Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dina's Second Birthday - Barnyard Theme

Choosing a theme for Dina's second birthday was exciting to me, because for the first time she could tell me what she wanted. Unfortunately, she didn't have much to say about it. "Chocolate!" was about all I could get out of her with respect to a theme. Since her favorite toy at the time was her Fisher Price farm we got at Queen's Day (giant garage sale) the previous year, I decided to go with a Barn-Yard bash.
My first challenge was finding a plate big enough to hold the design- Inge saved the day in that regard. The white platter I used is HUGE- 20 inches across (51cm).  My sweet husband used sketch-up to create a barn coming out of a 9" round cake, complete with silo, so I'd have measurements. My biggest concern was getting the proportions correct, so I modeled the animals to be similarly sized to the little plastic ones Dina loved. I only had the horse and chicken to work from, so for the rest of the animals I had to wing it.

About two months before hand I made a test cake to check my estimates of the sizing with respect to her plastic horse:
The size of the little plastic horse looked decent, and this gave me an opportunity to measure an actual cake, frosted. Using sketch-up for the sizes, I cut out graham cracker pieces for the barn and glued them together using Royal Icing. I had to use a small box to prop it up to dry.
My friend Marieke holding the printout of the sketch-up design:
Creating the animals out of gum-paste took me several hours, over the course of several nights. Once I had a couple made, though, the rest of them went much quicker than the first few.
My favorites were the sheep and the pig. They just looked so friendly! I didn't end up using the chicken eggs that I made. The bright colors(like the chicken's feet) I got by applying Wilton gel-coloring directly to the finished animal. Made for a bit of a mess, and tough to handle without getting the color everywhere, but it looked bright.

The stone path was also made using gum-paste, and I didn't blend the gray/black colors completely, so I could get a mottled texture for some of the stones. Using a piece of plastic wrap inside a small bowl, I made a blue jello pond (only half the recommended water in the recipe) which I let set for a day in the fridge and placed it at the last minute on the platter for the duck to swim in. Interestingly, within a few hours the gum-paste duck began to literally melt into the jello-pond.

The silo was made with a cupcake placed on top of the cake, and graham cracker pieces to form the edges. I coated it with royal icing (the barn too), and got the bright color by using Wilton's no-taste red gel coloring.
The inside of the cake was chocolate (of course) with a chocolate ganache filling. My friend Sam (above) really enjoyed the royal-icing coated graham crackers and was excited to try a chicken wing.
The only thing I did not get a chance to do was my plan to have the writing on the cake be made by a sky-writing plane. My idea was to have the exclamation point trail off a bit with a plane below it, as if it just completed writing in the sky. But I ran out of time.
 The cake and the grass are buttercream icing, and the pig's mud is crushed Oreo cookies. The chicken is hanging out in crushed cookies, too and the horse has a bit of Haribo candy coil in the barn. I made the small hill the sheep is standing on using the shavings from the cake (to make the cake flat on top).
What was most important was my Dina's reaction. And it was priceless:
She gave it her all blowing out the candle:
The benefit to using gum paste is that when your creations dry, they are stiff, unlike fondant, which sags if you leave it at room temperature. The animals were made a few days in advance, so by the time we ate the cake, they were quite hard. The stone path I made the night before, so the stones were still a bit soft but did hold their shape okay. Everything on the cake was edible, and we ate (almost) every last bit.

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