As my little boy’s 2nd birthday started approaching, my mind was spinning with a million and one ideas for his theme, and more importantly, his cake! He wasn’t a big fan of any one thing, but did have a love for animals. As my husband and I were on a budget, we figured this baby animal cake was simple and could be really cute without the big price tag of marketed items. So I set to work, coming up with ideas for a baby animal cake.
I started with a box chocolate cake mix and added a few extra yummy ingredients; cinnamon, nutmeg, a little orange flavoring, and my all time favorite thing in the whole entire world, Cardamom! These were all measured by taste and personal preference.
I filled a large square pan and a small round pan. Just a bit of advice, lay your pans on parchment paper and use a pencil to draw the outline of each pan. Then cut the paper along the lines you drew and after greasing the bottom of the pan, place the parchment paper firmly along the bottom and grease once more. Add flower to the pan and shake it around until the entire thing is covered and shake out the excess. These few steps are AMAZING for helping to get your cake to release from the pan once it is cooked.
Anyway’s, you bake the super awesome choco-spice cake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Then you use a mixer to beat together 3 packages of whipped cream cheese, 2 tsp of cornstarch, and begin to add powdered sugar until its the right amount of sweet for your tooth.
After frosting the entire cake, you will need to start on the fondant. You are more than welcome to use store-bought fondant, as I did with this cake, HOWEVER I have since learned how to make my own and OMG, it tastes a billion times better, is soooooooo much easier to work with, and you cannot argue with cost! One and a half bags of store brand marshmallows, melted in the microwave slowly 15 seconds at a time then mixed with powdered sugar, adding a cup at a time and using your hands like your mixing dough when it gets thick enough. Kneed in the powdered sugar until the consistency is solid and thick, but still pliable, much like Playdough.
You can add the green coloring to the fondant at this point and continue kneading it in until the color is right and even. On a large surface, roll out the fondant until it’s about an 8th of and inch thick, using powdered sugar to ensure it does not stick. Place your roller at the edge of the fondant, lifting the edge and rolling it into the roller, then roll the fondant back out over your cake. Using a fondant smoother, or just your hands, smooth out the top and sides of the cake. Repeat these steps, the round tier as well. If you need visual help with the fondant, sites such as Youtube offer a lot of help!
Once the cakes are covered, it is best to keep them in a fridge or lay down freezer, so the fondant doesn’t melt or droop. Now for the fun part! The animals! I honestly can’t tell you how I made them, except that I found some pictures of cartoon baby animals and just let my hands do what they thought my brain wanted lol. It took quite a bit of time, but I finally molded the animals how I wanted them and hand painted them using food dye mixed with a tiny bit of vodka. The vodka evaporates, so don’t worry about that. Once all the figures that you like are finished, you can stack the cake and use extra frosting as glue to keep the figures on the cake.
Using dark blue piping gel, spread a pool on the square cake and run a water fall up the side of the round cake. Roll fondant into lopsided balls to make rocks around the edge of the lake and tiny white sprinkles to create “foam” in a waterfall where the two tiers meet. Pipe some green frosting randomly around the cake as grass and use the blue piping gel to pipe a birthday wish at the top of the cake. I get really tired of “Happy Birthday So-and-So” and try to come up with something creative and different for each birthday. Roll out more green fondant and cut out leaf shapes and using a knife, create vein designs on them. For 3D leafs, use wire wrapped in brown tape as stems. Poke wire through the leaves and into the cake to make the desired effect.
An added bonus of using the fondant to make the figurines is that not only are they one-of-a-kind, but fondant doesn’t seem to go bad, so I took the animals and lined them on my son’s dresser. He loved them and even played with them a few times before they fell apart and had to be thrown away. The best tip I could give is to have patience and take your time, and always have fun with it! Never let it stress you out to the point of tears, trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not worth it!
Best of luck to you, and I hope you’re little one LOVES it and LOVES you for making something so special for them!