Coolest Free Decorating Ideas for Tree and Plant-Shaped Cakes
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Christchurch, New Zealand
This cake idea came from Debbie Brown's Fabulous character cakes, and is the theme of Brambly Hedge. Not a program showing on NZ-TV but a memory from childhood (perhaps it is different in the UK ). I did this for my daughter Dominique's first birthday. It took me about 12 hours all up (including baking the cake and I always seem to burn the midnight oil when I decorate cakes).
I used a firm-ish Madeira cake suitable for shaping and cutting. I used two 9-inch cakes stacked on top of each other and then shaped them to suit. Debbie has recipes in her book but it tends to be a bit dry and a bit too much butter; so ease the butter back about 10% and watch it carefully as it is very easy to overcook the cake. I think adding some sour cream would improve the texture.
These days I always ice my board as it gives a much better finish. On the first night I do that after colouring in the desired colour. Allow plenty of time for this stage as it takes a long time to get the right colour and the colours develop over time. It is preferable to rest icing overnight before using so you can see the final colour.
I then cut the cake into the correct shape using a small serrated knife; I then split it into 3 layers and applied buttercream to all surfaces. I rolled out chocolate fondant icing to the surface and marked it to look like a tree stump, adding extra pieces for branches (all the time aiming for a natural look).
I put an ivory coloured piece on the top to look like the top of a cut stump and then added ivy leaves that I made from rolled out fondant, coloured to suit. I marked veins in the leaves and added some darker colouring gel paint (gel icing colour thinned with water and applied with a fine paintbrush).
I pressed dents into the icing, modeled icing doors to fit the hole, and added details. I made all of the mice and fruit and other pieces seen in the final cake. I left them white, which makes the job much faster. I then painted the dry figures to achieve a realistic look.
I did have a small fruit basket but daughter number one found it (she was only 3 at the time) and swallowed the whole thing. Oh well, after I recovered from the horror of her eating one of my creations I had a laugh about it. The one that was eaten was made at 4 in the morning and it didn't seem quite so cute that day as it does now.
I added the finishing touches moments before the party and watched the delight on the children's faces. It is one of those things that you have to disengage emotionally from though; your creation that you pour your heart and soul into is fair game the minute it is presented to the children. I always cut my own cakes, its a bit like a ceremonial burning, you made it, you get to break it too!!!
This was the best cake I have created; it was intricate and delightful to do. It was much easier to paint the figures after modeling them than it is to get your icing just the right shade by adding icing colour to the icing. That is a work of art in its own right.
My free decorating ideas advice, is never use corn flour to stop your fondant from sticking, it dries it out. Use 100% icing sugar. Start early, much earlier than you think you need too, and most of all enjoy the process!!!
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