Thursday, 9 May 2013

A Cautionary Tale on the Dangers of Novelty Cakes: The Dinnersaurus

I’ve never been one for shaped cakes, or crafting novelty cakes of any kind really. As I mentioned in my previous blog, I made a cake for my mother’s birthday (which is today, incidentally) and I thought I’d take a leap of faith; I knew she would be happy with the usual cakey-cake cut in half with buttercream through the middle and sprinkles on top job, but I wanted – for my own pride – to try something a little different. Thus, the Dinnersaurus was born. And yes, not only have I been going through a biscuit phase, I've been going through a dinosaur phase.

When I was a little girl I had a book called Make a Monster, which was a book devoted totally the art of creating all kinds of representations of dinosaurs: from wooden models, to costumes, and – most importantly to me – food art. There were little ideas for making dinosaurs out of cake, and dinosaurs out of ice-cream, and the cake one has stuck in my mind until this day. It involved making a round cake and, using the first pattern, cut it into the appropriate shapes to arrange into a 3D dinosaur. Any unassigned bits of cake become chef’s perk, of course. My mother had asked specifically for an orange cake, so I obliged.

As you can see, it’s very simple. A lot of people, who probably have never heard of or read that book, do dinosaur cakes like this. The book instructed that one stick all the pieces together with jam, brush with jam, and then cover with marzipan; the decorative touches were added with nuts and dried fruit. But such a natural, ‘healthy’ attitude to this cake wouldn’t wash with me: I went ahead and stuck the whole lot together with buttercream, crumb coated it, and then covered it with luminous fondant icing.

I also used a slightly different template. Given that there would be a grand amassing of my family at this event, all of whom have an inhuman capacity for consuming cake, I made a dinosaur using two cakes. I arranged them like this:

Like was stuck to like, making everything twice the width, and twice the quantity. Each of the two cakes were split and filled with buttercream. I wanted to fill them with orange curd for a little extra richness and not so much toothache, but my mother prefers buttercream to curd when it comes to cake filling.

Of course, covering such a construction with fondant was exceptionally tricky: to make the fondant supple and mouldable enough to wrap around all the nooks and crannies, it needed to be quite thin, but in being thin it was very fragile. Needless to say, I put my finger through the fondant a few times, all of which were followed by a flurry of expletives. But, considering that this was my first proper, shaped novelty cake, I think I did very well.

Having been assembled and covered with fondant, it was time to decorate it and make it look more dinosaur-y. I had cut out some pentagonal shapes from teal fondant and left them to dry, and I used these to make the plates that ran down its back; I can’t officially say that is an exact representation of a stegosaurus, but it’s very heavily modelled on one. Steggies have always been my favourite dinosaur. Then I added some eyes, a smiley mouth, some blushed cheeks and painted on some eyelashes; I used the wide end of a piping tip to print scales all over the fondant. I then place it onto an impromptu cake board (a large piece of heavy cardboard covered with foil) that had been brushed with jam and sprinkled with green-tinted desiccated coconut. This, my friends, was a proper retro treat.

As you can see from the pictures, it was gobbled up in large amounts earlier this evening with great gusto. It’s backside is currently on top of the fridge.

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