Miscellaneous Food: Crafting a Giraffe-themed Kid's Fondant Birthday Cake!
After taking months of cake decorating classes, we were looking for a perfect project to test our new-found skills and C. kindly provided an opportunity to do what we really believe cakes should be about- making fresh, delicious desserts with simple decorations. This cake was made for her baby's 1st birthday party this past weekend.
Most fondant cakes, I'm sad to say, aren't actually that fresh. Particularly with a commercial bakery, the orders have to be stacked up and baked way ahead of time to cool, set, cool, crumb coat, cover, decorate and it would be difficult and expensive, if not completely nonsensical, to do it at the last minute.
That alone probably explains why we will never really go "commercial". It is too much pressure and too un-fun, to bake for work and money. I would love to work at a bakery, but to have to account for ingredients instead of being able to lovingly throw in or go hunting for some extras, would probably squeeze the love of baking out of me.
In this case, our suggestion to C was to have a small fondant cake, which could be decorated with figurines and create a base of cupcakes which could be frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and which would be easier to give out at the party.
In this case, for example, we made a plain vanilla cake, sliced it into a seven-layered cake and sandwiched it with passionfruit buttercream. Then the whole cake was covered with pale butter yellow fondant. C had requested a design patterned after her daughter's favourite stuffed giraffe but she wasn't keen on a full-on circus or zoo theme, so we made that and alphabet blocks for the top of the cake. In retrospect, we could also have decorated around the sides of the cake but it was nice to keep it simple, in view of the baby's age (have to keep topping that year after year, no?)
The letters were stamped out of fondant for both the lettering and the alphabet blocks and the plain lemon cupcakes were piped with raspberry buttercream and decorated with simple colourful sprinkles. I think the key the deliciousness is to use really fresh ingredients, french butters, real vanilla pods and splashes of quality brandy- the heady smell of the oven was so good over the whole afternoon!
I am amazed at how fortunate our children were, I'm not sure how your childhood was but I was lucky to celebrate my birthdays growing up and I would have a chocolate cake, or pattern-decorated cream cakes, those from Smiling Orchid were considered a real luxury back in the day because you might have a rainbow cake, or a dinosaur cake. Z. told me that growing up, he never had a party, celebrations were dinner with the family and a store-bought blueberry cake.
These days, the trend seems to be 3D fondant cakes and they can really range in price and style. Having made several, I can keenly attest to why they cost as much as they do. Firstly, they are real works of dedication and process. You have to make the underlying cake, which is where the most shortcuts are taken, cool it and then layer and frost it. Then the whole decorating process, which as you can see from the photos, is pretty detailed and tedious in terms of colouring, kneading and shaping the fondant and finally, the cake needs to be stored in an air-conditioned environment until it is served and sliced. They can be refrigerated but then have to be served almost immediately upon removal, before the fondant begins to condense.
I really admire the bakers and the mummies who put such dedication into each cake and it was an honour for us to be able to make this one for C. and J. I think this experience made us realize we have so much to practice and it was really such a privlege to be entrusted with her cake. We hope she had a wonderful birthday and party and that she will look back fondly on it when she is older- she won't remember but she'll have photos!
* If you are interested in purchasing a fondant cake or have a request for other celebration cakes, do drop us a line with a three-week lead time. This is because we bake from home and need to commit the time and space to a fresh product and also, we take in a very limited number of orders to keep the quality consistent. Our charges range from $150-280 for a 6 inch or 8 inch cake, depending on the scale and complexity of fondant work. The buttercream cupcakes are $3 each. Email us with your ideas and details at email@example.com