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Monkeying around...

I thought it was about time to speak a little more in detail about my Orangutan cake which I made back in May this year! As I put down my paintbrush and stepped away from my workbench to turn the kettle on after a long night of caking, I looked back (out of concern more than anything) to have a good look at what I produced and to ask myself 'is it good enough? does it look realistic?' I couldn't quite believe what I had produced.

There are those rare moments as a cake maker when you're 100% happy with what you have produced. Many cake makers will find fault in their work and although the consumer or onlookers may not see those faults - we are our worst critics. However, in this case I stood there in awe of my own work. Believe me when I say this - this NEVER happens. It was one of those moments where I almost didn't want to walk away from it incase an arm fell off and brought me back down to earth! (and I'm happy to report no limbs were lost during the night!) My lovely sister is artistic herself and I'm sure she purposely challenges me each year for her birthday cake! Last year (the month I went into trade) K asked me for a 4 sided cake using inspiration from her favourite band - the thought of it scared me to my cake core but I did it and that was one of the better cakes I had ever produced! So it was no surprise when I got asked to make an orangutan! The first thing I did was devise a structure to build the cake onto. This is a really important part of a 3D cake. although not particularly necessary for a cake this small... a few dowels through the center would have been just as effective.. but I went the extra mile by gluing and securing the dowels into the Cake drum as the cake was being delivered.

I then began my Orangutan adventure! I baked three 7" carrot cakes and one 6" carrot cake (Although this amount of cake wasn't actually present on the cake as most of it is carved away). The only part of the cake which was actually cake was the body so I needed enough cake to sculpt the little pot belly that orangutans have and the chest area. I leveled and filled all the cakes and secured them over the dowels onto a 4" cake card that I had attached at the bottom of the dowels with royal icing, Using a sharp knife (and a picture for reference) I began to sculpt the belly area first. The reason I started here rather then the top or bottom of the body was because this is the area where the most cake would remain from carving, So getting this part right is easier to then gauge the shape and the amount of cake you would need to carve away at the chest area and bottom. it's easier to take cake off then it is to add cake on! Once the belly shape was achieved I began to shape the chest and back. At this point I put the cake onto a turntable which made it easier for me to move the cake freely to reference the shape of the back against the shape of the front... Once I had achieved the shape I covered in cling film and left to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. Whilst I waited for the cake to firm up I made the rice krispie treats for the head and limbs. I don't really have a recipe for this.. after using it so much now for my cakes I've learnt what looks right in order for me to model with it. I find the more marshmallow there is the longer it takes to set.. I would say go for a 2:1 ratio krispies to marshmallows. The best way to secure the rice krispies to a dowel is to spread some melted marshmallow onto the dowel first which gives the krispie mixture something to stick onto. I placed a 4" board between the cake and the krispie head by making a hole in the middle of the board.

The art of using rice krispie treats is to make what you need a little smaller then what you want. The reason for this is because you add ganache and sugarpaste to it which always bulks out the shape to the right size. I have made this mistake on previous cakes - and it's very frustrating. So I moulded the head, arms and legs, chilled again and then covered the whole sculpture in white chocolate Ganache. I wore gloves and used my hands to really get into the groves and gaps of the rice krispies... Chilled again to firm up and then applied a second coat of the ganache. I then left the sculpture over night to firm up at room temperature.

Once I'd left the cake over night (or at least 4-8 hours) I prepared my sugarpaste by dying it all one base colour. once I applied the sugarpaste to the head I then painted and added light and shade. in hindsight I probably should have left this to firm up before I painted. Not that it caused me any problems but usually I would advise leaving the sugarpaste to firm up for a little while just to ensure no dents or marks are made whilst painting.

To paint I used petal dusts mixed with a clear alcohol (yes vodka or clear rum... the alcohol evaporates so Is perfectly fine to use on cakes. It dries quicker and leave no residue like water does - remember it's sugar after all! Although lemon juice/extract can be used if say a customer can not consume any alcohol - i.e religion) and food colouring mixed

with alcohol. The dust dries in more of a matte finish where as the food colouring can be watered down to either a water colour effect or a thick paint... I would advise practicing before you embark on a project like this!

After the paint had dried I moved onto the body. I covered the front first and detailed by adding fur lines, nipples and belly button. its important to detail as you go with things like this.. sugarpaste dries when it exposed to air

so if you left the sugarpaste for 15-20 minutes whilst you moved onto the back then then went back to detail you may find yourself causing cracks or stretching as you run your tool over to add detail, which will only be enhanced when you paint over it - and it's a nightmare! I made the hands and feet once the cake was finished. Usually I would make details like these in advance

but because of the nature of the cake I didn't quite know how they would sit once the cake was assembled. So this way, I had more control of how they dried and could move them into position and then let them dry. To finish I crushed bourbon biscuits to create a soil. I used 15mm ribbon on 12mm board which gave me a tiny barrier! And that's it! it was complete... All in all from baking to hanging up my apron the cake took around 18 hours to complete.. the finer detailing such as the wrinkles and indents on the skin on the head all take time and all adds up! But a thoroughly enjoyable experience - and my sister's face was worth all the hard work alone!

It's had a fabulous response and I do hope you enjoyed seeing it as much as I did making it! Very rarely do I fall in love with a cake - I mean, it's cake after all... and there's no need for wasted cake... but I was truly heartbroken when I was sent the photo of it portioned up ha ha! Oh well... another day another cake! TOP TIP: Use confectioners glaze to add life to the eyes!


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