Friday, March 14, 2008

Raising Elephants

Here's a lesson I learned this week: When make fondant cakes in tropical weather, keep them small. I'd been making cupcakes with fondant figurines for a while now, so when a friend asked if I could make her a birthday cake with elephants on it, I thought, now why the hell not?

So off I set to work, fashioning the cutest little elephant (well, at least I thought so) sitting up with a fat round belly complete with a belly button and a raised trunk. I figured I didn't want to bother with leaving it in an air-conditioned room because a) I'm tight and b) I didn't want it to wilt the minute the cake was taken out of the dry air-conditioning and into our humid climes. If it was going to wilt, it may as well do so right in front of me where I could rectify it. And of course, it didn't disappoint. When I woke up the next morning, my little fella had put on some weight, lost some height, and was slipping backwards. His trunk had lost a little enthusiasm too -- it was no longer raised.

So it was back to the drawing board. After flipping through a couple of books, I found inspiration in this one. A lying-down elephant, in a sort of clambering-up-the-cake kinda position. Why didn't I think of that? I also made a little baby one to accompany it.

I made this two days before it was to be collected, hoping against all hope that it would dry. It rained and rained and my elephants got less perky by the day. But I guess they held up well enough (the picture was taken shortly before it was sent on its way to the birthday girl).

Over lunch the next day, my friend D, who is spectacular at making fondant cakes — she's made entire Thomas the Tank Engine cakes, Spiderman cakes, and teddy bear creations (all while living IN LONDON) — later told me that in this weather, it's best to just keep the fondant figurines small so they'll dry out faster and won't wilt. I wish I'd had that conversation with her earlier.

But then I remembered her telling me that she'd made a Spiderman cake for her twin sons recently and asked her how she managed that. As it turns out, she ended up making little fondant buildings and streets and then sticking a plastic Spidy figurine in the centre of it all. "If I'd made a fondant Spiderman," she said, "the black webs on his mask and costume would have streaked, and he would have to be lying down playing dead."

She'd also left the air-conditioning on for four days straight so that the cake wouldn't melt and die. Next time someone asks for a large fondant covered cake, I'm going to suggest a Dali theme.