Recently I was called into action to make the cake for a 5 year olds birthday party. All I was told was that the birthday girl was obsessed with mermaids and the cake had to be so themed. The idea behind the design was to have a mermaid just hanging out and chilling on a sandy rock in the middle of the ocean.
The cake was a simple chocolate cake – I made one big ass chocolate cake mixture (see here for the recipe I used – but any dense chocolate cake would have been perfectly fine) and poured it into a 26 cm and then a little 10cm pan. The cakes bake at the same temperature (the big one just needs a little longer), so it was a time efficient way to make a big layered cake.
When the cakes were cool, I levelled the tops and cut both cakes into two layers using a cake leveller and iced with white chocolate ganache. Making white chocolate ganache is pretty much the same as for dark chocolate (see here) except you need to use 360g of white chocolate to every 1/2 cup hot cream and there is more chance that the icing will spilt. I have found that if you blitz the chocolate in the food processor to make it as finely chopped as possible then you will avoid the ganache from splitting. After the ganache was cool I whipped it (whipped it good) until it was white and fluffy. I let the cakes chill in the fridge for about a day.
I had previously made a seaside cupcake set with my boyfriend’s sister so I adapted some of our ideas and used them for this cake.
The first thing I made was ocean fondant to cover the bottom cake. This is surprisingly easy to make but looks super effective. All you need to do is knead some blue food colouring into a big blob of white fondant – the key is to not knead the colouring all the way in, you want to stop as soon as the fondant looks marbled with the colour. You need to be careful when you roll the fondant out (tips on how to do this here) not to roll it so thoroughly that you lose the marbling effect (you really only get one shot so maybe practice a few times with plain white fondant before attempting the marbled fondant). I used the marbled fondant to cover the big cake and this became my ocean. I left the fondant to dry out for a couple of days.
A day before the cake was needed I crushed up some digestive biscuits so they looked like sand – it’s a bit of a mind trip when you do this, because it looks so much like sand it brings back all the memories of learning to bodyboard and ending up eating the sea floor (this happened to everyone right…). I covered my little cake in another thin layer of icing and then rolled the whole thing in the biscuit crumbs – I let it set for about an hour in the fridge and when it was done it looked like a sandy rock.
I placed my sandy rock cake over the worst bit of the fondant ocean and piped a little bit of icing around the base and pressed on some more biscuit crumbs to bring the whole thing together.
Now I needed to make the mermaid to sit on the rock. I looked at lots of different blogs to work out how best to make that idea reality- my biggest influence was MyCupcakeAddiction’s mermaid cake, and how she used a barbie as the mermaid’s body and made a fondant tail. I set off to buy the creepiest thing I have ever bought from a cake decorating shop: a half barbie. All she had was a head, arms and body, and then below her belly button she was just a stick….it worried me.
But I persevered and stuck her half-body into the sandy rock cake and went about making her a fondant tail. I will admit it was not easy, even with the excellent video tutorial, and it took me a couple of tries to get it right. I also free-hand cut a fondant seaweed bra to protect barbies modesty.
I plopped my cake onto a lipped cake stand and scattered some more biscuit crumbs around the bottom to make the sea bed. I had bought some sugar sea creatures from the cake store as I didn’t have the time or inclination to attempt to make my own fondant animals. I piped a little royal icing onto their backs and stuck them all over the ocean and rock (don’t neglect the back of the cake, if the cake is the centre piece it will be viewed from every angle).
This was where I planned to stop, but it didn’t look quite right. It needed something else. So I made some seaweed for the sea bed, again owing massive thanks to MyCupcakeAddiction. I cut some very thin strips of green fondant and then wrapped them around some straws. I left these to dry for a day and then gently eased the fondant off the straw to create seaweed spirals. I broke these into various lengths and stuck them on with royal icing. It was at this point (30 minutes before the cake was being picked up) that I was so covered in icing I had it in my hair, on my ass, and stuck in the dent of my collar bone.
It took me a long time to make this cake – it took days of mixing and drying and cooling and rolling and moulding and icing – but this is the cake I am most proud of, just because of the excitement on the birthday girls face.