I’ve finally recovered. Ever have one of those days where nothing goes as planned? When one small blip turns into a gnarly black cloud hanging over your head for two solid days? Boy did I have one of THOSE weekends!
It all started on Friday when my sister called to point out that my city’s firework display would be held on July 3rd and not on the 4th, as I had assumed and planned for it to be (it’s always been on the 4th before)! Not only were we celebrating Independence Day, but we were also doing Luke’s 3rd birthday party and I had promised him fireworks. Naturally, I FREAKED OUT!
As of Friday, I had 48 hours to accomplish 72 hours of work, a good chunk of which would have to be spent on Luke’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and dye-free Jungle Junction themed birthday cake. After I managed to convince everyone to come a day early and pleaded with the inflatable jumper company to bump me up a day, I put on a pot of extremely strong coffee and set to work.
The following photos are not great, a lot of them were taken under less than desirable lighting conditions; either because it was 1:30 in the morning when I was working on it or by the time I finally finished it (an hour before the party was to begin), the sky opened up and the rain came down (almost as hard as my tears!).
Luckily, the rain soon passed and all was good again.
Okay, let me explain what I was going for and nevermind the fact that I’m just not realistic in what my amateur cake decorating skills can achieve. I have spent my entire life trying to shove a square peg in a round hole!
Somehow, I got the hair-brained idea to incorporate the floating jungle roads that the roller-animals go cruising around on. As if that wouldn’t be challenge enough, I then decide to put my family on a dye-free challenge, so there went the colored fondant (none of the natural dyes could compete with the concentrated synthetic dye gel colors I used to use).
Like my improvised backdrop? That would be my husband holding up the backside of a checkered tablecloth, I was desperate for the flash to bounce off of something other than my shiny granite countertops!
Back in the spring, when I was taking the cake decorating classes, I picked up quite a few cool ideas from my instructors, like using toys for decorations. Granted, they used toys to embellish the colored icing and not for the entire cake, but this really got me to thinking, why do we need to eat the cake decorations anyway? My kids certainly don’t need all that added sugar and fondant really isn’t all that tasty to begin with! Have you ever found yourself actually wanting to eat fondant and gum paste decorations? (I will say this, of all the fondants I have tried over the years, the brand I found to be the best tasting belongs to Satin Ice, and it also happens to be gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. I actually have the White/Vanilla and the Dark/Chocolate Satin Ice fondant on hand and both are free of artificial colorings).
It was during the fondant class that I had an epiphany. Since fondant is pretty much an edible play dough, why not find something similar, that you could take a step further and harden (by baking in the oven) and thus end up with something that looked like fondant but the synthetic dyes are not consumed or transferred to the icing?
06-09-2010Dear Mrs. Kelly,With your e-mail you have reached the STAEDTLER headquarters in Germany. Thank you for your interest in our modelling clay FIMO.
FIMO is gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free.
FIMO as well as its ingredients have been tested by toxicologists in Europe and in the USA and have been classified as non-toxic. The product fulfills furthermore the requirements of the EG guideline for the security of toy (EN 71, part 5). It easily surpasses all minimum standards and requirements inflicted by the european and american authorities. FIMO is tested by ACMI (USA) and is permitted to carry the AP-Seal “non-toxic”.
Attached please find for your information the “FIMO instructions for use”.
STAEDTLER Mars GmbH & Co. KG
Woo-Hoo! Now, all I had to do was channel my deeply hidden inner sculptor and try to create the little roller-animals. I was actually surprised at how easy (and fun) they were. The shapes are pretty basic, although my proportions were off. This was my first time working with FIMO polymer clay and I will offer you this TIP: model all the light colored clays BEFORE picking up the blue clay (or wear gloves), I developed “Smurf Hand” syndrome, and everything I touched turned blue! Once you model your figures, place them on a baking sheet in a 230° F. oven for 30 minutes, then set aside to cool.
I then dug into the boys toy box and confiscated some Lego and Hot Wheel wheels (and bought some googly eyes at the craft store) to adhere to the critters with a glue gun (*do this after you bake the clay).
For Dozer’s wheels (above photo), I used the wheels from the Hot Wheels Custom Motors Humvee (finding a purpose for all the toys with missing or broken pieces!).
I used another set of wheels from a Custom Hot Wheels Custom Motors Power Set for Ellyvan (above) and Ms. Jolly (below).
All the other little character’s got LEGO Wheels:
I knew that I would never have time to make the floating jungle roadways in the show from the clay (frankly, this worked out okay because I wasn’t sure I would have been able to do it even if I had an extra day!). So, off I went to the hardware store to find a short-cut. The floating roads in the show are light in color, like bamboo or balsa wood… wood… wood… it echoes in my mind. Of course! I’ll get a couple of small pieces of wood of different widths and see which one would work best (plus it gave my husband a chance to use his manly power saw). Bingo! It worked like a charm. If I wasn’t short on time, I would have covered the wood in chocolate fondant, but instead I added a few pinches of cocoa powder to my white icing until I achieved a tan color, then slathered it on the wood pieces. Not perfect, but good enough!
Having solved my road problem, I turned to the cake itself. I had to get it baked, built and the crumb coat on so I could chill it in refrigerator before finishing it the next morning (video tutorial on how to do a crumb coat). Normally, I would bake my cakes ahead of time, cut the desired shapes, then FREEZE them before assembling and doing the crumb coat of icing, but time slipped away from me. Gluten-Free cakes can be especially fragile and freezing them before adding the icing helps prevent tearing!
My first “base” cake (12 x 18 half sheet pan) fell to pieces when I tried to pop it out, so I was not looking forward to trying to get the second cake out in one piece (FYI, one half sheet cake is THREE Betty Crocker Gluten-Free cake mixes, I only used two and it was a bit flat). My second attempt was 90% successful, with only a few pieces sticking to the bottom or sides of the pan. With no time to try again, a little dark chocolate icing to fill in the holes would have to do. After all, the whole thing is going to be covered in two coats of icing, right? With the bottom layer done, I made two 9 x 13 cakes that I cut down to the sizes I wanted. I basically made a lopsided step pyramid (my husband’s description).
I will show you the photos of the process, and I will link to several videos of an actual professional demonstrating how to do these steps.
First, you will want to level your cakes (video tutorial link) to remove the puffy top of the cakes.
Cutting my desired shapes.
I piped an icing dam the size of the smaller top cakes and filled with a generous amount of dairy-free decorator’s icing. This will act as the “glue” to hold the cakes together.
Attempting to brush away some crumbs before starting my crumb coat, it didn’t really help me much.
This is my crumb coated cake (my crumb coat was thicker than it should have been because I made my icing too stiff and it was tearing my cake). You can easily add water to thin out the icing (add by teaspoonfuls so you don’t overdo it), but I was in a hurry and just went with it. The holes you see are where I added a couple of dowels for support. Here is a video tutorial showing how to add dowels to a cake. I used two Wilton plastic dowels that I bought at the craft store and cut to size with my hacksaw.
I filled the holes left by the dowels with more icing then applied the top coat of icing (video tutorial link).
This is where my camera died but I couldn’t hold off as time was running short. After my husband cut the wood pieces for me, and I placed them where I wanted them to go, then I removed and iced the wood pieces and reattached to the cake with more icing. I then added dark chocolate icing to the foiled cake board, so I could include it in my “scene.” I picked up this trick in my “Cupcakes with Flair” class. After covering the board in dark chocolate icing, I attempted to pipe another road from the light brown icing, then I placed all of my little FIMO Jungle Junction Characters on the cake.
As you can see, I still need a lot of practice but that’s okay; it’s not like I am trying to become a professional cake decorator! We all had a lot of fun building Luke’s cake together and we now have tons of material for future funny stories. We each picked a character and signed our name and the date on the bottom so Luke will always have a little piece of this special day to look back on.
Sam had so much fun that he said he would like to make FIMO eyeballs for this year’s Halloween cupcakes at school!
The main thing is that just because we have children with dietary restrictions, doesn’t mean life has to be boring and plain. I really believe in the quote, “Where there is a will, there is a way” (we just have to find it!). But, we can collaborate and do it together and enjoy a few good laughs (and tears) along the way.
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