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Pretty Bakes Blog

Cake decorating basics for pretty cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats

Archive of ‘Birthdays’ category

How to make a bunting cake topper in 5 easy steps

bunting-cake-topper-finished

Aliya’s finished bunting cake topper.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

If Pinterest is any indication, bunting/pennant banners are all the rage in cake decorating circles these days. Think of ’em as great ways to customize cakes while adding a nice decorative touch.

In less than 10 minutes, I made a personalized pennant banner for my niece Aliya’s fondant owl cake and I bet you can too — make your own bunting cake topper in 10, I mean; not make Aliya’s fondant owl cake…Unless you’re Wonderwoman. I bet she could do so too.

Ready to get crafty with me? Here’s what you’ll need to get this DIY job done:

  • Decorative tape
  • Small labels
  • Coloured marker
  • Twine
  • Skewers (2)
  • Scissors

Instructions

  1. Gather your supplies. Tie twine to skewer #1 and lay it on a table.
  2. For each letter of the name or word you’ll spell lay one strip of decorative tape on your table, parallel to skewer #1 and sticky side up. Stretch out a length of twine to string the letters of your bunting, ensuring there’s enough slack for letters to hang. Snip the twine and tie it to skewer #2. Still with me?
  3. Press twine to secure it to the middle of each tape strip and then fold each piece of tape onto itself, covering the twine.
  4. Handwrite letters on labels. Stick one lettered label onto each hanging flag.
  5. Snip tape ends to your liking.

Skewer the cake with your bunting topper and you’re done!

Hint: Use a tape-scrap template to evenly cut all hanging flags to the same shape and size.

This is all well and good but wouldn’t my instructions be waaay easier to understand with photos showing the way? Great idea. I’m so glad you thought of it. Cue the photo gallery! (Click pics for full-size viewing.)

 

How to make a fondant owl cake

owl-cake-close-up

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I had a hoot making this owl cake for my niece Aliya. Tee hee! 🙂 Dare I say I’m getting the knack of working with fondant? This cake came together relatively quickly and easily.

Secrets to easy owl cake creation revealed!

This time, my secrets to success are fondant molds and an owl toy. It can’t get much easier than that to pull this off, my friends. I mean, you could spend hours modelling an owl out of fondant and that’s incredibly cool if you’re so inclined. Or you can raid your niece’s toy box, grab her favourite Littlest Pet Shop owl, throughly clean it, stick on the cake and call it a day. Guess which option I chose?

Fondant mold, a newbie cake decorator’s best friend

To make pretty tree branches, leaves, cherry blossoms and birds, I used Wilton’s “Nature Designs” fondant and gum paste mold.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Just coat the cavities with vegetable shortening to prevent sticking, use a fondant smoother to press fondant into the mold, trim excess fondant and then bend the mold and call on your friend gravity to release your fondant shapes.

I managed to add another homemade touch, though. Yep, I got a little crafty by creating a personalized pennant topper for Aliya. More on that later.

It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

One mishap arose when I made this cake. Short on patience, I rushed the assembly part. I stacked three layers of cake and buttercream but I think those layers weren’t quite completely cooled. Under its own weight, the cake threatened to collapse and it bulged at the sides.

Oh no you di-in’t!

I quickly moved the cake to the refrigerator to help firm things up. That did the trick to prevent further distortion but I had to use a serrated knife to carefully trim some of the sides of the fragile cake for a smooth finish before applying the fondant.

Lesson learned: Cool cake layers completely before stacking them.

Owl cake: Mission complete

Without further ado, here’s my finished owl cake:

owl-cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Wanna know how I made Aliya’s bunting banner/pennant cake topper? Check out my next post, coming right up! (Er tomorrow, OK?)

Dora the Explorer cake with fondant and buttercream in 4 easy steps

When I usually set out to decorate a cake, I have a pretty good idea of the look I’m going for. But for my niece Ella’s Dora the Explorer cake I didn’t have a solid cake design in mind.

I knew I wanted a big Dora head on top of the cake but I was weighing my options right until the last second.

Fondant or buttercream?

Fondant and buttercream?

Mostly buttercream and just a fondant Dora?

Gah! I was indecisive and didn’t have a lot of time to ponder options. So I sort of winged it and set to work on a Dora the Explorer cake for my sweet Ella.

Step 1. Make Dora look like Dora

Character cakes can go horribly wrong and the big challenge for this cake is Dora. I knew that if I didn’t get her right, this cake would be a total flop. So it was parchment paper templates and the Internet to the rescue! I found this simple Dora the Explorer image at funnycoloring.com and it was the perfect size for my 13 x 9″ cake.

I simply traced a Dora face, hair and facial features and then I cut template pieces to assemble her face and hair.

Dora-the-Explorer-template

Tracing and cutting and assembling.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Once I had Dora looking decent and not deformed (I did it! Yay!), I relaxed and focused on the rest of the cake decorating.

Step 2. Ice the cake

I applied a thin crumb coat to the sides of the cake and then iced and smoothed the top with blue buttercream. I went easy on the icing to avoid having globs of buttercream oozing out between the fondant decorations.

Step 3. Decorate the sides

For the sides of the cake, I opted for wide stripes of green and pink fondant pieces.

Green fondant strips, marked for cutting.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Green fondant strips, marked for cutting.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I simply rolled and cut 1-inch wide strips, and then I attached them to the sides of the cake by lightly brushing them with water and pushing them into place. I trimmed most pieces before I attached them but you could also line them up with the top edge of the cake and then run a pizza wheel along the bottom edge to trim the excess. Then I used a fondant smoother to smooth and gently press the pieces into place.

Steps 4. Add accents and finishing touches

I used my trusty leaf cutter set to cut large and small leaves and then I used a small spatula to press veiny indentations into the leaves for detail.

Fondant leaves Photo by Jennifer Melo

Fondant leaves
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Leafy cake corners. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Leafy cake corners.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Finally, I added a map and hand-wrote a happy birthday message for Ella using a black food colouring marker.

I'm the map. Photo by Jennifer Melo

I’m the map.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

For finishing touches, I randomly placed leaves around the cake until I was happy with the design. I had to restrain myself from getting too detailed.

I fought the urge to quickly make Backpack and add Dora’s torso; and tri-toned leaves for extra dimension would’ve been nice but before I knew it, I was out of time — and fondant — so I quit while I was ahead. Sometimes good enough is good enough, right?

Here’s a Vine clip that shows the cake coming together like magic…

Ella was super excited when she saw her birthday cake. With an enthusiastic: “YOU MADE MY CAKE? I LOVE IT!” every second I spent on this cake was very much worth it. Mission accomplished.

Dora the Explorer cake finished!  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Dora the Explorer cake finished!
Photo by Jennifer Melo

That’s it, that’s all. I hope you have a fun day filled with Dora-inspired adventures.

Pink and black fondant birthday cake

Ladies and gents, I’m pleased to present my niece Lauren’s birthday cake. She turned 10 and that’s a whole decade of loving sweetness packed into one special girl. I love her to pieces and was happy to receive an email from her about a month ago. In it, she asked if I’d make her cake — absolutely! She spelled out — and illustrated via a sketch — the design she wanted for her cake.

pink and black cake

Sketch by Lauren. Photo by Jennifer Melo

It’s a bling thing

She requested “bling” (her word. Not mine. I can’t make this stuff up). I couldn’t find a giant number 10 so I bought a 10-pack of silver candles and Lauren’s wish is sure to come true because she extinguished them all with one blow.

I bought the black cake boards and black fondant at Bulk Barn. And I made the pink fondant with my standby marshmallow fondant recipe. I rolled black and pink fondant, cut the fondant into 2 x 8″ strips, rolled each piece on its vertical axis to its halfway point and applied it to the cake. I wish I had taken a photo of that last step but I had to move quickly to keep the fondant from drying.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Don’t make marshmallow fondant with hard marshmallows

By the time the bottom layer was done, I ran out of pink fondant and I encountered a mishap when I made another batch of pink fondant. I don’t know what went wrong but I ended up with hard, plasticky fondant.

I blame hardened marshmallows. I thought they’d soften when melted and they did, but when they cooled, I was dealing with a bad situation. That fondant was so tough, I couldn’t knead it and roll it out so it ended up in the trash. And I almost — aaalmost — ended up in tears. Frustration + exhaustion = my tear-triggers.

Tomorrow’s another day

But I held it together, called it a night and went to bed, knowing it’s better to start fresh after a good night’s sleep. The next morning, I made another batch of fondant for the top tier and finished decorating it in time for the party. Everything started coming together nicely at the end. Yay!

Pink and black fondant cake with a rose topper

Photo by Jennifer Melo

The fondant pieces pile into a heap at the top of the cake so to cover the unsightly connecting points, I improvised by making and placing a fondant rose on top.

I also created the ribbon banner the night before, allowing it to dry overnight, and I wrote Lauren’s name on it with my trusty black food-colouring marker.

Bring on the bling!

Rhinestone ribbon

Photo by Jennifer Melo

To finish the cake and bring on the “bling”, I bought sparkly rhinestrone strips from the dollar store. I cut the rhinestone strips into rows of three and two, leaving their clear backing intact. Then I wrapped it around the bottom of each tier and set it in place with double-sided tape. I also bought a bunch of candy ring pops to dress the table and they were a hit with the kids.

Wanna see how I put this cake together? Check out my Vine clip and see it action.

And then there’s this clip too.

Tips for making this cake:

  • Cracked fondant sucks so aim for soft and malleable fondant (knead it well, add a few drops of water if needed, and use vegetable shortening to lock in the moisture. Resist using too much icing sugar or cornstarch to keep it from sticking to the counter.)
  • Roll the strips thinly. The thinner the strips, the easier they are to roll without cracking.
  • Cover the fondant strips with plastic wrap when not in use. Air dries fondant. Dry fondant cracks.

Are you getting a sense of what my biggest challenge was while decorating this cake? Did I mention that cracked fondant sucks?

By party time, no one noticed any cracks in the fondant, Lauren loved her cake and it got rave reviews. Phew! Er, um, ta daaa!

Pink and black fondant birthday cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

 

Hand-painted leopard print on a fondant cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

My eldest niece recently turned 14 and I wanted to give her a cake that was super cool, like her. I was thrilled to discover the joy of hand-painting a cake and now I think I’m hooked. I never developed much skill with a paintbrush since the days of kindergarten so I was surprised to find how easily I achieved a pretty design. Yay! And for this particular cake, painting was faster decorating technique than making fondant decorations. Double yay!

I really couldn’t have done this without this YouTube video How To Hand-Paint Leopard Print On a Cake. Subscribe to Laura’s channel and give her video a thumbs up if you, too, find it helpful and inspirational.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here’s how to paint leopard print on fondant:

  • In separate shallow bowls, dilute black and brown food colouring with vodka. Nope, you won’t have a bunch of drunk kids at the party — the alcohol evaporates by the time the food colouring dries.
  • With a brush, paint a small brown oval onto your cake.
  • Use another brush to outline the brown spots with some black food colouring. I used the brush with the widest bristles in my Wilton brush set. You can paint all around the brown spot with an O shape. You can paint ¾ of the way around the brown spot to make a C shape. And you can paint two disconnected arches to form brackets/parentheses around the spot.
  • For an imperfectly perfect leopard print, mix up your spot sizes (small, medium, large) and use short, tapping/dabbing motions for fuzzy, ragged edges. Fill in sparse areas with black spots.

Can’t quite picture what I mean? Here’s a gif to show you the way.

painted-leopard-spot-gif

 

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I wrapped my gift box cake with a fondant ribbon and bow, added a fondant gift tag after writing my niece’s name on it with a black food-colouring pen and ta da! We’re done.

What do you think of my leopard-print cake?


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