Saturday, July 23, 2011

5th birthday chocolate dinosaur cake

Can you guess what this lumpy, bumpy, spiky, orange hill is?

Does a side view help?

What about the other side?

It's a dinosaur!

One of Boy-o's best buddies just turned 5, and today, he had a dinosaur-themed birthday party. We gathered at the La Brea Tar Pits. Yes, I know those are fossils of woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed cats, but once you start talking about 45,000 year-old critters, who's counting? The kids had a great time in the museum, and I think they just as much enjoyed running up and down the big hill out in the park. The dinosaur cake was a big hit, even if he does sort of resemble a (wingless) dragon.

He's made from chocolate cake - the usual Martha Stewart recipe - with chocolate frosting on the bottom layer and tinted vanilla frosting for the dino and grass. The dino's purple spikes and yellow spots are a 50/50 fondant/gumpaste mix. (I'm still learning to work with gumpaste. It dries faster, which is why it's an advantage to use it when sculpting, but it's a little less forgiving than just molding straight fondant.)

To make the dino, I took inspiration from several cute cakes online, including a dragon tutorial from My Cake School. However, the dimensions were sort of a craps shoot. I baked a 6 1/2" bowl cake for the rounded base of his back, but when it didn't seem tall enough, I layered some thin pieces of 6" chocolate cake underneath. Then I baked an 8" cake and cut snake-shaped pieces off for the tail, neck, and head. I sort of eyeballed it, and I used a small, thin, serrated knife to sliver off the edges to make them more rounded and realistic-looking. Since the individual pieces had rough edges, I froze them before frosting them (to keep the crumbs more contained), and did a rough crumb coat before piping on, smoothing, and then making scales on the final coat of frosting. (Dinosaurs had scaly skin, right?) I assembled all the frosted pieces on a cake board, glued them together with more orange frosting, and filled in the joints to make them less visible. The legs and toes were piped; I had actually carved some little cake pieces for them, but I was tight on space. The dino turned out about 10" round, and it took almost a full batch of frosting to cover it! It is totally worthwhile to have extra frosting on hand just in case so you don't have to try to match the color midway through the project.

Next, assembling the cake. I inserted about 8 drinking straws straight down into the frosted, 12" base cake, a few inches apart. I snipped the straws just a bit (1/8"?) taller than the cake, and the cake board rested on them to prevent the dino cake from smushing the icing on the base cake. Green grass frosting, piped around the edge of the dino and in between his body and tail, concealed the cake board.

I made a few bumblebee friends to keep the dino company. The figure eight wings were Josh's suggestion!

Notes for future cakes of this size:
- Each single 12" layer = 2/3 of Martha's recipe
- 8" cake plus 6 1/2" bowl of cake = 2/3 of Martha's recipe
- 6" cake = 1/3 of Martha's recipe
- orange frosting + green frosting = 1 full vanilla buttercream recipe
- chocolate frosting/filling for 12" cake = double chocolate buttermilk recipe

Happy 5th, A! We had a great time celebrating with you!

Print chocolate cake recipe.
Print chocolate buttermilk frosting recipe.
Print vanilla frosting recipe.


Dawn C. said...

Nobody has commented on this yet?! THIS IS TOTALLY AMAZING, CUTE and just PERFECT! I am really impressed. The details are wonderful! Awesome!

jami said...

Thanks, Dawn C.!!

The Food Librarian said...

Crazy amazing! Just soooo cool. Anyone, young or old, would love this!!!

jami said...

Thanks, Mary!!

Amie said...

i think i just died of jealousy.