I have never been a massive fan of children. Anyone who knows me is aware of this and I was very sure to prep my family at an early stage that there might not be any grandkids. So when my best friend Ariane and her husband gave birth to their beautiful baby boy Nathan and asked me to be his Godmother my first reaction was “Ummm are you sure??” apparently they were!
A year on and it was the little mans first birthday party on the weekend so in his honour, I decided to attempt making a cake. Cakes I can do, fondant covered cakes with fondant animals, I wasn’t so sure about. I had told his mum I would make it and would do a “dry run” early on so I knew whether or not I could make it happen (and also whether or not she should call a proper bakery). I bought some modelling clay from Lincraft and plopped myself at the dining table trying to construct jungle themes animals (elephant, giraffe, hippo). I wasn’t completely happy with the animals, don’t get me wrong, I was impressed that they looked like what they were suppose to but after watching Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, The Ultimate Bake Off, etc it wasn’t perfect and I wanted perfect. I resided knowing that I wasn’t a professional and with all the colours added in, it would bring them more to life.
So come the day before, I headed to the cake store, stocked up on fondant, headed to Coles and stocked up on butter, cream cheese and a banana cake mix (I know packet, but banana was requested and I knew this one was fab!) and headed home to whip up some cake! I cooked both cakes and started on the animals while they were in the oven.
On to the hippo which was also pretty easy although being a little too heavy handed with the black powdered colour, he turned out too dark and I had to mix in some more white. I soon realised that a little colour went a long way!
The elephant was my biggest worry. I had to work quick enough that the fondant didn’t dry out but also slow enough to ensure I got it right. No easy feat! My main concern was the ears. When I was working with the clay, it was pretty sturdy and stuck easily and went hard quickly. Fondant, not so much! It was pretty thin and flopped so they ended up being bigger than initially planned so that I could stick them to hit head and also his back. He reminded me of Dumbo though with his huge ears so it almost looked planned haha score!
Once all the animals and scenery was done and the cakes were cooled, stacked and iced with cream cheese frosting (another special request), it was time for the white fondant to be laid over the cake. Its times like these where I wish I had a big stainless steel bench like in a bakery or commercial kitchen. Our laminate bench top is pretty hard to work off and kept sticking when I would roll it out thin enough. I had a few goes then when I got it to a thickness I was happy with, ran over to the cake as quick as I could and placed it gently on top. Immediately I saw a small tear in the side. NOOO!!!!! Then when I looked again, the other side didn’t reach the bottom of the cake. OH!! So it grabbed some more fondant and tried to patch it up. Not as easy as it looks on TV, especially when the fondant is starting to dry. I patched it up best I could and smoothed til I could smooth no more and again the perfectionist in me wanted to crawl in to a hole and die. Stud came in and gave me encouragement to keep going “once you put the animals on you wont even notice!” so on went the scenery and animals. I called him back in and he was amazed at how great it looked. I still wasn’t happy completely happy so I grabbed some iced butterflies and started to place them on the cake to try and hide all its imperfections. Tired and beaten, I took a photo and sent it over to Ariane ashamed at my work and worried that she would be disappointed. To my surprise she replied that it looked amazing and her husband even asked where I bought it!
The cake went down a treat with all the kids at the party and a lot of the parents congratulated me and said it was great. Stud was really impressed with the flavour too (score 1 for the Greens Banana cake mix) and after we had shared our first piece, made me go back for seconds haha.
As my life goes on and I am settling down more, I am warming to the idea of children. I kind of feel like kids are something that no one is ever completely ready of prepared for so you just have to bite the bullet and go for it. Or “roll the dice” as Stud would say.
So with many more of Nathans birthdays to come and hopefully some of Stud and my children, my fondant expertise should be perfected in no time!!