, so instead I’ll finish showing you what I’d done for Henri’s Minecraft party, back in January.

mc cake front

To be honest, it’s not my favorite-looking cake.  I’m a lot prouder of the loot bags and the toppers than I am of how the cake turned out.  But- and here’s the important part- HE loved it.  (And it was delicious).

I started out by baking 2 9×11 chocolate cakes.  My kids prefer vanilla but going for the ‘dirt’ look I knew it would be easier on me to have a chocolate base in case the chocolate icing didn’t fully cover everything.  I also filled an 8×8 greased dish with blue Jell-O prepared as Jigglers, and set that to chill.

When I sat down to work on it I didn’t have a plan.  I knew I’d baked enough cake to stack layers, similar to the grass in the forest biomes.  (Yes, I play LOL).  I knew I had enough chocolate icing to slap it all together.  I knew I had a finite amount of “water cubes”, so I started with that.

mc cake back

I turned the Jell-O out onto a mat and squared the edges, then cut it into 2″ sections.  Then, after leveling the cakes, I used toothpicks to divide the cakes into 2″ sections as well.  Then I began to cut.  I held my platter over the cake to figure out how much to cut off to make it fit along at least 2 sides, and then cut away enough of the ‘front’ to fit the water ‘cubes’.  Then I cut the upper layers, holding and testing until I had something that had as little waste as possible while still looking as ‘unboring’ as I could manage.  (Technical term).

I stuck the upper layers down with icing then dirty iced the whole thing before sticking it in the fridge a few minutes to set up.  Then I gave all the sides a thicker coating of chocolate icing.  The ‘grass’ was piped with a star tip and not-completely-mixed vanilla icing and green icing gels, so there’s a slight variation in the color.  I was hoping that the shading, along with the star tip, would help it look ‘pixellated’ like the game.  I also piped some areas, leaving others blank, so as I ran low on icing and mixed in more, the colors would be different even within those areas.  (Best seen in the overhead view, above).

mc cake good

I placed the Jell-O in only AFTER the cake had chilled for a few hours.  I was afraid one would leech water out of the other and that I’d end up with a gooey, dissolving mess.  Then, at the party, I stuck the figures on just before serving, including tucking Mr. Squid under a few water cubes.

Even though I wasn’t as crazy about it, the kids loved it, the birthday boy loved it, and there were enough fondant figures so everyone who wanted one got one to eat.  (Apologies to their parents for any resulting sugar-rush).mc cake 01The great thing about Minecraft is that it’s SUPPOSED to look boxy – it’s all squares!  So whether it’s by shaping a cake, cutting rice krispy treats into cubes, or cutting brownie squares and topping them with green-tinted shredded coconut, there are a ton of ways you can make an easily-recognizable Minecraft cake.

Up next- putting it all together for the party!

Henri’s other birthday cakes so far

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More Minecraft fun:

How to make Minecraft Steve and Creeper heads


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Hockey Goalie cake

Coming off the Montreal Canadiens’ win last night, I figured the timing was good to post another cake I’d never posted at the time.  The closest I’ve come to HABs cakes have been the 2 hockey goalie cakes I made for my cousin’s son Sean’s last two birthdays, and this is the first one, from back in January 2014.

2014-01-11 hockey goalie cake title

 

This cake started, like a lot of them do, with a fondant topper.  I sketched up the design using clip art, coloring books and player images (for the uniform details) and worked up an image I liked.  Then I traced the outside edge onto some ivory fondant with a knife, cutting away the excess.

2014-01-09 hockey goalie cake plaque step 1

I don’t have better pics of the next step, but it’s one of the methods I use when transferring images.  Sometimes I use push pins to poke holes where my lines need to go, in this case I needed a more accurate, detailed transfer.  First I held my image up to a window and traced it on the back of the paper, so I had a reverse copy.  Then, using black gel icing and a toothpick, I lightly traced over those lines.  When I was done I carefully turned the image right-side up, and set it down carefully onto my fondant, basically using the original sketch as a stamp, and stamped the gel-drawn image onto the fondant.

2014-01-09 hockey goalie cake plaque step 2

That left me with a pretty good outline of what I wanted to paint.  Next was to start painting.  I also didn’t take many progress shots back then, but you can see how I worked upwards.  First I did a base layer of the different colors, then a second layer to create the shaping/dimensions.  For example: the red outline of the goal has only one layer (it looks lighter and flatter) but the uniform/helmet already had 2 coats.2014-01-09 hockey goalie cake plaque step 3

The finished plaque.  I’ve added a second coat to all areas and worked the outlines with an edible ink marker.  Once the whole thing had dried for a day, I added the “CH” logo.  All the painting was done with a small paintbrush and a toothpick.

2014-01-10 hockey goalie cake plaque final

The finished cake.  A simple layer of vanilla icing (over a chocolate 2-layer 9×11 cake), trimmed with blue and red Smarties, and the birthday boy’s name.  I lightly dabbed the plaque with a bit of water on a Q-Tip to moisten the 4 corners, so it would stick well, as the icing had already crusted over.  I didn’t want to attach it while the icing was still damp because I was afraid the colors along the edges would bleed into the cake, so I made sure it was really, really dry first.

2014-01-11 hockey goalie cake 01


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Charlie and Lola cake

Instead of cakes, or knitting, the projects I’ve been working on lately have been for the upcoming show I’m a part of.  I’ve joined the Becket Players this year, and we are getting right down to the crunch before the show starts.  (Literally… “Hell Week” starts tonight).

Actually, come to think of it I did make cookies, and knit something for the show, but that’s not the point.  I’ve been taking step-by-step pics of the props so I can make tutorial posts, but I want to wait to post them after the show has finished the run.  Not for EVERY prop I made, however… today I made some fake money for one scene and somehow I don’t think it’s a good idea to post a tutorial on “How To Print Money” 😛

So since I can’t show you that stuff yet, I’m going to continue posting cakes and projects from the past.  Today it’s the Charlie and Lola cake.charlie_and_lola_cake_title

When I was asked to make this cake for Quentin’s birthday, all the way back in November 2013, I had no idea who Charlie and Lola were.  Actually, I still don’t, beyond that link.  So I went online and found this image to use as a reference:

Charlie_and_lola_orig

charlie_and_lola_cake_04

Nailed it! 😀

About a week before the cake was due I cut out the letters for the name from yellow fondant, and set them aside to dry.  I also cut out the figures from ivory fondant, tracing the images I’d printed off the internet, as I discuss here.  I also set those aside to dry, and discovered that larger shapes take longer to dry.  I knew that already with sculpted pieces, but was surprised that after 2 days of sitting out at room temperature these figures were still floppy.  I tried moving them downstairs and had them spend the night on the washing machine, in front of the dehumidifier, but they still slowly sagged when I held only one end.  Shoot.

A baker friend suggested submerging them in a bed of cornstarch to draw out moisture.  Great- except I had none.  So I set them for 24 hours in a bed of icing sugar instead.  They weren’t as dry as I’d like, nowhere near the “ready-to-snap” aridity of the Jake figures, but dry enough to risk painting.

Overall, I’m happy with how these came out…mostly.  I think they look like who they’re supposed to be, but there are some flaws that bug me when I look closely.

charlie_and_lola_cake_charlie

Not bad, right? Good from far but…

So much bothers me with this technique, and is the reason why I’ve switched to painting with icing instead of straight gels.  The visible “skin tone” of the figures is the ivory fondant.  The “paint” used was Wilton gel colors thinned with water, and a drop of Wilton White White to help it be opaque.  On very small items, like the Jake figures, it covered well, dried fast, and was manageable.  But these figures were almost the size of a 9×11″ cake, and it took a lot more “paint” to cover them.

charlie_and_lola_cake_charlie_closeupThe first day, as I painted, they looked good.  The yellow hair was brighter, and the white shirt seemed solid.  The next day is when the flaws started to come out.  The hair dried patchy, in some of the spots the gel color almost seemed to separate from the water.  The painted areas were still glossy and tacky 2 days later, the longest I could wait to do the outlining and details, as it was the day of the party.  As you can see, especially on the right eye and the shirt, the white was still not dry enough in the centers, and cracked and bled when I drew on it with my edible ink pen.

charlie_and_lola_cake_jeans_closeup

I was MUCH happier with the lower half.  For his jeans, I painted the pants first with blue, then pounced/dry brushed blue, blue/black mix and straight black icing gels.  The cuffs were scribbled just like the source drawing, and I really like the way they, the shoes and pants came out.

charlie_and_lola_cake_lola

I had the same issues with Lola.  I was quite happy with how her dress came out, not as much with the hair/eyes, mainly because of the color drying/bleeding.charlie_and_lola_cake_lola_closeup

The dress was a lot of fun to do.  I put a base layer of white, then took advantage of the bleeding attributes to dot in the flowers (groupings of 4 or 5 dots).  Once they’d had a chance to set up a bit I added the flower centers, and finally the leaves.  If I’d been painting with real paint, or working with icing, I’d have started with the leaves, and built up, but that wouldn’t have worked here.

charlie_and_lola_cake_dress_closeup_01

A little outlining at the end gave the finishing touch.

charlie_and_lola_cake_dress_closeup_02

The cake itself was a chocolate 2-layer cake, iced and filled with vanilla icing.  While the icing was still wet I put a row of purple Smarties around the base.  The day of the party I attached the figures to the top with a little bit of icing, and added the name.

charlie_and_lola_cake_01


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Jake & the Neverland Pirates cake

Yesterday I mentioned a few cakes that I haven’t actually ever posted.  This Jake & The Neverland Pirates cake is one of them.

Way back in 2013 Jake & the gang were favorites around here, both the toys and the show.  “Aw, coconuts!” was a common complaint, and the Sharkey & Bones cd was on constant loop in my car.  I can still sing them in my sleep.

Anyhoo… in 2013 Henri turned 4, so of course he wanted a Jake cake.

jake cake

Now back then I wasn’t really thinking of the cakes in relation to the blog, because I wasn’t thinking of the blog much.  And I didn’t think anyone on my Facebook page would care about step-by-step pics… so I didn’t take any.  But I can tell you what I did.

The figures were the first ones I ever hand-painted.  I’d been traumatized by my horrible sculpting of the Dora and Diego figures in Henri’s cake the previous year (I can sculpt, not that that cake would show it), and there was no way I was going to start modelling all the Jake gang’s tiny details.  So I decided to try painting.

I cut printed images to the scale I wanted and cut them out on ivory fondant (the visible skin tone) the same way you can see here.  For painting I used a toothpick and Wilton food gels loosened with a bit of water, and a drop of White White to get the opacity.  These figures are small… as you can tell by the toothpicks inside them.  If you try it, don’t get stressed if they don’t look ‘right’.  Finishing details, like the whites of the eyes and jewelry/touches really make a difference, and they can only often be added once the base layer is dry.  Also, no matter how I think they look at 3am when I’ve finally finished… I’m ALWAYS pleasantly surprised the next morning when I look at them again.

Jake & The Neverland Pirates painted fondant cake toppersThe cake was another case of “I don’t know what I want to do so I’ll bake the cakes and figure it out later”.  I started by baking 3 cakes, a vanilla round and chocolate 9×11 and 8×8.

bucky fisher price

I used this toy ^ as a model for Bucky.  Easy enough, since we own it and I could have it on the table next to me.

The sand and sea is the vanilla round, torted with buttercream, the ship was made from the chocolate cakes and store-bought chocolate icing.

Photo 2013-01-20, 2 04 27 PM

The accents are all rolled fondant, bought white and tinted to the colors I needed.Photo 2013-01-20, 2 05 21 PM

I did the “sand” first.  After crumbcoating the round I put some fresh vanilla icing over half the cake and quickly covered it with crushed graham crackers.  For the sea I covered the other half with a thick layer of blue icing, stopping just shy of the white border.  I waited for the icing to crust a bit then chopped up where the white and blue met, for sea froth.  (Similar to the top of the Betty Boop cake’s hot tub).Photo 2013-01-20, 2 05 56 PMThe sails are paper flags I made in Excel (for the stripes) and topped with a graphic of a gold doubloon.  The crow’s nest is a cupcake/muffin liner.  The mast is a straw covered with brown fondant, with some wooden skewers down the center and through the cakes.  There’s a disk of fondant under the crow’s nest and a smaller one inside it, to hold it in place.

IMG_4073

The cannon is made from gray fondant and also stuck on a toothpick/pressed into the cake for support.  There are also toothpicks in the outer 2 legs of each of the 4 railings, and I allowed them to dry for a day before standing them in the cake, so they wouldn’t risk sagging.  Finally there was the …what’s that called?  Captain’s area?  (lol).  If you notice in the above pics, that’s the one piece that’s not in place elsewhere.  That’s because that solid plaque of fondant was so darn heavy that when I set it in place it made the whole back of the ship start to slide back.  I only ended up adding it at the party, RIGHT before serving… and even with that delay I still had to have my hand hovering behind it as I brought it out, so it wouldn’t fall.

I also waited until serving to insert the figures, but that was mostly because I was worried they’d break.

Photo 2013-01-20, 6 03 38 PMAnd of course, the birthday boy and his brother at the party, right before the best part- digging in!

(And you can see my hand supporting the large fondant piece).

By the way- this technique for the figures is really practical if you need to make items in advance.  This party was 2 years ago (!) and I had the figures in a tupperware in the back of my fridge until a few months ago, and they looked just as good as they did that day.  (I probably wouldn’t EAT them, though…)

Throwing your own pirate party?  Try these easy pirate craft ideas as party activities or loot bag stuffers!

Henri’s other birthday cakes so far