Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tropical Island Figure Cake with Gum Paste

My step father, Joe turned 67 years old on August 3, 2013. He is at the end of a long stay in Hartford Adult Rehabilitation in Alabama because of a massive stroke he endured months ago. He is now going home very soon and he can walk again with the aid of a walker. He and my mother have worked hard together through a hellish time we all fear in life and aging.

Meet Joe now and younger Joe I designed for his cake.

We took the party to the rehab. This cake was made especially for Joe. Joe used to play the bongos and conga in his younger years, and being Puerto Rican, he misses his little home island of Puerto Rico. I incorporated those loves into this cake, and I built the figure to look as much like him as  could.

For the cake, I made yellow cake on one side and strawberry on the other.
I used butter cream frosting in 3 different shades of blue. I tried to make the top into waves, but I decided I liked it flat instead. I guess I need to work on the waves!
The sand piled on the cake was gram cracker crumbs.
Now to explain the gumpaste decorations.

For the fish, I just rolled out the gumpaste and used cookie cutters to cut the shapes.
To paint the fish, I added color dust to lemon extract and just added detail and color. 

For the drums, I pressed gumpaste into round ice trays to shape them. I rolled black ropes to decorate the edges with a little "x" pattern. For the white tops, I just cut a circle the same size around as the drum. I used a bit of gumpaste in a little bit of water to make glue which I held it all together with. The box the drums are set on is a piece of styrofoam covered in brown gumpaste. That was a last minute addition in order to set the drums up off the sand.

The palm tree was propped with a strong straw for the base of the tree, and I used scissors to cut little points in the gumpaste for the trees texture. 

The palm leaves were put on wires so that I could shape them and add them to the tree before they dried. Without the wires, my first 2 attempts flopped and broke. I then painted the green on the leaves using extract and color dust. The leaves dried hanging there on the tree.

To build the figure, Joe, I started at the bottom. I made a ball of gumpaste and pinched it to the shape of shorts. I made round imprints for the legs to go into later with a ball tool. This must dry completely before building more so that the weight does not flatten his bottom area.

For the top shirt area, I formed a tear drop shaped lump of gum paste and again, with the ball tool, I put impressions in each side for the arms to be added later.

I took the same color I used for the shorts, and formed 2 arm shapes for the top of the sleeves on his shirt. Again, leave ball tool indents for the rest of the arms to be added later.
I placed a small piece of his skin color gumpaste on top of the tear drop shirt and glued the head to that. 
I indented just small holes for eyes because I was putting Joes classic shades on him. You never catch him out without his shades and hat.
I added a nose and ears indenting the gumpaste as would be for ears and nose. The ears are covered with curled rolled snakes of black to show Joes curly ringlets back in the day. All was glued on with my gumpaste, water glue.
His shades were just a small, straw sized circle cut in two with a small piece in between and equal sized strands wrapping behind the ears for the bows of the shades.
Shaping the arms and legs was the hardest part.

All in all, I was happy with the cake. I wanted to have wave peaks on the top but it didn't look right (frosting too thick) so I flattened it with paper towels and a fondant smoother.

Also, the humidity here in AL is still really high compared to what Im used to, so it is taking time to feel those differences through. Higher humidity means more gum tex or tylose powder.

My Mom and Joe!


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