From the day my soon-to-be 5 year old told me she wanted an Ariel birthday cake for her party, I became slightly obsessed with online research. I quickly found this website and enjoyed perusing the many amazing Little Mermaid cakes.
My initial plan was to use a bowl and make an Ariel doll coming out of it (I happily found one at a second hand shop for 2 bucks and washed it well before wrapping the body with saran wrap). However, weeks later I settled on using a sheet cake and after seeing a youtube video on making a rock cake pop, I decided I was all set as Ariel could be perched on the rock.
The key elements of the cake were drawn from many different cakes, so I am indebted to all the wonderful bakers out there and especially to the people who provided instruction on creating Little Mermaid figures out of fondant.
Ariel Birthday Cake Instructions
- I made the sheet cake about five days ahead using Fat Daddio’s anodized aluminum sheet cake pan, 11″ x 15″ x 2″.
- I used my usual recipe, Noreen Gilletz’s Pareve chocolate cake from The Pleasures of your Food Processor. This dairy-free cake is moist, chocolatey, and delicious. I made the recipe two times over as my food processor wasn’t big enough to double the recipe.
- I froze the cake in our chest freezer. In hindsight, it would have been better to wrap it up before freezing it, but it was still warm and it was very late and I couldn’t wait up any longer. The outer parts of the cake weren’t as moist as usual, so I attribute it to that (plus freezing, removing to crumb coat, removing again to frost, etc.).
- I next began working on fondant. I have never touched fondant so I wasn’t sure how my figures would turn out.
- My first project was Sebastian the crab. I used the Wilton preferred fondant and Wilton color gels. I didn’t anticipate how long just getting the color right would take. Looking at various examples online, I was pretty pleased with how Sebastian turned out.
- Next up (a day later) was Flounder and definitely the more challenging of the two figures. I found a great video online but it was in fast forward mode so I must have rewound it 30-40 times to note the different steps in sculpting the fish.
- Since I’d jettisoned the bowl cake idea, I decided I’d wrap Ariel’s body in fondant and have her perched on a rock close to the beach.
- I made The Kitchen Magpie’s excellent buttercream frosting recipe (about 3 times over) and tinted some yellow and some blue.
- I used the yellow as the beach background and crunched up alphabet cookies for sand.
- On the blue water, I sprinkled blue sugar crystals for added sparkle.
- I bought a seashell mould, which was much smaller than I expected but turned out well as it was more realistic. I had fun making seashells, after I discovered that a titch of copper gel lightly mixed into fondant made a very pretty seashell look.
- I put some seashells on the beach, plus some on the front of the cake for décor.
- I made a point of making 20 extra seashells so we could put one on each slice of cake at the party. That was a big hit with my daughter’s class.
- The night before the party, I frosted the cake, including the finishing touches on the beach and water (sparkles).
- The next morning (technically later that day since I was up until 1 am), I took my frosted cake from the freezer and used some buttercream to ‘glue’ Sebastian, Flounder, the rock, Ariel to the rock, and the starfish I made myself.
When my daughter walked into the kitchen, her eyes got very big and she was thrilled, though her first question was, would she get to keep Ariel and could she eat all the fondant off her tail. (Answers: Yes to keeping and no to eating all that fondant.)
The kids were all pretty impressed with the cake as were the parents, who also appreciated that the cake didn’t just look pretty but tasted yummy too.
The day after the party, my daughter reported that her friends all told her how much fun they had and how cool the cake was. My first foray into fondant turned out pretty well.