Sam the Snowman Cake -- Production Details!
Sam, including the height of his big cake base, is at least 16" tall. He sits atop one thick layer of densely textured 14" round cake. That cake layer was split, then filled with buttercream. The base cake looks so thick, in part, because it rests on one 14" cake board (a thin corrugated cardboard disk), that was eventually glued to a 1" thick piece of open-cell styrofoam. The styrofoam disk (which I had to buy from Michael’s as a big square and trim it to fit!) in turn, was glued to a thin, very rigid, 18" round wooden board that I covered with decorative foil, that is the silver base that you see. The styrofoam itself is completely covered with icing, so it's not visible. The styrofoam is critical because the long dowel that impales the snowman, then goes through the cake, holds him in place and it needs to be able to plunge down into something firm but not too firm.
The big round cake, after being filled with buttercream, was crumb-coated, chilled, fully iced in buttercream, and then lightly airbrushed all over with an extremely pale blue shade designed to evoke light on snow.
The snowman was composed of three round balls; the bottom two were made of pound cake, each baked in two half-round pans (the pans used are like a ball split evenly in two, made by Wilton), and the head was shaped by hand from homemade Rice Krispie treats. The cake balls were trimmed to resemble Sam's body--each ball is not perfectly round, but more like a fat hamburger bun with a small flat area on the top and bottom of each one. All three balls were separately covered in a thin layer of buttercream, then each one was separately covered in fondant.
The two large balls were then stacked and skewered together with a very skinny skewer--like what you'd use for small kebabs, about 10” long. Then the head was skewered onto the body with the same type of very skinny skewer, going a few inches into the upper-body snowball. The snowman, now assembled (and sitting on a small round cakeboard just a few inches in diameter), was placed atop the cake. A long thin wooden dowel with a sharpened point--fatter and stronger than the thin skewers--was driven down into the snowman from the top of his head right down into the styrofoam base. (I think I held my breath as this was taking place, and I seem to remember muttering, "Oh God. Oh God." I was sure his head would split apart when this dowel was plunged into it, but that didn’t happen. Chef Lois, my teacher, helped considerably with this step, thank heaven.)
After Sam was secured to the cake, I rolled out olive green fondant and used an impression mat to give it a plaid appearance. I'd prepared three paper pattern pieces ahead of time for this step; one for the entire back of the vest, and two for each front side. Once I had each piece of fondant-vest cut to the right size, I very slightly dampened the back of it and applied it to the snowman, gently smooth it down.
Once the vest was on, Chef Lois helped me put on his arms. I'd made his arms at home several days in advance. They were made from a 50/50 mixture of gum paste and fondant, and each arm was shaped around a thin jewelry-wire frame. The wire extended a few inches out of the top of his arm. Once the arms were fully dry and hard, pieces of plastic drinking straw were slipped snuggly over the bent pieces of the wire, extending their length so they could be well anchored within the snowman's body. The arms, of course, were not edible.
Once the arms were in the body securely, Chef Lois recommended we add a cardboard lollipop stick to support the left one beneath the elbow; it was just too heavy to stay in on its own. The small stick was white, and thus not very visible so this wasn't a crisis.
The umbrella, like the arms, had also been made at home ahead of time out of 50/50 gumpaste/fondant. Once dry and hard, I painted the umbrella with paste food coloring mixed into vodka, using a brush. That took quite a while to dry. Same procedure for the hat. Both were done at home, ahead of time.
The gold watch and chain were made of fondant only, and painted with gold luster dust mixed with vodka, using a brush. The black numbers on the pocket watch were paste food color. Again all done at home ahead of time.
The holly leaves around the base were made from white fondant, using a pop-out mold--the kind that’s not hideously expensive. They were made ahead of time at home. Once dry, the leaves were airbrushed and dusted with luster dust on the last day of class. The holly berries were piped on, using a reddish colored buttercream.
The little white snowflakes stuck to the sides of the cake were made with white chocolate candy-melts (little disks you can buy at Michael’s or at cake deco supply stores; though real white chocolate tastes better, it’s not truly white, so that’s the only reason why I opted for the cheap candy melts), poured into rigid plastic molds. The snowflakes were dusted with white luster dust ahead of time, I made these at home a few days in advance. The “snow cap” that you see at the top edge all around the cake, was piped out of white buttercream using a large round tip; it’s supposed to look like dripping snow. The entire cake, except for the snowman, was dusted liberally with “snow-sparkle”-- a type of luster dust specifically designed to look like snow.
The two little rabbits on the cake were made with fondant, and their faces were painted on with paste color and a tiny brush, once they were dry and firm. The little chunks of silver and gold you see on the ground to the snowman’s right, were made from little chunks of the 50/50 gumpaste/fondant, and were painted with vodka mixed with silver “disco dust” and with gold luster dust. All edible.
The trees were made ahead of time, using a leaf tip to pipe green royal icing over ice cream cones. To make a tree look taller, two or more cones were stacked tightly together before the piping was done. The white snowflakes stuck to the trees were made from white fondant, using a little pop-out mold that I got at a cake deco store. They were allowed to harden completely, at home, before being stuck onto the trees with royal icing after the snowman was on the cake. I glued the trees to the cake after the snowman was placed on it, using some extra white buttercream at the base of each.
The snowman’s hat was a challenge, as far as keeping it on his head, because it was rather heavy and solid--made from the 50/50. We ended up adding yet another little piece of skewer, sticking up out of the snowman’s head and reaching into the inside of the hat, and we doused it with royal icing, then stuck the hat onto it, holding it in place until it started to dry. That worked pretty well.
I think that’s about it!
http://janessweets.blogspot.com -- December 2010 -- Jane’s Sweets & Baking Journal