Today my office had a Punxsutawney Phil potluck. Yes, we are perfectly aware that Groundhog Day was yesterday. However, we do have one employee whose religion is Jehovah's Witness. Because of the limitations on the holidays/occasions she can celebrate, and because we want her to be able to be social and join in festivities with us, we make certain concessions in our celebrations so that her beliefs will allow her to be with us. Before any of you critics out there chime in, we do not consider this a change to cater to the minority, because believe me, if we didn't like her there would be no concessions! But we do, so there are. So there. :-)
*ahem* Anyway, I of course had the brilliant idea that I could once again dazzle, delight and spoil my co-workers with a cake. Well, spoil, anyway. Unfortunately, when I began searching for ideas for just such a cake, I discovered that not many people celebrate this holiday with decorated confections. Plus, I frankly was not willing to go overboard in making this a spectacular creation, so the few cakes out there that were composed solely of a figure of the groundhog were automatically out of the running. I did find one cake that ended up being the inspiration for mine. But that cake was an all white winter scene. It had a snowman and snow wall with snowballs to one side, a couple pine trees on the other side, and a small figure of the groundhog popping out of the ground in the middle. A good idea, I thought, but felt it was lacking in substance; it was a little bare. (Oh would you listen to me! When did I become a cake critic?) So I thought I could make that cake, only better. Here is the result:
I apologize for the many pictures. I set the cake up so that when it was viewed from the middle, the scene on each side would be equally visible. Unfortunately this made pictures quite difficult. I also had some problems capturing the fact that all "snow" items were brushed with white pearl dust, giving that that mid-winter luster.
While this cake looks relatively complicated, it went together quite easily. I credit that to the fact that nearly all elements of the cake were able to be prepared ahead of time, and I needed only to place them on the cake at the time I iced and completed decoration of it. The flowers, bee, butterfly, snowman (with scarf), snow wall and snowballs were all made of fondant. The groundhog was made of color flow. He was not placed on the cake until this morning. This was for two reasons: 1. I didn't want the color flow to start breaking down; and 2. until yesterday morning's appearance of Punxsutawney Phil, I didn't know which direction the groundhog should be facing. Is it just me, or does Phil always see his shadow? The dirt is crumbled up cake, and the snow and grass are, of course, icing. I'm proud to say that this case only resulted in one 11:00 night. Pretty good, if I do say so myself.
Now, on to a few things I learned with the making of this cake:
1. When working with materials you've already worked with, it's a wise idea to review prior "what I learned" lists. It helps you to avoid making the same mistakes twice. Or three times. Or maybe four...
2. Once color flow has been filled in, there's no fixing a mistake. The mistake, from that point forward, will forever look ugly. No matter how much you try to cover that ugliness by coloring over it with Food Writer markers.
2a. Food Writers do not cover color flow mistakes. In fact, accentuation is more in line with their result.
3. Even color flow pieces without narrow areas are still very fragile. They aren't lying when they say you should make two of each piece. Three would probably be the better bet. Four, and you might be safe. Or not.
4. If your color flow piece breaks cleanly, "gluing" it together with its mirror image piece (back to back) and some butter cream icing can make the break nearly invisible. Invisible to everyone, that is, but you.
5. Expect your color flow pieces to break. You'll be much less upset when it actually happens. More on the "my hamster just died" level, as opposed to the "the world is ending and I will never recover from this heartbreaking loss of something so very dear to me I can never replace it" level.
6. Pearl dust is the most awesome stuff EVER!! (Have I mentioned this before?) They need many more than the 10 colors currently available. Before you ask, yes, I have all 10 colors. And two of the white.
7. It takes approximately 3/4 of a tube of white pearl dust to coat 1/2 of an 11x13 cake, one snowman, one snow wall and twelve snowballs. If you are really excited about it, it takes 5/6 of a tube.
8. One can easily, quickly and unwaveringly achieve an affinity for pearl dust. Especially white. It looks iridescent when applied. It's pretty. And sparkly. (Did I mention how cool pearl dust is?)
9. Thinning a fondant butterfly to make its wings bend and give it a realistic look is only a good idea if you intend to place the butterfly on the cake directly, or on a flower, etc. Somehow it doesn't seem naturally so that butterflies' bodies are thinner than their wings.
10. Adding a wire to thinned, dried fondant to make a "floating" figure causes it to break. Thicker fondant works better for floating figures. Sometimes forgetting about 3D can further your project more than you could have imagined.
Oh, and the Bonus "Thing I Learned"..... (drum roll please)
Apparently a half spring, half winter groundhog cake is "pure genius". (half-hearted symbol clash, please)