Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Octonauts Cake

I recently discovered the existence of a kids' show called "Octonauts." My niece requested an Octonauts Cake featuring Pedro, Captain Barnacles, Kwasi Kitten, and a volcano. Aside from "volcano," none of the other items rang any bells for me, so, it was Google to the rescue! The characters are simple and cute, and I really thought that the Gup-A ship would make a cool cake. I even watched a couple of episodes of the show on Netflix, so I could get a clear idea of the characters and aesthetic. I put together the following reference sheet and printed it to scale, so I could maintain the proper proportions of the ship and characters when it came time to sculpt.

Then, I started baking. I made and coloured the fondant, carved the cake, sculpted the characters, and was in the process of detailing the Gup-A cake when I suddenly remembered that there was supposed to be a volcano! And the cake was due the next day! I thought about just making a backdrop with a volcano painted on it, but ultimately decided to make a separate volcano cake. I took the opportunity to add a different flavor to the cake, since the Gup-A was vanilla sponge, I made the volcano chocolate. Luckily, I had some nice dark blue fondant left over from another project, and swirled together with what was left from the teal used to cover the Gup-A, it was enough to cover the volcano. Volcanoes need lava, and nothing could be easier than melting some yellow and red candy melts and pouring it all over the cake. I ringed my cake board in ribbon, brushed it with corn syrup, and sprinkled brown sugar "sand" all over the it. I positioned the cakes, and I was done! Or not... After that, it seemed like the cake could use a bit of a personal touch. This was my very first experience using "tappits."

Tappits are very fine cutters attached to rails, mostly for cutting letters and numbers. I used the "Funky" letters and numbers, and lower case letters. They are great, but surprisingly difficult to get the hang of. The little pink star fishes and snail shell on the brown sugar sand were a last minute touch, made with freshly coloured fondant. I tried to use the same fondant with the tappits the same night. It was a disaster! I couldn't get a single letter to come out of the molds intact. I tried greasing the mold with shortening, covering everything with powdered sugar, and tapping, poking, and all manner of fiddling to get the shapes out of the cutters, all to no avail. I gave up.

The next morning, about an hour before I would need to deliver the cake, I just really felt it needed the name and age banner on the cake. So, I tried again. I rolled out the now cold fondant, dusted it with powdered sugar, and pressed it onto the tappit for "A." To my surprise, with just a little bit of coaxing, the "A" came right out of the cutter. By the time I got to "c," it was beginning to stick again. I popped the fondant in the fridge for a minute or two, and it worked. The moral: DON'T try to use tappits with warm, hand-worked fondant. The stiffer and colder, the better! Also, use plenty of powdered sugar or cornstarch as release agent.

The cake was well-received by the mob of kindergartners at the party, and everyone wanted to eat the characters' heads. (What is it with kids wanting to eat the heads off things? lol) Success!


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