Saturday, January 11, 2014

A "Beary" First Birthday Cake

Teddy bear mini-cake pan and 1982 Wilton teddy bear cake pan
First birthdays are a very special occasion. My first grandson turns 1 year old in January and Grammy Bonham is going to make a "Beary Special" first birthday cake and mini-cake for the occasion.

A teddy bear cake wearing a camo vest. Ashley knew exactly what she wanted for Ashton. Confidently, I told her I could make camo fondant, even though I had never made it before. I really wanted to make Ashton's cake and after all, fondant tutorials and techniques are easy to find online. However, watching a technique and using a technique are two completely different things. Occasionally, I forget this and volunteer for a surefire challenge to learn new decorating skills.  Translation of underlined phrase - in over my head. Thankfully, I found that making camo fondant is well within my self-taught skills.

My Butter Cream Fondant Recipe

I have broken two stand mixers trying to mix fondant with the little spiral dough hooks that came with them. The second one was supposed to be a heavy-duty, detachable, stand mixer - it wasn't. I am now using a 1960's model stand mixer with dough hooks to make this recipe. A Kitchen Aide mixer is at the top of my wish list!

Yield: about 1 1/2 pounds of fondant

1/2 cup light corn syrup                   1/4 cup shortening                          1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract                      1 pound confectioners sugar - about half of a 2 pound bag

This recipe can be doubled and the yield will be 3 pounds of fondant. 
  • In a large bowl, stir together the shortening and corn syrup.
  • Mix with an electric mixer until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
  • Add the vanilla extract and salt.
  • Gradually mix in the confectioners sugar until it forms or begins to form a stiff dough.
  • Knead by hand until the fondant holds together in a smooth ball that is not sticky. Add a little more confectioners sugar as needed. 
  • Divide fondant into three 1/2 pound balls
  • Flatten each ball and wrap in plastic wrap
  • Place wrapped circles of fondant into a container with a tight fitting lid. I use a 4 qt. ice cream bucket.
  • Place container in refrigerator until you want to use it. 
  • Remove the  fondant from the refrigerator and let it warm for about 15-20 minutes. 
  • Knead with your hands until fondant is pliable. 
I like to make the fondant 2-3 days ahead of time and keep it refrigerated until I need it. Plus, I feel like the fondant handles better after is has been in the refrigerator for two or three days. 
For chocolate butter cream fondant, add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder with the vanilla extract, and salt.

The "Beary" Special Cakes
  • I use generic, extra moist, white cake mix. 
  • One change that I make to the box directions is to use two whole eggs, instead of 2 or 3 egg whites. 
  • A second change is to replace 1/4 cup of the water with unsweetened applesauce. Unsweetened applesauce will add moisture and slightly more density to a cake mix cake. I add the applesauce with the wet ingredients.  
Teddy bear mini-cake
9" tall x 4" head-7" bottom x 1" - 1.25" deep
Large teddy bear cake
12" tall x 9" head-11.5" bottom x 2" deep

What Went Where

  • Chocolate Butter Cream Icing - bear "fur" piped on with a # 195 tip and a # 21 tip
  • Chocolate Fondant  - bear paws, inside of bear ears (shown below), muzzle, and camo .
  • Vanilla Fondant - green cake board, eyes, buttons, noses, T-shirt neckline, and camo
  • The tan fondant was achieved by mixing equal amounts of chocolate and vanilla fondant. The dark brown paws are the actual color of the chocolate fondant.

Finishing Details 

One finishing detail is chocolate fondant shapes to give more definition to the inside of the bear ears.

Additionally,  a 3" x 5" sugar cookie, covered with chocolate fondant "wooden boards", and piped icing will say  "Happy 1st Birthday! Ashton" onto it. This "sign" will be with the large teddy bear cake.

I used a round toothpick to model/make the
boards and detail the wood grain on each board.
Lettering was done with a #3 tip and royal icing

What I Learned

  1. Making camo fondant out of little balls that are placed together and then rolled did not work well for me. I used this method for a larger camo pattern, and it worked well. However, I could not get the small pattern that I needed to form into a sheet that would hold together. 
  2. The method that worked best for me was to roll out a sheet of the tan fondant. Then, placing small pieces of the two green colors on top of the tan fondant sheet, and small pieces of tan fondant to fill in and separate the greens, worked very well. I could then roll pieces into the sheet, cut the pieces I needed, and transfer them to the cake. Click on the camo fondant link in the second paragraph of this post to watch the video that shows this method.
  3. Add fondant paws last, not first. I ended up removing them to pipe the bear fur onto the cake.
  4. Do not let frosting dry before adding fondant pieces. You cannot press them into the frosting and achieve a more dimensional look.
  5. The mini-cake is too large for a 1 year old. The mini-cake head was all that we gave the baby. A jumbo cupcake decorated with a bear face would be a better choice.