Jul 29, 2014

Dinosaur Cake - a simple tutorial


I love experimenting with Appu’s b’day cakes. Because no matter how it turns up I know he’ll love it! I’m a self-taught cake decorator so I love to experiment, specially on the cakes I make for my family. It brings me both joy and also helps me explore various cake decorating skills.
Lil’Appu had a Dinosaur themed party for his 3rd b’day and the first thing he did was ask for a dinosaur birthday cake. Anybody who asked him about his b’day got the reply that ‘I’ll be getting a dinosaur b’day cake’ :-) He was so excited about it and I wanted it to look good.  

I decided to make my first ever carved 3D cake in the shape of a Stegosaurus dinosaur. 
I’m generally a little hesitant to do carved cakes for two reasons (1) what if the carving goes all wrong? (2) wastage of cake – although you could make cake pops with leftovers.  But I made up my mind this time and went ahead with my plans.

Here’s a simple tutorial with whatever pics I could manage to click while building my dino cake.


Step 1: Get the Stegosaurus spikes ready

Start with making the spikes for the Stegosaurus atleast a week in advance. I mixed some tylose powder in my marshmallow fondant but you can also use gumpaste for this as the spikes need to be hardened and stand straight on the cake. 

I used tear drop shaped cutters in three different sizes and then cut out the end from both sides to get a pointed tip at the bottom -> this will help to insert it into the cake. 
The cut out pieces can be either re-shaped or used just as is for the smaller spikes.
Make marks all over the spikes in straight lines to give it a rugged appearance and some texture.  Make several extras incase they break.
Plcae them on a baking sheet with wax paper to dry for atleast 4 days at room temperature.


I do not own an air-brush for spray coloring the cake, so this time I decided to give a try at using the Color Mist Spray colors by wilton and it worked like a charm :-) I spray misted the spikes on both sides with yellow and allowed them to dry. Then I painted the orange color in the middle using Orange luster dust mixed in vodka. Do this atleast 3 days before.

 

Step 2 : Bake, shape , fill and frost the cake

Ideally the body should be more oval-dome shaped than round-domed but I did not have an oval shaped pan so I used my regular round cake pans. 
For the body of the dino, I baked two 8” round cakes and one domed round cake in my small glass pyrex bowl.  Made Vanilla Buttercream and stacked them all together like this.

The flavor was a rich Chocolate-Espresso cake with lots of chocolate chips. 


To get an overall dome shape I gently carved out some cake from the top 8” cake (below the round domed cake) in a downward slant until it blended with the rest of the cake and it finally looked like this.


Frost the entire cake with vanilla buttercream. I just did a rough frosting as I was going to be covering the cake in fondant anyways, but make sure all gaps are filled in and the edges are quite smooth.


Step 3: Model the head, legs and tail (Can use Fondant, Cake or Rice Krispie treats)

I was planning to make cake-pop mix using the cake scraps after the carving to use for making the head,  legs and tail of the dino.  But I didn’t have to carve out a lot and had no extra cake on hand, so I used some leftover fondant that I had from doing a previous cake. So the Head, Tail and Legs of the dino were made with Fondant.   
(You could also use Rice-Krispie treats if you want)

The Stegosaurus head is small when compared to body and is sort of tapered with a beak like mouth.
The two front legs are smaller than the two back legs.
The tail is thick (specially where it joins the body) and its long and tapered at the end.


Step 4: Covering with Fondant 

Finally drape the whole cake including the head, legs and tail in fondant (I kneaded my fondant light green while making it) and trim away excess fondant.

Using a ball tool make holes for the eyes, small nostrils and make a shape for the mouth.
Again make vertical markings all over the body of the cake, the tail, head everywhere, to give it some texture and a scaly bodily appearance. Take care to not tear the fondant though.


I then Spray Misted the cake with Green :-) Let the cake dry out at room temp for 1-2 hrs.


Step 5: Place the spikes and give finishing touches

Now add the spikes on the cake body.  Starting with smaller spikes on the head, then bigger spikes in the center and smaller spikes again towards the tail, ending with pointed spikes at the end of the tail. I had to make small cuts with a knife to help insert the spikes into the body without breaking the spikes.
I made two small white balls for the eye-balls and used an edible marker to add the black pupil for the eyes.

Finally the finishing touches:
-- The cake board was coated with Chocolate buttercream for a muddy appearance.
-- Green grass  (vanilla buttercream colored with green) was piped all around the dino-cake to make it look as if the dino is resting in the grass. Used Wilton grass tip 233 for this.
-- Crushed graham cracker biscuits resembled sand and I added that all around the dino near the grass.


Just before the party I used some royal-icing to write ‘Happy Birthday Manav’ on the cake board. And this is how it looked.


The whole inspiration behind this dino cake was a tutorial I saw of a Stegosaurus cake by Montreal Confections and I just couldn't get it off my head :) so even though I was planning a T-Rex cake I finally decided to do a Stegosaurus with the pretty spikes on its body. 


Hope you liked the tutorial and I must confess this has been the easiest cake I have done so far. Even the detailing was pretty simple. If you ever make a dino cake please do share it with me. Would love to see your creations.

-Manju

Jul 23, 2014

Dinosaur B'day party...Manav turns 3 - ROAR!



Our Lil’Appu turned a roaring three year old on July 11th. He has grown into a tall yet skinny boy who is jumping around all the time, making mommy and dada also jump around with him…hehe! He is the helper of his class at daycare and knows all his friend’s names and even our friend’s names. He is a smiler and can flash his million dollar smile on you anytime. 
He absolutely loves books, play dough and Spiderman….recently prehistoric Dinosaurs have also joined his club of ‘things-appu-likes’ and he can name several difficult-to-pronounce dinosaur names :-) 
He can eat noodles, dosa or fruits anytime you give him and can drink milk all day if allowed. He is always ready to try new things and strongly cares about everyone.
Yes, our lil’Appu has a lot of things up his sleeves and I guess I’ll have to dedicate an entire post to him if I have to start writing about him.  He is the apple of our eyes and will always be!

Now coming to his third b’day party, his craze for Spiderman had me almost nail down a Spiderman themed b’day for him. His childhood friend from 6months of age Avyay also is a die hard Spiderman boy, so when his mom decided to keep that as the party theme we were all thrilled. She did a lot of simple yet fun spiderman themed stuff for the party and I happily made the cake and it was a party to remember. I’m yet to share the details on that, but will do that soon.



Lil’Appu latest craze (apart from Spiderman) has been dinosaurs. Even at his daycare they have been doing all sort of arts n crafts with Dinosaur theme and he even recognizes a bunch of the pre-historic reptiles, so I didn’t have to think twice as to what would be a good theme for his party…A rooooaring Dinosaur party!

Appu’s celebrated his 3rd b’day on Friday, July 11th and being a working day, it was business as usual. I got him a customized T-Shirt from Etsy saying Manav-saurus  with the number 3 and dino’s on it and he wore that proudly to day-care along with taking goodie bags for his friends.




The Dino bday party was kept for the next day. I decided to keep the color combo kinda rustic and went for a Green, Yellow and Orange theme for the cake table. I wanted a cute, fun, not too scary but not too cartoonish dino themed party decor. So all the d├ęcor was customized and individually made/ordered and put together.  


I did not want too many sweet stuff on the cake table which is the usual fad for cake tables, but decided to strike a balance with cake, cupcakes, snacks, fruit and water along with dino toys and balloons floating over trees for the cake table. 



Ever since I told Appu that we would do a Dinosaur b’day party for him he has been literally chanting to everyone including his teachers that he’s gonna get a dinosaur birthday cake :) 
I initially thought of doing a 3D T-Rex cake, but later decided to do a 3D Stegosaurus as I felt the colorful spikes on the body would look more fun on the cake. 
I baked a rich Chocolate-Espresso cake with Chocolate chips, filled and frosted it with Vanilla Buttercream and covered in marshmallow Fondant.  I’ll give a detailed tutorial on how to make this cake in a later post.



Apart from cake I wanted to keep cupcakes also this time as I’ve never done that before and kids loves cupcakes right? ;-) So I made Chocolate-espresso chocolate chip mini cupcakes with orange colored Vanilla Buttercream. 
I'm not much of a fan of toothpick inserted cupcake toppers for kids, for safety sake. So I spent a few days making edible toppers using royal icing in the shape of four different Dinos (T-rex, Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus and Triceratops). 
It was a huge hit and the kids were too busy eating all the toppers and stealing cupcakes from the table even before cake cutting ;-)


I had a T-Rex Melon to add a wow factor to the table! Ever since I saw this carved Dinosaur melon, I knew I had to make it. The instructions were simple and I just wanted the Dino-Melon to be more of an attraction. I had a whole platter of thin watermelon wedges that we named ‘Dino-Spikes’ for eating on a separate table.



The eyes are actually black peppercorns pressed into a scooped watermelon ball. The eye-brows and nostrils are made with the rind of the melon…my sis-in-law felt that the nostrils looked more like Charlie-Chaplin’s mustache…I agree ;-) It was still cute and fun to look at! Manish did the whole carving and I just did the eye balls, eyebrows, nostrils and the toothpicks for teeth.

For snacks I had three items on mind, Dino Eggs (round cheese balls),  Dino Toe-nails (Bugels) and Dino Bones (rolled tortilla chips), but in the hurry I forgot to get the cheese balls, so we just kept the Bugels and Tortilla chips on a green colored tray that I got for just $1 at target :-D I placed these fun name tags that I printed from online and placed them against each snack. There was also a Dino-Melon tag for the melon :-)



On a similar green colored tray I placed water bottles with custom dino happy birthday labels , which my sis-in-law cut and stuck on each bottle. I had bought green striped straws, so that went into each bottle. This was also loved by all.

The main wall deco included this Dino skeleton with Manav's name which was drawn and cut to perfection by one of my talented friends. He was so precise that he made sure that even the alphabets are written in the same font used to write Jurassic Park.



For the decor I wanted simple yet plenty of decorations. I got some free dino printables here and used them to make the banner around the cake table, water bottle labels and name tags for the dino-food.  
Then there were dino balloons, dino hangings, the pretty green lanterns, happy birthday banners, Dinosaur toy figurines and fun dino party hats. Manish got a paleontologists hat for appu to wear during cake cutting but he dint wear it ;-)





Now for the food, I wanted the appetizer to be fun and dino-themed for all kids and adults. As I was going to have equal number of vegetarian and non-veg eating guests I included both varieties. Some were not dino shaped but we placed food lables that’s was named so. 
Non-veg appetizers: Dino chicken salad sandwhiches 
                                                Dino Chicken Nuggets
                                                Carnivore wraps (Chicken Lettuce wraps)
Veg appetizers: Dino creamy veg sandwhiches
                                      Dino Bones (Mozzarella sticks)
                                      Herbivore wraps (Soya chunks lettuce wraps)
                                      Dino Bones again (Veg Spring Roles – we were out of names :-P)
Active Volcano punch – Mango lemonade with raspberries and lots of ice.
Water bottles with fun dino labels
Dino Spikes – watermelon wedges cut into thin triangular slices.


Dino shaped food....so fun!

Dino water bottles and Dino spikes (watermelon wedges)

For the main course meal I decided on an Indo-Chinese flair. My main focus was on the party deco and appetizers and I had enough to do on-hand so wasn't planning on cooking myself, but my friends chipped in offering help in all possible ways It almost turned out like a potluck....so all the dishes were homemade and all made by my friends, including the Mango icecream :-)
Main:  Veg Hakka Noodles 
                Chinese style Veg fried rice
Non veg side:  Chilli Chicken
                                  Pepper Chicken
Veg side:  Chilli Paneer
                        Veg Manchurian
Dessert:  Mango Icecream served in mini cones
                     Gulab jamuns



For the goodie bags I wanted everything to be dino themed again. All the goodie bags had either Dino story books or Dino sticker books including Dino mugs, Dino stamps , mini dino toys, Dino plush toys etc given to the kids based on their age. I got a simple brown paper bag with a yellow border on sale from target and stuck a Dino thank you note on each bag :-)


I had couple of Dino related activities in mind, but wasn’t sure if I could handle it as there were a lot of kids. So finally we got a Dino Inflatable/Moonbouncer and trust me from little crawling kids to the adults all had fun jumping in the moon bouncer and lil’Appu was literally inside it the entire time. The inflatable was huge and had a big dinosaur looking out from one end so it really looked like our backyard had a huge dino standing there ;-)
We rented extra tables and chairs so that people could sit out in our backyard and enjoy the food and party and it was a beautiful and colorful party I should say.


 

I love party planning, specially for my lil'boy. It took me almost a whole month of research hunting for inspiration and ideas all over the internet to come up with these details for the party. Manish, my sis-in-law, bro-in-law and my friends were a huge help in helping me organize everything.

Few other ideas I wanted to incorporate but left out due to lack of time were:
Dino Fossil cookies - round Shortbread cookies with embedded dino footprints 
Dino shaped Pasta (for the kids)
Dino shaped chocolates (for favor bag gifts)
Dino Fossil hunt (bucket of sand filled with dino skeletons and kids are supposed to find them)
Pin the tail on the dinosaur

I got all my party accessories and decorations from Amazon like the Dino party plates-cutlery-napkins set, dino sandwich cutter, the mini cupcake wrappers-green lantern-drinking straws set, all the favor bags items, balloons and Lil’Appu’s b’day shirt.
If you want details on anything in particular please email me or leave me a comment.



Friends are family when you are far away from home and my friends prove it over and over again. I’m proud of you all for being there for us. 

I want to specially thank from the bottom of my heart :
Navaneet for the beautiful Dino skeleton cutout banner for the wall deco.
Swati for the Veg Hakka noodles and Mango Icecream
Swati B for Veg Fried rice
Rupali & Pankaj for the veggie dino sandwhiches and veg hakka noddles
Lata for the Chilli Paneer, Nirmal for cutting the watermelon into spikes
Rinku for the Pepper Chicken
Arun & Rashmi for the Chilli Chicken and for baking the nuggets, cheese sticks and spring rolls
Sowjanya for Gulab Jamuns
Deepika for helping with all the arrangements while Anand (her hus) looked after her 7 month old :) and also for coming in early with all the stuff needed to do my hair but that didn’t happen..Lol!
Malli (sis-in-law) for all the decoration cut outs, for helping me with the Lettuce wraps and Chicken Sandhwiches and plenty more.
Manish, Malli (sin-in-law) and Unni (bro-in-law) for staying up late and helping with all the tiny details that I was so particular about. For cooking, cleaning and looking after Appu in midst of all the chaos. For being patient and not actually telling to my face that I’m a crazy woman :-P

The cake cutting was great. We played the  Happy b'day song and everybody sang along and as usual Appu had fun cutting the cake and enjoyed eating his dinosaur birthday cake!



So that’s it folks, our roaaring little boy had a roaaaring b’day party. It took us a few days to get back to our usual self coz we were exhausted beyond words after the party :) but the pictures make me feel proud and happy of what we were able to do and Lil'Appu and his friends had a great time!

If you'd like to see the earlier b'day party themes I did for Appu, here it is:
Rainbow themed 1st B'day party                    








-Manju