The Owlie’s Nest – A special cake for a special girl

My most recent cake was for a very close friend’s daughter’s first birthday.

I was so excited to make a little girl’s cake. My first fancy cake was done for my own girls’ first birthday and it was pink and purple and flowery in the form of a GIANT cupcake. It was awesome, I mean check it out:

Twin's First Birthday Cake

So anyway, I had grand ideas of what I wanted to do with this gorgeous cake. Girly, but not too pink as she’s more of a purple, green and teal kinda baby. I searched the web for inspiration (mostly on Pintrest) and found plenty.

Then the rules came into play. Well not so much rules, but guidelines.

1. My friend wanted chocolate cake. Easy. Can so do chocolate cake. The cupcake masterpiece was chocolate cake. I’ve inherited an extremely easy chocolate cake recipe from my Mum, who got it from her mum, so there’s a nice little family link there too.

Rule number 2: She wanted the cake covered in buttercream – no fondant! Not so easy. I’ve only managed to successfully pipe buttercream onto one cake, this Rosettes Cake:

Rosettes Cake

Unfortunately, as part of my whole personal development thing was that I needed to challenge myself and do something new. Or at least try something new and resort to what I know if all else fails. So, I’d have to redo my inspiration search and I’d have to do a lot of piping practise! I find fondant so much easier to work with. I don’t know why.

The other information I was given is that birthday girl would be wearing a specially made outfit with an owl on it. That I knew I could work with.

I restarted trawling the web and came up with a great idea: ruffles! Much like this gorgeous creation.

I did some practise on a basic cake I was making for a much more casual birthday. It wasn’t overly successful:

Chocolate Buttercream Ruffle Cake

I showed the birthday girl’s mum, who preferred the rossettes cake. Then she saw a picture of some other piping practise I’d done with the left over buttercream.

“I like that lattice,” she said.

Awesome, basketweave. Not at all daunting! (<–heavy sarcasm) After yet another peruse of the internet I came up with a game plan. All of the basketweave cakes online had an arrangement of flowers on top. And I’ll tell you something now. I CANNOT do flowers yet. The four gerbera’s I did on the twins’ cake was quite enough. Roses or anything else were way out of my comfort zone. So instead of flowers, I’d do leaves. I mean what kind of owl hangs out in flower baskets anyway?

Despite my husband’s doubt, I set about making chocolate leaves for the first time. Turns out it was really easy! Melt some chocolate, dip well washed lemon leaves in so the chocolate coats the back and then place on a tray in the fridge to set. Just make sure they are really set before you start to peel the leaves off (my impatience got the better of me there). But the beauty is, if you do stuff it up, just throw the broken leaves back into the chocolate and melt it down again 🙂

So the leaves were done. Next task was the topper – the owl! After reading several tutorials online (seriously, there’s a tutorial for pretty much anything on the internet somewhere) I set about creating my own version. That was a steep learning curve though. I’ve never done any previous modelling or anything and I didn’t even know if I should use fondant or gumpaste (In the end I used fondant, but I’ve since read I was supposed to put something in the fondant to make it hold shape better?) Anyway, after it kept kind of squashing down on itself I decided to stick some toothpicks in it to hopefully hold it a little more upright. It was never going to be a tall owl, but short and wide was a cute look.

The wings were made from three colours of purple fondant cut out using the dogwood cutter from the Wilton Gumpaste Flower Cutter Set. I just cut this into four heart shaped petals/feathers and attached to the side of the body. I did also spend a lot of time working on a tiny bow to sit on wee Owlie’s head. Only to find it squashed on the floor a short time later. I must have knocked it off at some point, and there was no way I could achieve another without really losing my mind. So we went forth bow-less (I don’t really think anyone missed it).

Phew, so my decorations were made, some piping practise had been done on the side of a glass bowl (really great idea that – thanks to who ever I got it from) and I was ready to bake. My Nana’s chocolate cake recipe came out and I was off.

And it all came together REALLY EASY in the end! My oven co-operated (it’s a bit finicky), the basket weave was not perfect, but good enough (I’m a real perfectionist so ‘good enough’ is generally pretty good). I even managed to do a ‘rope’ edging for the top and bottom of the basketweave. This worked not so well, but honestly, I couldn’t figure out a way to fix it without destroying the rest of the piping and by that stage I was pretty exhausted with the piping.

Throw around a lot of gorgeous lustre dust in gold and silver and copper (copper looks AMAZING on dark chocolate leaves), plonk it all together and ta-daa!

Owlie CakeOwlie Cake 1Owlie Cake - TopperOwlie Cake - Basketweave

Then I just had to transport it to the party two and a half hours away. That had to be the most stressful trip of my lifetime! But it made it in one, un-smooshed piece and received pride of place at the party. (At which the girls’ and I had a fantastic time by the way!)

The chocolate leaves were a particular hit with the kids at the party, who could munch on them while us adults debated the pros and cons of which way to cut the cake. It took much longer to figure that out than it did to eat the cake!

It was such an honour making the first birthday cake for a little girl who is so special. I have to thank her mummy for giving me the chance. Love you and all your family 🙂

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