The beehive... a 6" layer stacked on an 8" layer, chilled and carved, crumb coated with yellow buttercream, and wound with yellow, extruded fondant. (This was the dumb part of the creative endeavor. The inspirational photos showed beehives covered with fondant, and I didn't realize until much too late that I could have piped it in a spiral with a large, round tip - and the same yellow buttercream - achieved the same striations I was going for with the fondant, and it would have taken approximately three minutes instead of the hours I spent extruding an ounce at a time of fondant. Live and learn. It still looked cute.)
The daddy bee, the mommy bee, and the baby Em bee.
Baby bee. My favorite part are the antennae. Delicate rice noodles, colored black with a food marker, with tiny dots of fondant on the ends.
I molded this adorable three and attached it to a lollipop stick as a little extra whimsical decoration. Then it broke into three pieces (coincidence?) and I had to start over. I probably should have made it earlier and given it a good 2-3 days to dry instead of a day and a half. My guess is the fondant wasn't dry enough yet when I started picking it up. Oops.
This lollipop-style three kept the color theme and was both smaller and sturdier. It's also attached to a lollipop stick with a bit of white fondant covering it (you want it to look good from all directions, and this disguises the stick a bit).
Cute little daisies, some with just a hint of pink to break up the bee color theme..
Now we have to talk about the cake. Tasked with lemon, I decided to try a new recipe, and I found a vanilla layer cake from Piece of Cake, adapted from America's Test Kitchen, that sounded intriguing. It used a different method than I've ever used for making a cake. You stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and then blend in the butter, a chunk at a time, until the mixture resembles sand. Then the whisked egg whites, milk, and vanilla are blended in. (Lemon zest and subbing lemon juice for about two tablespoons of the milk turned it into a lemon cake.) Shauna of Piece of Cake notes that this method produces consistent results, but that wasn't my experience. Maybe I need more practice, or perhaps I should have beaten the batter longer, but the butter didn't incorporate as well as with the traditional creaming method. The three 12" layers came out perfectly, but my 6" and 8" cakes were bizarrely chewy; I guess they were underbaked? I re-baked them with my usual lemon cake recipe (and was relieved to see nice, tall, fluffy layers emerge from the oven!).
I filled the cake with homemade lemon curd. The cake and curd recipes balanced out nicely, one using 6 egg whites and the other, 5 egg yolks, so I didn't waste ingredients. And the tart curd was a good complement for the sweet, light cake. For frosting, I used my regular vanilla frosting recipe but swapped the almond extract for lemon extract for a hint of lemon flavor. I prefer to add lemon zest to kick up the flavor a notch, but I wanted a very smooth finish to the cake, so I omitted the zest this time.
Happy 3rd birthday, Em! We will miss you, your mommy, and your daddy!
ETA: one full recipe of the cake batter yielded a 1" thick, 12"-round layer. The 8" cake was made up of one full recipe of the regular lemon cake recipe (and was a good 3" tall), and the 6" cake (2-2.5" tall) was a half-recipe of the regular lemon cake.