After several months of trials and errors I was finally able to make all the gumpaste/fondant pieces needed for my granddaughter’s recent second birthday’s Mermaid/Under-the-Sea cake. Originally when I first started out in September I thought it was going to be a Moana themed cake and my attempt at making this little Disney character was quite dismal to say the least. Fortunately for me my daughter, Emily, informed me that she would like to change the theme to an under-the-sea party. With that information (and inspiration) in mind, I set out to learn how to make a mermaid cake topper. Yes, I have made mermaids before, but they are relatively small and I had the advantage of using a resin mold to create their faces. This time around I wanted to be able to make one from scratch (i.e. sans the mold). It wasn’t until I watched the fabulous videos created by the very talented Sachiko Windbiel (see: Learning the Art of Fondant Modeling with Sachiko Windbiel’s Online Tutorials) that I was able to create my little mermaid below. I admit I’m especially pleased with her hair because was I trying to replicate my darling little granddaughter Violet’s curly locks.
As I was learning to make the mermaid my daughter suggested to me that it might also be really fun to have some little sea creature on the cake as well. And of course a shark had to be included because Violet loves to say “Shaaarrk”! But, oh no! How does one go about making a shark that still looks cute on a little girl’s BD cake? Obviously though, I couldn’t say no to these special requests no matter how apprehensive I was about whether or not I was up to the task. I’m hopeful that the final result indicates that I was.
Some Hints and Ideas on How to Create an Under the Sea Cake
If you are like me and find it challenging to model with fondant/gumpaste here are some tips that I think might help:
Always place skewers or dowels into your fondant/gumpaste objects where the Sir Isaac Newton effect (i.e. gravity) might be an issue or they could “slide” due to their weight. I used two in each piece with the exception of my turtle that I used three for. All the dowels were 3-inches in length. In my opinion you cannot be too careful in this department, so use the “thickest” ones possible without having them alter the object’s appearance. I mean, after all the effort you have invested in your creatures who would want to watch them swim off the cake?
Allow yourself plenty of time to create them and then let them dry. They may look easier than you think to create. I cannot tell how trying it was to get the seahorse’s tail to look good i.e. curved in the right direction and not split along the curve. My original efforts at the time finally produced a seahorse whose tail curled in the opposite direction of the one on the cake you see pictured. At that time, when my husband munificently pointed out to me that the tail was not quite right, I was thinking about a possible divorce, but now I’m happy I listened to his sound advice.
If you have any apprehension about making fondant/gumpaste characters I find that it is beneficial to look at examples of toy ones. This was an especially helpful inspiration for the shark because it enabled me to create a little friendlier one that showed just a hint of the teeth.
Allow time for dyeing the fondant/gumpaste all those different ‘fun’ colors needed to create festive pieces. Be sure to check which gel colors you have on hand just in case you need any additional hues.
Luster dust was my best friend on this project! I loved the result of dusting the mermaid’s tail, all the creatures, seaweed and coral because it gave them such a pretty pearlescent shine.
If you would like to gild the lily (or should I say polish up the pearls) then by all means glue on some little white dragees! BTW: not all sugar beads are shiny (some have a matte finish) in which case you can paint them with a mixture of vodka and pearl luster dust to buff them up. I guess you can see from my mermaid that I believe you can never have too many pearls.
Make extra pieces/objects such as seaweed pieces as it is hard to estimate how much you will truly need in the end not to mention (heaven forbid) having one or more break :C. In this case I did get carried away and made way too many shells, so less is more with them should have been my mantra.
One last thing before making any creatures, etc. is to consider what color the cake’s icing or fondant is going to be as you will want a harmonious background that will indeed showcase all of your creative endeavors. Since my family loves buttercream frosting I liked the idea of using the water-color frosting technique made with the great Rainbow Dust’s Sea Green Pro Gel. Because this way my icing still looked like the ocean and the creatures weren’t lost at sea so to speak. Nice!
Below is a photo of my precious granddaughter, Violet, at her second birthday party with her two very loving parents, Chris and Emily!