I have noticed that a child’s first birthday is a huge deal for mothers. The parties are big and so is the pressure. The second birthday doesn’t seem to have the same hoopla around it and I’m not sure that the second child gets quite the same investment in the first birthday party. Birthday parties were always a pretty big deal when I was growing up – there was a little bit of a competition going on with the party bags… a simple plastic bag with a handful of lollies did not cut it! We had sewn bags, some sort of toy or costume jewellery (depending if you were male or female) and the quality of the sweets was also important. We would set up assembly lines to put them together – it was a huge part of the birthday experience.
Another very important aspect of the party was the cake! One of my fondest memories was being able to pull out Mum’s Woman’s Weekly cake book – the one with the train on the front that many Australian children of the 80’s might recall – and pouring over the pages to choose the cake Mum would make… Things haven’t really changed that much, with my very indulgent mother still pandering to my cake whims (check out my 30th birthday cake here). It was an excellent way to build anticipation for the upcoming birthday party and I remember feeling very invested in the whole process, as I eagerly watched the cake evolve into a masterpiece. So when the daughter of a friend was fast approaching the momentous first birthday she asked me for some assistance with the cake.
Some people might think this was a big ask, I have to be honest and say that I had been dying for someone to ask me to make their child’s birthday cake. I’ve even got a handful children’s cake books on my shelf even though I have no children of my own. In the way of tradition, I asked the Vivacious Czech what sort of cake she wanted for her adorable daughter and was told that the theme of the party was ‘In the Night Garden’.
Suffice to say I am not well versed in children’s entertainment. Apparently, ‘In the Night Garden’ is a television show that is a huge hit with young children such that every parent knows who Upsy Daisy and Igglepiggle are… As for me, I needed to turn to trusty Google. With a picture of the wild haired Upsy Daisy and blue Gumby-esque Igglepiggle on my computer screen the cogs of my imagination began to turn. First off, I wanted to use butter icing on the cake rather than plastic icing because as a child I disliked hard icing and as I wanted the children to have the opportunity to lick the icing off their fingers. I wanted to create a garden on the cake and have Upsy Daisy in that garden. The Vivacious Czech mentioned daisy’s being a key part of the garden, so they would also need to make an appearance. The funny thing is that what I imagined seemed so easy but the cake actually required a lot of work – all up I think it took me about 12 hours… That said, it was worth it!
I apologise for the lack of photos detailing the process – I tend to get very caught up in it and forget to be snap happy.
So dear reader, what was (or is) the favourite part of your birthday?
In the Night Garden with Upsy Daisy and Igglepiggle cake
For the decorations, you will need modelling paste/ fondant (you can buy packets of this from cake decorating shops) coloured with colouring gels (such as Wilton’s) in green, red, yellow, ivory, blue, brown, black. If you are trying this at home, be sure to start making all the figurines and flowers days in advance to allow the icing to dry.
For the cake we made a double batch (4 layers) of Martha Stewart’s chocolate cake (using normal cocoa and grape seed oil instead of safflower) and butter icing (coloured with Wilton’s ‘Verde’ for the vibrant green colour).
Making the Daisies (big and small) and the blossoms:
You will need:
Yellow, white,orange (tangerine), and magenta fondant
Daisy and blossom cutters (small and large of both)
Silver cachous (small and large)
1. Using tweezers roll a small loop at the top of the wire. Roll a little of the yellow fondant into a ball.
2. Dip the loop of the wire in water and push into the ball. Roll around the wire until the ball closes.
3. Roll out some white fondant (1~2mm thick). Using a small daisy cutter (as pictured) but out the petals out of white fondant.
4. Wet, with a brush, the middle of the daisy, push the wired centre through the middle of the petal cutout until the petal sits on the centre.
5. Allow to dry upside-down.
1. For the large daisies: Roll out some white fondant (1~2mm thick). Using a large daisy cutter cut out daisies and allow to dry on greaseproof/ baking paper.
2. Using yellow fondant, roll a small ball (slightly smaller than the size you want for the centre of the daisy). Press flat with your fingers. Wet the bottom of the flattened ball with a brush and press into the white petals. Allow to dry.
3. For the small blossoms: Roll out some yellow/ orange/ pink fondant (1~2mm thick). Using two different sized blossom cutters cut out flowers, place them in your palm and using the head of a rounded pin (or other small rounded instrument) push into the centre of the blossom to create a curved concave shape.
4. Dab the centre with a wet brush, and place silver cachous in the blossoms.
1. Roll the body of the butterfly with fondant (you choose your colour, I did one of each). Cut stamens to the right length, dip the end in water and push into the fondant. [Ideally, make the wings first and allow to dry completely before making the body]
2. Roll out one colour of fondant (in this picture the pink). Using the petal cutters, cut 4 petals, two of each size. With the other colour (purple) roll 4 balls, flatten with fingers, place onto the rounded end of each petal and using a rolling pin, roll over the petal to flatten. Roll a cachous into the centre of the purple dot on the smaller petals. Using water ‘glue’ the points of a small and large petal together.
3. Push the wings into the body, with some water to ‘glue’ together. Prop wings up with cotton balls, until dry.
Cobble stones: Roll dark brown fondant pieces into balls (no bigger than a 5 cent piece), and press flat using fingers. You want them to be irregular in shape, so feel free to be creative!
1. Roll out a thick layer (~5 mm) of green fondant, using a sharp knife, cut out a ‘tree’ shape.
2. Using brown fondant, shape a trunk around a bamboo skewer. Be sure to indent a groove in front of the skewer to ‘sit’ the ‘tree’ on later. Allow to dry. [In retrospect I would use 2 bamboo skewers to create a V-shape to lean the top of the tree against].
3. Roll out the green fondant (~2mm thick), cut out leaves.
4. Roll out the pink fondant and cut out a ‘1’. Using fondant glue, stick this on the tree. Also, paste flowers and leaves onto the ‘tree’. Allow to dry.
5. Once the two parts are dry, using flower glue, stick/prop the ‘tree’ on the trunk against the bamboo skewers. Using some fondant around the bamboo skewers on the back of the ‘tree’ to ‘stick’ the skewers to the ‘tree’. Prop up on anything until dry.
1. I started with three pieces. The head is a ball of brown/ tan fondant. The bodice was a triangular prism-like yellow fondant and the base a hemisphere of white fondant. Wire was pushed through the base and bodice to attach the arms and legs. The head was attached with a wire also. The pieces were ‘glued’ together with water.
2. Making the legs: Make two sausage like appendages (for the legs) out of light pink fondant. Roll out the yellow fondant (as thin as you can and still manipulate it), and cut into strips. ‘Glue’ with water to the ‘sausages’. Push these legs onto the wires connected to the base of the body. Using the dark pink fondant make the feet, ‘glue’ to the legs with water.
Making the skirt: Roll out a red rectangle (~2mm thin and long enough to wrap around the body, allowing for extra for ripples), trim so that edges are straight. Roll out a rectangle of white fondant, cut into petal shapes (to make the white part on the skirt) – the height of the ‘petals’ should be shorter than the length of the skirt. Place the ‘petals’ onto the red skirt, and lightly roll over with a rolling pin to flatten into one piece. Wrap the skirt around the body, use water to glue in place. Roll out a belt (i.e. long think rectangle) from yellow fondant and cover the top of the skirt.
Making the arms: Make two sausage-like appendages (for the arms) from the dark orange fondant. Roll out the light pink fondant (as thin as you can and still manipulate it), and cut into strips. ‘Glue’ with water to the ‘sausages’. Push these arms onto the wires connected to the bodice – wires should stick out the end
Flowers for the bodice: Cut out a hole in the centre of 3 small orange coloured blossoms (see above for details for cutting out the blossoms) and push flowers onto the bodice.
Shape the head: using tweezers shape a nose onto the head.
3. Trim the wire so that she are shorter than the hands (i.e. mittens shaped from the brown/ tan fondant). Push the hands onto the wire and glue with water.
4. The face: Cut a smile out of black fondant and ‘glue’. Cut 2 circles out of white fondant, cut off a portion of each to represent the eyelids. Roll two very small black balls, flatten with fingers and ‘glue’ to the centre of the eyes to be the irises. ‘Glue’ eye to the face. Out of orange fondant, cut thin eyebrows and ‘glue’ to the face.
The headband: Using pink fondant, roll out a flat, cut a long, thin rectangle. ‘Glue’ around the head.
The hair: Cut florist wire into short lengths, loop the top of each. From the range, yellow and pink fondant, shape into carrot-like shapes for the hair. Push onto the wire that has been dipped in water. Gently curve. [Ideally do this the night before you make the body etc so that the hair can harden before you attach to the head]. Push the hair into the head,
5. Using purple fondant, make a ring and attach it to a short column, which in turn is attached to the yellow belt.
Allow to dry.
Assemble the cake by sandwiching the pieces together with green icing. Ice the whole cake, receiving some icing to pipe the ‘grass’. Smooth out the icing. WIth the reserved icing, place in a piping bag, trim a small nozzle and pipe squiggly bits over the top of the cake. Make the path from the pebbles. Place the tree on the cake, then Upsy Daisy. Add the daisies, both the wired on the top to make the field of flowers and on the side. Using tweezers, place the blossoms on the cake. Place the butterflies. And we are done!
Next time I’ll post about Igglepiggle cake pops – which resulted from the bits of the cake that I trimmed off to make the cake above flat.