June 1 was Charlotte’s fourth birthday. I am still a bit fuzzy on how she went from this:
in what feels like a matter of days. However, the calendar tells me that indeed she is now four years old, and so we celebrated. The first thing we did, when we realized her birthday was coming up, was book a place to have the party. Our house is small, and we felt that a facility that was not our home would best equipped to contain and entertain a rowdy group of small children. So while I did not need to worry about having our house ready to host a bunch of people, I still needed to make a birthday cake.
My mom always made me a beautifully decorated birthday cake every year as a kid, and it is a tradition I wanted to carry on for my girls. In the past, I have made Charlotte a teddy bear cake, an Elmo cake, and a butterfly cake, so I am not unfamiliar with cake decorating. This year, however, I decided to do something a bit different, and used fondant as my medium for the cake decorating instead of buttercream, which is what I always have used in the past. This is where things got tricky. I did some research on the internet, and found everything from dire warnings about working with fondant (“It’s very difficult! Make a practice cake first!” As if.) to reassurances that it’s really not that hard. I chose to believe the latter. I settled on a Peppa Pig design (Charlotte is OBSESSED with Peppa Pig- it’s a British cartoon about a pig named Peppa and her friends and family. I actually quite enjoy it, especially when Charlotte starts talking in a British accent after watching it. “Mummy, can we go post a letter?”) and then I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials on making a Peppa Pig cake. Psshh- no problem. It’ll be a breeze.
So on the Friday before her birthday, I headed out to Bulk Barn to get all the necessary supplies. In case you aren’t aware, Bulk Barn is the place to go for your cake decorating needs- they have all the tools you could ever need, they rent out cake pans in the shape of various characters, they even have pre-coloured fondant and buttercream frosting available for purchase in bulk. (Any Bulk Barn executive who is reading this: I will accept payment for this advertisement in the form of a cheque. Or candy. Actually, yeah, make it candy). Anyway, I get the cake baked, only to realize that I don’t actually have a big enough cake plate on which to decorate and store the cake. So, it’s back to Bulk Barn to buy a cake box. I finally get the cake in the box and frosted with the crumb coat (to smooth it out and help the fondant stick) and decide to finish the cake the following evening.
The next day, Charlotte’s grandparents (my dad and his wife and my in-laws) came over to celebrate, and as a result, I was not able to resume work on the cake until about 9pm. It is also worth noting that I made another trip to Bulk Barn that morning to get some more buttercream frosting to smooth out the cake a bit more. So the sun was setting, and I began working on the cake again. My initial plan was to have Peppa jumping in a muddy puddle with a blue sky/green grass background. If that worked out, I was going to add a sun, maybe some puffy white clouds and flowers. Ha! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, how naive I was!
As I opened the package of blue fondant that was supposed to cover half the cake and began to roll it out, it quickly became evident that I did not have enough. Like, not even close. And Bulk Barn was now closed, so getting more was not an option. I had to reassess my plan. I started having visions of this cake appearing on Cake Wrecks. The only form of fondant I had enough of to cover the cake was plain white. Now, I had a choice: I could either divide the white fondant and attempt to colour it blue and green so that I could stick to my initial vision or I could just have Peppa in her muddy puddle on a white background. I looked at the clock- it was approaching 10pm, and I had read many horror stories about the difficulty of colouring fondant, which is why I went the pre-coloured route in the first place- so white background it was!
Then I began the painstaking work of cutting out the shapes for the Peppa figure. I kicked myself for not buying the fondant cutting tool I had seen at Bulk Barn. (“Ridiculous!” I scoffed to myself at the time. “I have sharp knives. What difference could it make?” When will I learn not to make such sweeping generalizations about something with which I have no experience??) It was really hard to get the edges clean, even with the sharpest knife I could find. Nevertheless, I persisted.
It came time to make the muddy puddle for Peppa to jump in. Now, Bulk Barn only had brown fondant available in a giant tub, so I had decided to colour white fondant brown. This cake had taken up so much time at this point that I almost decided to forgo this step, but Mark persuaded me to give it a shot. Thirty minutes later, I had a muddy puddle. And brown-stained hands and fingernails.