It has become a tradition to share the "how-to" for each of our birthday cakes so here are directions for the monkey cake. This turned out to be a really fun one for me, and Beckett just loved it! Here is what I did...
Before beginning I wanted to add that if you are new to my blog, I am not a professional cake decorator; I have never even taken a cake decorating class. I have learned mostly from friends, viewed YouTube videos and of course, watched Ace of Cakes on Food Network! I make no claims that I do things "by the book". I just love doing these very special cakes for my boys birthdays. I hope my experience can help someone else along the way!
You will need:
- Wilton's Animal Crackers Pan. This pan was one of the best investments I have made in the cake decorating department. I used it to make the cow and pig for Beckett's first birthday, the frog for Beckett's second birthday and now the monkey for his third. Gosh, I didn't realize until I typed that that this child has only had animal-themed parties. ;)
- Directions from Wilton site on how to turn the cake into a monkey. You can see I left out the pink on the face and made the nose differently as well.
- a 16 inch round pan (same one I used to make the pizza cake) for the belly. If I had it over to do again I would probably consider using my 14 inch round pan instead. I wanted a fat monkey but this one bordered on obese. ;)
- extra cake pans of any size large enough to cut out your monkey's arms and legs. You will use the scraps from this to support his head as well. I used a 10x10 and a 13x9 I already have in my pan collection.
- two larges piece of cardboard free from framing department at local arts and crafts store to use as cake board. I got mine at Michael's. Cover with regular foil or Wilton's fanci-foil. Here is a video that will show you how to do this. If you make your monkey as large as mine you will want to tape the two cardboard pieces on top of each other before covering with foil b/c it's a heavy cake, especially if you are going to transport it for the party. My neighbor, who helped me move mine, said I should've used plywood! :)
- extra cardboard or cardstock to make template for arms and legs- any shape and size you like. You can see mine were very simple! I only made one arm and one leg and just flipped them around the opposite way for the other side.
- two 24 oz packages of pre-made fondant. You can make your own but I haven't gone there yet. You will want to tint one whole package brown for the tail. For the second package you will tint some yellow for banana and polka dots, some blue and red for polka dots and don't foget to leave some white for the banana and the cover for the mini-cake.
- latex-gloves to use when you are adding dye to fondant. Here are directions on Wilton's site for how to color fondant. It is really very, very easy.
- Wilton icing colors in brown, lemon yellow, red and royal blue - or whichever colors you prefer.
- Foam pieces from floral department at Wal-Mart or any craft store to make the little cake. I chose not to make this from real cake because I already had enough to feed all our guests, their families and the entire neighborhood. ;)
- Bake all cakes you will need using your favorite recipe. I use Duncan Hines Classic White and prepare according to package directions except I add 1 tsp of almond extra for each box. Let's see...that means you will 1 box of cake mix for the animal crackers pan. I think it took 3 mixes to have enough batter for the 16 inch pan, one more mix for the 13x9 and 2 more for the 10x10. That's a total of 7 cake mixes. You might consider buying an extra one or two just in case.
- Wilton's Ready-To-Use Icing in black. This is much easier than trying to make your own black frosting. Trust me!
- a batch of Wilton's buttercream frosting x 6 (give or take). I make the variation that says "For pure white icing" so I can make it way ahead of time and my cake won't require refrigeration due to all the butter. In addition to the butter extract and the vanilla extract (I usually use more vanilla and butter flavorings than the recipe calls for) I again add a few tsp of almond extract to compliment the flavor in the cake. You may need more or less icing depending on how thick you ice your cake. Leave a tiny bit white for the eyes. Tint enough of the icing light brown for the middle of the tummy and face as well as the crumb coat. Most of it will need to be dark brown for the remainder of the body.
- Icing bags, couplers (here is a video that will show you how to use couplers with your icing bags) and a #21 star tip. I usually use a #16 star tip to ice all my cakes but I knew I would be up until 4AM icing this guy if I used one that small. #21 did the trick for me, but you can use any star tip you like. You will also need a #3 tip or any of the round decorating tips to outline and then fill in the eyes, nose and mouth.
- Make the banana from fondant. I actually bought a real banana to look at while doing this. The inside, white part of the fruit it is basically a long fondant roll (remember playdough snakes?) slightly narrowed at the end. The yellow peel started out as a large circle I cut into a tear drop shape just large enough to wrap around the the white part I just made. I cut the tear drop starting at the top middle point and cut down a few inches then "peeled" it back. Add some water to your white part to act as the glue then wrap the peeling around. The underside won't show so it's okay if it's not a perfect fit. Tweak until it looks like what you want. The fondant will set up and harden so get it just right and leave alone to dry.
- Make fondant polka dots, enough to decorate the mini-cake and extras to affix to the board.
- Make the mini-cake. I just used a tiny coating of icing right on the foam circles and laid the rolled out fondant on top. Then I trimmed off the excess with a sharp knife and set to adding polka dots. Again use water as "glue" to hold the dots in place. Too much water and they will slide right off leaving a streak right down your pretty white fondant. Believe me, I know. ;) I used dots of white frosting on top to hold the candles in place.
- After cakes are baked and cooled you will use the cardboard template you made to cut out two arms and legs. I just lay the template on top of the cake and "trace" around it with a toothpick. Then I carefully cut the pieces out with a good serrated knife.
- Assemble cake on prepared cake board. Start by placing belly down first. Then use scraps left over from the cake(s) you used to make arms and legs. Place scraps at the top of the belly where the head will rest. These scraps will support the head. Place the head made from the animal crackers pan on the belly with the top of the head resting on the scraps. Using your serrated knife follow the shape of the monkey's head around top edge and cut off the scraps below so they follow the exact shape of the head. When you ice it all, no one will know this part was formed from left-overs.
- Once all pieces are in place you will do a crumb coat over entire cake. Make sure your icing is super-thin (put small amount of icing in a separate bowl; add a T or water or so to thin out. I used the lt. brown frosting for my crumb coat but you could use white or even the dark brown) or it will take you forever, use too much icing and essentially be a nightmare. A crumb coat is essentially a very thin layer of buttercream frosting that goes over the cake before the final layer of frosting. The buttercream will "crust" slightly and keep all crumbs out of your final cake. This step is especially important since the arms and legs have been cut out from a larger cake and will covered in messy crumbs.
- Draw circle in middle of monkey's tummy with toothpick. This will be the area you ice light brown. Since I used a 16 inch pan, I simply laid my 14 inch pan on top of his tummy and traced around with a toothpick. You could certainly free-hand this, use a lightweight plate or mixing bowl or any other circular object that is about 2 inches smaller in diameter than the original circle. Fill in circle with light brown stars.
- Ice remainder of tummy as well as arms and legs. Ice white part of eyes, and then add black of eyes as well as nose and mouth. First outline with #3 tip and then fill in. Smooth out by dipping your finger in very hot water and gently patting out icing. Add light brown section of face and ears and finish with dark brown.
- Add fondant polka dots to board by again using water as the glue.
What you can do two weeks (or more) ahead of time...
- Purchase all supplies: icing colors, items for icing including all flavorings, cake mixes, eggs, oil, fondant, foil/fanci-foil...
- Pick up cardboard for cake board.
- Make template for arms and legs.
- Sketch monkey out on your cardbord to make sure you are happy with how the legs and arms look with the size of the animal crackers pan and the tummy you have chosen. Adjust if necessary.
What you can do a week (or more) ahead of time...
- Make the icing. Tint the different colors and store in airtight containers.
- Get cake board ready. You will need to know what size your belly, legs and arms are going to be so that you don't make your board too large or small. Cover with foil and set in safe place where foil won't get torn.
- Color fondant and make tail, banana, mini-cake and polka dots. Don't tint your fondant if you are not going to go ahead and make these items because it will dry out once the package has been opened. You can store it for a short time by tightly wrapping in a few layers of saran wrap and placing in baggie with all air removed.
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