17 June 2015

To Kill A Mockingjay Cake (and other cake fails)

To Kill a Mockingjay Cake

There have been many cake fails in my birthday party history, but none quite as spectacular as the time I nearly killed the Mockingjay Cake.

Ironically I photographed every step, because this was meant to be a tutorial post on how to create a marvelous flaming Mockingjay Cake for your epic Hunger Games party, sponsored by my lovely party partner, Sandra at Kiwi Cakes. Sandra had sent me all the gear - the black pre-coloured fondant, the clever little fondant cutter, the edible gold dust - so really I had no excuse. OK so I was still making do with my $2 shop piping kit, but I HAD A PLAN and it was a good one.

The first few steps went so smoothly that I was literally clapping my hands with glee...

How to make a fondant Mockingjay
  • I printed and cut out the paper Mockingjay stencil. I laid it on the cake = perfect fit!
  • I rolled out a good sized lump of black fondant, on baking paper so it would be easy to peel and place later
  • I placed the paper stencil on the rolled fondant and used Sandra's clever little fondant roller (using the smooth edge "blade") to carefully cut out the shape - with me so far? Yep it was all going so very well at this point.
  • I peeled off the paper stencil, and there she was in all her glory - a perfectly wonderful black fondant Mockingjay, just as I'd dreamed and planned...

Preparing a fondant Mockingjay

I wrapped the sides of the cake in more rolled black fondant - looking good so far.
And that's when I made the fateful mistake.
I piped flames on.
Instead of providing a smooth surface to lay my fondant Mockingjay on, I made my cake LUMPY. And BUMPY. And it all went downhill from there...

Mockingjay cake mistakes

I should have spread the orange buttercream on SMOOTHLY, laid on the fondant Mockingjay and ONLY THEN attempted to pipe on flames. And only a few, at that.
With things going from bad to worse, I tried to patch up my mistake. The fondant was too fragile to remove so I was left with a barely recognisable mess of a mockingay, which I tried to fix with Gold dust... and then woops! in my panic my elbow bumped the precious container and splattered it all over the floor. So then I tried using edible gold paint pens... which ended up like this....

Mockingjay Cake Mess

Not quite what I had in mind.
What to do?
The kids could barely tell it was a Mockingjay. (When I asked them what they thought of it at this point, they tried to be nice but I could tell they weren't impressed).

There was only one thing left to try: barley sugar flames.

Making Barley Sugar "flames"

I melted orange barley sugars in the oven (on baking paper) and once they hardened, I was able to break them into flame shapes. And almost save the cake...

We saved the Mockingjay Cake

It wasn't *quite* what I had pictured, but it was at least recognisable as a fair attempt at a Mockingjay cake.

I'm sharing this so you can be encouraged that cake fails are common to us all. And there's always a chance to redeem a fail with icing and lollies, and maybe some edible gold dust if you're lucky.

If you don't believe me, here's a few more of my cake fail redemptions...

Castle Cake fail - turned to SAVE

The cake I baked in a baby formula tin, which bubbled over and came out lumpy - redeemed by a knife, pink frosting and some icecream cone towers into a very reasonable attempt at a castle. (Miss Fab's 5th birthday Royal ball party)

Buttercream disaster - saved by marshmallows & cocoa

The giant batch of buttercream I made with dairy-free spread, which then curdled when I added colouring. Saved by adding giant marshmallow flowers to disguise the mess, and then adding cocoa powder to the rest of the batch and slapping it on the teddy bear cake. I may have also made a new batch for the rest of the cupcakes, using BUTTER. (And I learned my lesson). (For Scrag's first birthday Teddy Bears Picnic)

Lumpy rainbow cake - saved by lots of buttercream

My first attempt at a Rainbow layer cake, where the layers were bumpy, lumpy and uneven. Disguised with two layers of icing. I just kept on layering it on until it was smooth (then added a ribbon, to distract the eye further). As you can see when it was cut - LUMPY. But the guests didn't care. That's the nice thing about kids - as long as it's edible and colourful, they will think it's awesome (if in doubt add more lollies).

Gluten free cookie fail - saved by the sprinkles

....and another fail/save from the same party (Miss Fab's Fancy Nancy party where I was experimenting with gluten free flour). Heart biscuits that spread out ALL OVER THE TRAY. I redeemed them by pressing the heart cutter into the soft cooked mess, and then (once cooled) sandwiching them together with pink icing. The sprinkles helped, too.

So yeah. We all have those cake fails. In the end what matters is WE TRIED and THEY ATE IT.

Got any cake fail stories for me?

P.S. If you want to attempt a Mockinjay cake and learn from my mistakes, you can get the printable mockingjay stencil on my Hunger Games Party how to post.


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