Monday, 11 February 2013

Polka Dot Birthday Cake With Elephant Topper

This weekend I was lucky enough to once again be asked by my best friend to make a birthday cake for one of her gorgeous boys - this time for Oliver who was turning one. This is the cake I designed and made:

This is one of the first cakes I've made where I've designed the whole cake from scratch (as opposed to basing my cake on a picture/design I've found or has been supplied to me). I had a lot of fun planning and designing what it would look like and I was very pleased with the end result.

I really like the look of multi-tier cakes where one tier is much taller than the rest so that's what I did here - the bottom tier was made of three separate cakes and was about 5 inches tall, and the top tier was only one cake and about 3 inches tall. I went with pastel colours and because the cake was for a little boy blue and green were the main colours with yellow, white and a bit of purple and they all worked so well together. I just love pastel colours.

I also had a lot of fun with the actual decorating of the cake - especially making the cute little fondant elephant topper!

To make the elephant I first made a big egg shape for the body and pressed into the kitchen bench a little to make a flat bottom. I then rolled a ball for the head, making it slightly larger than I intended the actual head to be - so that I could then roll out a trunk out of the same piece of fondant. To make the trunk more life like I used a knife to emboss some lines all the way down, and pressed a small ball tool into the end of the trunk to create a little hole. The arms and legs were little sausages roller out of fondant, thinner towards one end and flattened at the wider end. I attached these to the body and then attached the head on top. The two ears were cut out using a circle cutter and attached to the head. I used a very small round piping tip to emboss finger nails onto the arms and feet and an even smaller tip to emboss a little belly button. Finally the eyes were drawn on using an edible food pen. Right at the very last minute I decided to add a little yellow party hat.

I also made little yellow blocks which spelled out the name of the birthday boy and a big white bow which was 'tied' around the bottom of the top tier:

I made the blocks by rolling 6 balls of the same size out of the yellow fondant (tip: I weighed each ball to make sure they were all exactly the same size - that way all of the blocks turned out the same size). I then took two fondant smoothers and placed each ball between them to flatten out two sides, repeating three times on different sides of the ball to create the six sides of the blocks. Starting the blocks out as little balls meant that the blocks had nice rounded corners too which I think made them extra cute!

Here a couple more views of the cake...

The cakes inside were a red velvet cake with dark chocolate ganache for the top tier and a vanilla cake with white chocolate ganache for the bottom tier. The bottom tier also had a bit of a surprise in the middle...

That's right it had colourful polka dots on the inside! For an awesome tutorial on how to do this see this link. My cake balls were made from the same vanilla cake recipe as the cake itself. Note: the first time I made a cake with polka dots inside, all of the cake balls floated up to the top during baking. But the second time (i.e. for the elephant cake) most of them stayed put. I think this is because I only put a really thin layer of batter on the bottom of the pan the second time, and then spooned the mixture over the balls, rather than pouring. But I'll have to try it a third time to make sure it wasn't all a fluke!

One thing I will say, I wasn't particularly organised with my time when making this cake - I ended up working until 2am the night before the party to finish it! And my very late night could have very easily been avoided with a bit of planning and prior preparation. So here are a couple of helpful tips that I will definitely be keeping in mind for future cakes! (It's a bit hard to believe that I haven't learnt all these lessons yes with all the cakes I've made... but anyway)

1. ALWAYS colour your fondant at least 1 day prior to the day you're doing all the decorating. I tend to underestimate how much kneading is required for a nice even colour when using gel colours and end up losing so much time! Especially for a cake like this one where I needed several different colours. Obviously one other solution is to buy the fondant which already comes in different colours, but for this cake I wanted very specific colours so colouring the fondant myself was necessary.

2. Also make sure that all of the cakes are baked prior to the night you're going to be decorating them - this is a bit of a no-brainer and I usually never forget to do this but this time I was baking the small cake for the top tier on the same night as I was doing all the decorating. Not the best idea.

3. If possible, make the chocolate ganache the night before and store in the fridge. This is sometimes a bit annoying, as when you actually want to use the ganache you need to heat it up in the microwave to get it to a soft spreadable state again. And then if you microwave it too much it gets too runny and you need to put it back in the fridge again... and so on. But it does still save a bit of time if it's pre-made the night before.

4. Fondant cake toppers, like the elephant in this case, can and probably should be made a few days in advance. This not only makes the final day/night of decorating less stressful but also allows the cake topper to properly dry before being put on the cake. In this case it worked out okay, but next time I'll definitely try to make any cake toppers early.

Anyway despite my lack of organisation the cake turned out really well which is really the more important thing here than my lack of sleep!


  1. This is AMAZING!!! I love the polka dots inside and all your tips on making a cake like this--so helpful!

  2. Thank you! It was a really fun one to make :) Glad you found the tips helpful.