I posted this Woodland Animals Cake with Arrows & Birch Tree Tiers over the weekend and it was immediately so popular on Facebook that I knew I wanted to go ahead and write a post about it asap!
Sometimes when I’m doing a cake – everything goes beautifully with very little stress or worry and it just comes together exactly as I had imagined. Well – this was sort of one of those cakes – sort of not.
It did come together exactly as I imagined and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the finished cake. I was SO excited to show the client and post the pictures… so proud of my work on it (and I’m not always that happy!).
But there was as little stress. Or maybe stress is the wrong word… it was a physically hard cake. Hard on my neck, my back, my fingers and achy hands. And it took so.much.time.
You see that middle tier with the arrows? Yeah – it took me over 3 hours…. which was about 2 hours longer than I anticipated. I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t take that long (probably because I’ve never done a pattern like that), but when I was an hour into the work on the middle tier and wasn’t even halfway around the cake – I might have panicked.
Most days I can decorate any cake in 4 hours or less. In fact, I always give myself 4 hours per cake for decorating (not counting toppers like the animals which are made ahead of time) when I’m scheduling and it had taken me just over an hour to do the bottom tier and I still had to do the top tier. So 3 hours on the middle tier = freak out!
photo collage courtesy of my client, Jerry N. – don’t you love her stump cake stands? I know I do!
I was worried about missing my deadline and getting behind on other orders and losing my mind. Ha! Okay – not really that serious, but I was seriously getting anxious. And gosh… my body and hands ached from sitting on a stool and cutting all those little bits and pieces for 3+ hours. ACHED I tell ya!
The only upside is that I knew the client was picking it up the day before the party so if things really went south and I was not going to finish at our planned pick-up time, I could move it to later that day or even deliver the cake myself the next day if I had to.
Anyway… I pushed through and thanks to a couple of my orders getting canceled (one birthday girl had the flu – the other was a family emergency), I was able to (barely) get it all done on time!
So, let me tell you about the cake! For the bottom tier, I did a Birch Tree finish. I have always wanted to do that texture/look on a cake and this was the perfect theme to try it out!
CakeMade gave me an opportunity to try one of their classes for free several months ago and I chose the Rustic Wedding Cake Trends course. I had never got around to watching it, so I literally watched the tutorial as I worked on the cake – live!
Liz Marek’s teaching style is so down-to-earth and easy to follow… I learned as I made the cake and was really, really thrilled with the outcome. I didn’t do my cake exactly like hers – I skipped some of the color washes on the outside and I went for a lighter, less “gray” look, but overall – I’d recommend that course to anybody wanting to learn to make a birch tree cake (or a chalkboard cake – the other cake taught in that class).
Next up – the arrows tier. If you don’t recognize this design, it is an original pattern created by Jessica Harris. My final outcome is not nearly as perfect as hers and somewhere along the way I misunderstood the written directions and my line down the middle was on the back instead of the front.
I didn’t realize my error until I was too far into it to take them off and start over. Remember… it was taking me hours to do! Also, I was doing a new thing for the very first time and it was hard!
I used Satin Ice Black fondant for the arrows but if I were to do it again, I’d definitely go with modeling chocolate instead (no stretching, no drying out, etc.). I used her template that I bought on Craftsy and half-way tried to use the wax-paper transfer method learned in Clean & Simple Cake Design (also on Craftsy).
I say half-way because that technique never goes as smoothly as Jessica makes it look. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a brilliant concept, but in my real-life applications… I’m not doing something right because it’s never as easy as she makes it look!
The good thing is, nobody looks at cakes and criticizes them nearly as closely as we do (the decorators) and my client was in love with the cake! And truthfully – I was too when it was finished and I didn’t even notice the not-so-perfect arrows anymore.
Oh and next time… if there ever is another next time… I’ll know to allot more time for a design like this! Live and learn people… live and learn!
Next, the top tier. My client sent me a picture of this cake and she was in love with the animals and the top tier design, so I copied it as closely as I could! I never could find the original artist to give credit to 🙁
I used some techniques learned in this Fondant Toppers Class from Craftsy, but Sharon didn’t make a deer in that class (or a fox or a raccoon) so I just used what I learned and adapted it to different animals.
For the borders, I used a small triangle cutter from this Ateco mini cutters set and they fit together perfectly! After the arrows took so long, I was SO worried I was going to have to hand-cut triangles to get the pattern right, but I didn’t!! YAY!
Lastly – the smash cake. I always save the smash cakes for last when I’m decorating because I figure if I have to skip something or work fast – I’d rather it be on the smash cake than the big party cake.
Because I was so frazzled after the big cake arrows taking so long, I completely blanked on my plans for the smash cake. I called my husband into the kitchen and told me he HAD to help me come up with a design and quickly!!
He looked at the big cake and immediately said… I needed to do the triangle border and add an arrow somehow. Wow – it was a perfect idea! I added a little “1” and called it done!!
Now – a few last details. All the cake tiers were white almond sour cream with vanilla buttercream. I used homemade marshmallow fondant for all covering and decorating except the black. For the fondant animals, they were also homemade marshmallow fondant except I added Tylose so they’d dry harder.
The cakes were 5″, 7″ and 9″ round tiers – the top was 4″ tall (2 layers of cake), the middle was 6″ tall (3 layers of cake) and the bottom was also 2 layers of cake (4″ tall). I use Magic Line pans for almost all of my baking!
Whew… and that’s it! This is a loooong post but I really wanted to share so much of this cake with you while it was fresh on my mind! I hope you love it as much as we did and please feel free to leave comments with any questions or thoughts! I’d love to hear from you!!
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I have a few other designs that are similar… see them here:
Woodland Animals Cake & Stump Smash Cake