How to make a cake with gum paste swans

When it came time to celebrate Clara’s 10th birthday the occasion called for SWANS! Clara selected a couple of cake designs that she liked to share with me for inspiration. Her brother Rowen had recently enjoyed his ski jump cake, and now Clara would be enjoying her birthday cake from Emoticakes. Her brother has had several but this was Clara’s first time to celebrate her birthday with one of my cakes. I was excited to embrace the challenge of making gum paste swans.

The inspiration cakes

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How to Make a Skier Cake

This fall Genna reached out about Rowen’s birthday cake. I’ve made his cakes for several of his birthdays and they all start with a design idea from Rowen. This one was no different. Genna sent me several inspiration pictures and told me what she liked about each one.

I love working this way: we take aspects of each cake, keep budget in mind and try to have a bit of originality, though sometimes much of a design ends up being copied.

Here are the inspiration pictures from this year!

The parts that Genna liked include: the soft snow style frosting from the top left, the trees of the top right, the skier and slope from the lower left and the way the skis were positioned in the lower right. Well, some of that is a mix of what I like and what she liked. She also preferred not to have the entire cake covered in fondant.

Selecting a flavor

Rowen loves chocolate mint and mocha so he chose a mocha cake with mint cookies and cream filling. We topped it with a lightly minted, vanilla buttercream since it was a ski cake after all!

I planned to take a whole lot of pictures as I worked, but ultimately invited my daughter (my #1 employee) to help me make the skier and we chatted as we worked. I did get one photo of the ski jump and cake in progress.

Step by step

  • Bake your cake in the flavor of your choice.
  • Make your frostings and fillings needed for the cake.
  • Fill and crumb coat the cake.
  • Use the levels from the top of the cakes to form a mount of cake to serve as the ski jump.
  • Then use gum paste and/or fondant to make your skier. For Rowen’s skier, we used a mix of fondant (for the person) and gum paste (for the ski poles and skis). Allow to harden.
  • When the cake is completely frosted, add your skier to the cake.

The finished skier cake

Genna was kind enough to share a picture of Rowen’s ski cake with me once she had it all set up with the candle to celebrate. You can see how I took the trees from the top left inspiration cake, the frosting style of the top right and the skier from the lower left. Lastly there was the ski placement from the bottom right.

 

It’s a Jewelry-Making Party!

Time to make jewelry! My challenge was to create a cake that is inspired by the invitation, and pulls Bailey’s jewelry-making party all together. I was excited to create something beautiful and delicious for her 12th birthday. Bailey’s party was held at The Metal Smithery in Ithaca. This studio is SO cool! You can take classes to make your own jewelry, hold a party like Bailey did, and so much more! Definitely check it out if you are in the Ithaca area. Just looking at the pictures on their website makes me wistful for my college jewelry class days.

Invitation

Bailey chose a tan-themed invitation with some fun colored flags to complete the look. The kids planned to create jewelry at the party! I decided to stick with the theme of the invitation, instead of branching out to full-on jewelry cake, cupcakes, or cookies. I also decided it was important to keep the color scheme that Bailey had selected for her invitation, just to pull things all together.

Sometimes giving yourself a constraint like that makes the design process more fun. Think, “how can I create something that keeps things pure to the invite while not exactly copying each and every element?” I also like to focus on creating things that are repeatable. For example, if I’m going to make 2 dozen cookies and need to make a necklace chain, I could create this with hand sculpted gum paste OR I could try to find a sprinkle or other adornment that may make the process go a little more quickly. I used gold sprinkles for one chain and then white sugar pearls for another of the chains on the invitation. I like the depth that they gave to the cake.

Cupcakes

Bailey wanted to celebrate with cupcakes and cake. Perfect! We decided on a dozen vegan cupcakes along with a dozen traditional cupcakes. It made for a good canvas for writing Happy 12th Birthday Bailey and letting the cake use the “Let’s Celebrate” words from the invitation. I love working with cupcakes for display. Leslie arranged them around the cake to create a lovey display for the kids.

Cookies

Custom sugar cookies are fun but also really challenging. You always have to remember that you need to repeat the design A LOT of times. As you design, think ahead to how you will feel when you are completing cookie after cookie. For these cookies, I decided to incorporate the flags from the invitation to make them fun. Originally I thought I’d just do the chain and the child’s name and I briefly even considered just doing a field of tan with a name in navy. I’m so happy I went with the flags though. It was worth it to go through all the steps for the finished product.

To create the cookies I used a ravioli cutter to cut out triangles and then decorated each flag with either royal icing accents or edible marker accents. I kept it simple, selecting 4 colors that worked and choosing the easier styles from the design. I was going for the spirit of the invitation vs a replica of the invitation. The longest part was applying the golden chain and the white chains in sugar pearls. Luckily my daughter works for me and she was willing to help me create the flags and chains! I love how you can see the look come together between the invitation, cake and cookies in this picture.

Are you creating a themed party around an invitation or color palate? Just keep things simple and focus on the aspects you want to pull together. Perhaps it is color that matters most, or the font style you want to highlight. Whatever you do, make it your own and have fun!!