Safari baby shower zebra cake

When it comes to cake decorating, I am still learning. I cannot, in any way, make sugar flowers. My marshmallow fondant comes out right only half the time. (And it wasn’t until last weekend that I learned that I could fix it with a generous helping of vegetable shortening.) I’ve never used marzipan or modeling chocolate to make cute animals or the Millennium Falcon. I have a theory that the piping tips and icing conspire to make my cupcake icing jobs look like lopsided nipples. (Although, some are pretty perky.) But, I figured I had enough know how to easily make Christy’s safari themed baby shower cake. I envisioned a three tiered square cake, covered in white fondant, with brown chevron-patterned fondant trimming the bottoms of each tier. The middle tier would would be decorated with blue giraffe spots, and perhaps there would be a couple of fondant silhouettes of giraffes and hippos.

The reality, of course, is never what you envision. That is, at least, if you’re me. You dream of something like this:
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Cake Wrecks
But you end up with something like this:
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You see, I forgot two very key things. 1) I fucking suck when it comes to dealing with corners. 2) I had never covered a tiered cake in fondant before.

But this, as most failures are, was a learning experience. And while I felt it looked like a sloppy Mayan temple with displaced African animals, I received plenty of compliments that did not seem overly nice and disingenuous. So, at the end of the day, I figure it was partially a success, it could have been worse, we are always our own worse critic, and now I know how to do things differently for next time. Oh, and I think I may have forever ended Mike mocking me and my trial run cakes. How is that not a win?

What went wrong?

I learned that the main thing I did wrong was crumb coating and then stacking the cake, rather than crumb coating and then covering each tier in fondant before stacking the tiers. As I laid the large piece of fondant over the entire cake and tried to smooth it out, I was revisited by the problem I had with Rachael’s Bucky cake: the corners. There was just too much material at the corners, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I tried cutting it out, as that had basically worked with Bucky. But as I worked with it, the fondant just started tearing. Okay, so that clearly wasn’t going to work. I cut all the fondant off, except for the top tier because that was fine, and starting desperately thinking of solutions.
I could just leave the fondant off and challenge the gender stereotype that pink raspberry buttercream can’t be for a boy!
Right. Because challenging gender stereotypes at the baby shower for someone who is pretty traditional and very particular is a great idea!
I could disassemble the cake and go with what I had wondered I should do in the first place and cover each tier individually.
Usually when I mess with something while trying to fix it, be it a broken nail, a zit in the middle of my cheek, or a cake that has already been stacked, I end up making it worse. For me, it was clear that this wasn’t an option.
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“Do not disassemble!”

I went with the only option that made sense: employ all my powers of BS and hope not to piss off the whatever from high atop the thing.

In the end, I ended up rolling out rectangular pieces of fondant to cover the sides of each tier and using the chevron chocolate fondant and fondant foliage to strategically cover mistakes. I probably could have done a better job using the foliage, but I had been working on this for hours and my kitchen was covered in the gonorrhea of the culinary world: powdered sugar. Worn out, I declared that it was “rustic” and used the excuse of every Chopped contestant: the flavors are there. I got to a place of ” good enough”.

…the flavors were totally there…

While wandering the cake section of the craft store, I spotted Ace of Cakes Duff’s zebra cake mix. OF COURSE! I should make a zebra cake! Having no interest in plunking down a bunch of money for a boxed mix, I picked up the box and looked at the directions. It was so ridiculously simple.

Step 1: Pick a chocolate cake and vanilla cake recipe
You’ll want to pick cakes with similar densities and baking times. Choosing a flourless chocolate cake and angel food cake, not a good idea. I chose a simple chocolate cake and my favorite vanilla bean cake.

Step 2: Refrigerate cake batters for 20-30 minutes.
Cover the bowls holding your batters with plastic wrap. I found that refrigerating the batters helps cut down on mess and prevents the batters from spreading outside of where you want them to be.

Step 3: Alternate adding batters to the pan.
I used two 1/3 cup measures to drop batters into the pan. Start with the chocolate batter and drop the scooped batter into the center of the pan. Give it a few seconds to spread out, taking cake not to disturb the batter. In the center of the chocolate batter, drop a scoop of the vanilla batter and allow a few seconds for that to settle. Repeat the process until the pan is 2/3 full. Once the pan is filled, you may need to jiggle the pan gently to coax the batter to the corners.
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Step 4: Bake cake according to cake and pan directions.
I found that my pans had recommendations for how much batter each pan would hold and at what temperature to bake the cakes. My largest cake was an 8x8x3. While the cake recipe says to bake at 350 degrees, the pans recommended lowering the temperature by at least 25 degrees. In this case, I lowered the temperature to 300 degrees and extended the bake time by approximately an hour. Otherwise, you’ll have dry, overdone cake on the outside and raw batter on the inside.

In the end, you’ll have zebra striped goodness.

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The cakes were moist and balanced each other well. I chose a raspberry buttercream to ice the cake. Since it wasn’t overly sweet, it played well with the flavors of the cake.

Happy baking! And if you’re every feeling low about your cake results, just visit cakewrecks.com. And please, for the love of God, don’t make this kind of baby shower cake. Kinda NSFW and certain to gross you out while simultaneously making you laugh hysterically.

Safari baby shower

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I met Christy in my freshman year of high school in our World Civilizations class. I didn’t really know anyone, as most of my friends from junior high had gone to the other high school across town. She took pity on me and befriended me. We were fast friends and remained so for years to come. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding, where she met her husband to be, Mark, in the buffet line at our reception. Now, 18 years after our first meeting, I had the honor of giving a baby shower for Christy, Mark, and their baby boy to be.

Once Christy asked me to throw her a shower, I took to Pinterest to gather ideas. I was a little scared I was going to have to have a John Deere themed party, as Mark is a country boy and loves John Deere. Everything I found, though, was a little…how do I put this delicately? It made my eyes puke a little. This was my favorite one.
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Realistic and classy.

I was relieved, then, when I joined Christy to help her with some registry shopping and she settled on a blue and brown safari animal theme. And I learned something new about my friend; she adores giraffes.

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Decor

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Christy wasn’t particularly keen on anything super babyish, so I wanted things to convey baby without being overly cutesy. One of my favorite things lately is canvas art. It’s not expensive, it’s not too terribly difficult, it’s not necessarily time consuming, and the paint dries quickly.
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For this project, I began by painting the entire canvas in a solid color. I like using the black wedge foam brushes for the even coverage. I left the canvases a little streaky so it would seem a little more wild and rustic. Once the paint dried, I used letter and animal stencils. I thought it would be cute to create something that mimicked learning flash cards, i.e. G is for giraffe, E is for elephant. The bonus of this decoration is that it can also be used to decorate the nursery.
My dining room table would serve as the buffet. Since it has been sufficiently loved, it was going to need a tablecloth. Neither my co-hostess, Sarah, nor I could find a tablecloth we liked that fit with the theme. So it was decided that Sarah would make one. Incorporating a chevron pattern into the theme was important to me, given how much Christy had squealed over a blue and brown chevron baby blanket. So I may have squealed a little in the fabric store when I found the perfect chevron fabric.
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Check out Sarah’s online store, Sarah’s Stitches.

You never know where inspiration will come from and when it will strike. My bank account and I have noticed that it tends to strike while wandering around the craft store. This little bit of safari flair came while I was perusing the silk flowers and found safari print flowers.
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Favors
I feel like favors can be the hardest part of shower planning. You don’t want to spend a huge amount of money, but you also don’t want to give people something that is going to make people limply say, Gee, thanks, and then lose it or throw it away. I find that food is usually the way to go to avoid all those pitfalls. For this shower, I decided to make savannah animal chocolate lollipops. While they aren’t particularly difficult, they can be a bit time consuming, depending on the detail of your mold. I found for the small details, like the zebra stripes and eyes, it was easiest to simply use a toothpick to dab the chocolate in place. If you decide to make any sort of chocolate mold, you will need to use tempered chocolate. You can find it in most party supply, craft, or cake/candy supply stores. If you decide to flavor the chocolate, (which is probably a good idea for the white chocolate, especially) make sure you use oil based flavorings. Anything with a water base will cause the chocolate to seize and clump. I flavored my pops with amaretto and champagne flavorings.
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For game prizes/favors, I simply made Bon bons with my leftover chocolate from the lollies, which I filled with ganache.
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Games
Let’s be honest; shower games are the worst. Paper and pens are handed out to everyone, and then everyone puts their heads down and scribble silently, (with the occasional exclamation of exasperation because it’s on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t think of the name) unscrambling words like onesie and stroller. So I tried to keep the games short, sweet, and entertaining. For the first game, I split the group into two teams so there would be interaction. I simply had them guess the baby names of different savannah animals. (Hint: most of them are calf.)
The second game was a little bit of payback for Christy. When I had my first baby, she and our friend, Jill, decided to have us all play “guess the poo”. (Because, let’s face it, when you become a parent, you become an expert in inspecting and deciphering healthy poo.) To play, you simply melt various different candies, (preferably chocolate) into different diapers. They must then write down their guesses for what type of poo/candy is in the diaper. Note: It’s probably good to consider your guests and whether anyone is squeamish or overly appropriate/prude…..and then do it anyway because watching everyone squirm is fantastic!
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Special Gifts
Sarah and I wanted to make sure Christy and Mark had a couple special gifts/supplies for the hospital and once baby comes. The first is a hospital survival kit. We packed it with comforting goodies like soft socks, lip balm, lanolin, gel nipple pads, and snacks. (They are on orders to sneak food into the delivery room so she can keep her strength up during labor, even though everyone knows it’s a great idea to practically starve a woman during the birthing process. *Liz Lemon eye roll*)
The next goodie was Sarah’s diaper cake, complete with her homemade cloth wipes, embroidered cloth diapers, and wet bags.
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Sarah’s Stitches

Food

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I tried to keep the food simple and easy to eat. I think my favorite thing was the soup shooters. I found the 2 ounce cups at my local cake and candy supply store.
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For the sandwiches, I made tarragon chicken salad, smoked salmon with cream cheese and dill, and cucumber sandwiches.

Creamy tomato soup shooters
Spinach artichoke dip
Can be lightened up with light mayonnaise and cream cheese.
Cucumber bites
Fruit
Crudités with hummus
Blueberry lemonade herb punch

I’ve realized this post has gotten really long, so I’ll save the cake for a separate post. I will leave it with a picture of the final product.

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Crazy busy

I’ve been crazy busy this week preparing for Christy’s baby shower. I’m trying to pace myself so I don’t completely overdo it and end up useless by Saturday.

I did the grocery shopping for the shower today. One of the games we’re playing is “Guess the Poo”, wherein melted candy is placed inside a diaper, and then people guess which candy it is. It was done to me at my shower. Payback is awesome! Of course, to play the game, it meant buying several candy bars at the store. So, here’s the fat girl, leaning over with butt in the air, grabbing 8 candy bars. That was fun. Especially when I ran into someone I know.

A post about the shower will be up soon after the party. Until then, I offer up some party crafting and Rachael cuteness to tide you over.

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Party decor doubles as a gift for baby boy’s nursery.

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Rachael wanted to make a card for Christy and Mark. It’s a picture of a baby under a star mobile and a bunch of hearts. She asked me to spell the words out so she could write, “Your baby is special.”

Christmas is over. Party planning has begun.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, Festivus, or Wednesday. Santa came to our house and both girls were pleased. After reading both my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it seems as though Rachael may be the only little girl her who didn’t receive a Barbie Dreamhouse. (When did this become a thing again?) Christmas Eve found us at church for the first time in months. We went to the my children can get away with screaming and dancing in the aisles family service, which had the children present a live Nativity. It. Was. Hysterical! Mary sat with Joseph on a quilt-covered bench. In her shiny black kitten heels, she looked about as forlorn and nauseated as I’m sure the real Mary must have felt after giving birth as a young teenager. (Side note: Even if the birth of Jesus was devoid of the miraculous, i.e. Virgin birth my ass, it’s still an awesome story. Rather than following the custom and dropping Mary’s ass after knocking her up, Joseph still married her.) The angels clomped forward, resplendent in lacy, golden tablecloth fabric, and kneeled before the holy family. The three shepherds meandered forward uncertainly. The oldest appeared or be about 8, while the youngest looked around 3. They held staffs. Someone had decided it was a good idea to give three little boys staffs. It all devolved from there. In between carols, the pastor read Isaiah and Luke with all the zeal of a lima bean. About the time that a two year old wise man walked forward, Zoë started testing the limits of her boundaries. By the time said wise man dumped his chest of gold, she discovered her reflection in the grand piano. The shepherds were full on sword fighting by the time Mike left the sanctuary with Zoë. I feared for the poinsettias and the wise men, which were placed on the communion altar far from the Nativity scene, (as they should be.) The angels began to wonder around and disrobe, while the oldest wise man, (a girl of about 12) sat at the front looking embarrassed and bored. Everyone in the congregation breathed an audible sigh of relief once the pastor called over the buzz of the kids that they could return to their seats.

This morning, Zoë woke us sweetly with sounds of vomiting. Our trip to Mike’s home in North Carolina delayed, I’ve been hanging out on the couch with Zoë and scouring Pinterest. I was asked to throw a baby shower for one of my oldest friends yesterday. She’s due in late April, so I don’t have too terribly long to put something together. I have to say, I really don’t understand cakes with baby faces or the pregnant torso cakes. They’re cute….until you realize that you are eating a baby. I mean, maybe cutting into the torso cake is a creative way of telling everyone that you’re having a scheduled C section? I think if I did that kind of cake, I’d have to go all out and make it out of red velvet cake and have some kind of gelatin in the middle for the afterbirth. Apparently another popular cake design is a raised baby toush under a blanket with feet sticking out. It’s bad enough imagining that you’re eating baby feet and whatever was in that diaper, but what about the other half of the baby? That is some serious King Solomon shit!
I think I may be required to throw a John Deere party, as dad is a country boy, but I hope not. There isn’t a lot on Pinterest to copy from which to draw inspiration. Much of what is there is ugly or…… “classy”. I mean, we’re talking recreating the butterfly tattoo mom has on her belly on a pregnant torso cake classy.

The other party is Zoë’s 3rd birthday. She is obsessed with Sheriff Callie on Disney Junior. We’ve been watching the same six episodes that are out over and over again. As I write this, we’re making our way through the list for the second time today.
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Related: If anyone happens to know Mandy Moore, I can pay not much for an appearance at a birthday party.

So the planning for a Kitties and Cowgirls birthday is underway. There is a farm nearby that does birthday parties where you can meet baby animals, (which would be perfect in April!) and wagon rides. I made the mistake of looking on Pinterest for cowgirl birthday parties first. Everything was pretty much the same: light brown and dusty rose desserts, ruffles, and accents; the girl’s name was written in thin rope on a board background, (admittedly cute, but done again and again); categorized as vintage cowgirl. What the actual fuck is vintage cowgirl? I mean, besides something some party planner made up so they could charge a family with too much money to spend extra because they used the word “vintage”?
A couple of “glamping” pins were thrown in too.

Glamping acceptable only if Aziz Ansari and DJ Roomba included.

Of course, when I searched for cowboy parties, there was variety and creativity. It would have made me ragey had I not been grateful for the search results.

So, I suppose stay tuned for lots of party planning angsty posts where I wonder why the universe has not already created what I have in mind so that I don’t have to figure out how to make it myself.