Animal Covered Hills

For this birthday cake, the theme of sheep and animals had been in my head for a while. Then I saw this wedding cake, and took some inspiration from there too. Taking a weeks holiday and being in a strange kitchen with only the essential equipment, and then discovering I had forgotten a few of the important bits as I went along, only made it more challenging. I don’t think you can beat a cake decorator for ingenuity in a crisis!

As if the decorating challenge was not enough, I was also testing out a new dairy free recipe. It was also American, so all measurements were in cups. And that is when I realised I had not brought my cup measuring set. But with a lot of patience and an unreliable internet connection, I worked out the conversions, and actually got a very tasty cake at the end of it! This is just a bit of a random picture of the vanilla mixing with the oil.

Having covered the cake in frosting, I decided to cover the top and sides separately with the sugarpaste – next time I think I would cover the cake in one, and then do the sides. I rolled out my sugarpaste (in different shades of green) into different sized hills as I went along. Then it was simply a case of attaching each hill to the cake.

After attaching all the hills, the board needed covered. I decided to keep with the different shades of green, in a fieldy sort of look.

I had a smaller 6 inch tier of Victoria sponge which was decorated in the same way. As I said, the ingenuity of a cake maker – I had a smaller cake card for underneath the cake, but normally put that on a larger board when decorating so I can be messy and move the cake around. After discovering I had not packed any extra boards, the frosties box was sacrificed.

Surprisingly, all that went pretty quickly. As I should have known, making all the wee animals took far longer than I had expected. First up were the sheep. I used marzipan mainly because I had a lot needing used up. But also, it is really good for modelling. So the bodies were rolled out of marzipan. I then sat and made a huge number of tiny balls of sugarpaste to act as the wool. Marzipan is quite sticky, so these were stuck on without needing any extra glue.

I also gave them a white disc for the face to be added to. This is when I realised I was without my vodka – not for me, but for using to make a paint. Thankfully, my peppermint extract has a high alcohol content, and can be used for the same job – it is just a more expensive way to do things. I also realised I had not paint brush for these details, but a cocktail stick worked well as they were so small. So that was mixed with a little of my gel colours to create eyes and a nose, and then I added some ears and a little tail.

Next up was a family of pigs. Again the bodies were rolled out of marzipan, but covering them was easier, as I just rolled out a patch of pink sugarpaste and covered them in that. A disc was added for the nose, a couple of balls shaped into ears, and then some eyes.

The family of highland cows were again made from a marzipan body, and covered in brown sugarpaste, marked with the lines for their hair. Two little horns were added, and I had to let go of my desire for perfectly matched horns – after all nature is rarely that symmetrical either! I decided as well as eyes, these guys needed little eye brows.

There was a brief interlude as we drove back to Edinburgh, with the cake carefully packed in the car. As the animals had had some drying time, they were reasonably fit for transport, but it is always a good idea to be extra careful with models. Part of the cute roundness of these guys is that anything standing on legs would have been more likely to get broken on the long journey. So my limited origami skills came into play to make holders for each family in a cake box lid.

Once we arrived in Edinburgh, I gave the pigs their tails, and the highland cows got noses, and I went over their hair lines again to define them a little bit more.

Then the great assembly began. The icing on the cakes had had some drying time, so that was helpful in getting the second tier placed on top of the first. Animals galore were then placed on the cake, and I piped on the ‘happy birthday’ message. Extreme flash is never good for a cake, but without it we would have been looking at some very dark and dim pictures!



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