Monday, March 4, 2013

African Safari Sunset Cake


For the most part I lose focus pretty easily. But sometimes I get something stuck in my head and I can’t focus on anything else. Unfortunately, my obsessive moments happen far more often over creating fancy food than doing something more practical, like housework.

This cake was born from one of those moments, er, hours upon hours, of obsessing. Translation: I spent way to much time gathering ideas on Pinterest while ignoring everything else that I probably should have been doing at the time! But, hey, it’s for a good cause!

My husband and eight other people are going to Kenya, Africa next summer. Rob will be returning to a slum that he and a team from our church ministered to through service last Spring.

Our church does a huge dessert auction to help raise money for these types of short term mission trips. This couples nicely with the fact that I love to bake.

After my marathon Pinterest sessions, I was bummed to realize that this cake that I pictured in my head would be nearly impossible to do without using fondant, which wasn’t going to happen. First of all, it tastes yucky, and second of all, I don’t have any fondant tools since I refuse to use it since it tastes yucky.

So, how then could I create this amazing African Safari Sunset Cake that I’d pictured in my head without using fondant?

Suddenly it dawned on me, my friend Melissa at  Express Yourself Vinyl could make the images I had in my head come to life by using her vinyl cutting machine to cut a paper ring that I could slip around the cake, giving me the look I was going for without using fondant.

But, she is amazing and took it one step further. She purchased some sugar sheets and used her cutting machine to cut these amazing African safari designs out of edible sugar sheets! I was able to adhere these shapes to wet icing with just a smidgen of water (don’t use too much or the sugar sheets will start dripping black onto your beautifully colored cake… don’t ask me how I know this!).

As a bonus, I even made the cake zebra striped! I purchased this cake mix at Wal-Mart, but there are tutorials on-line for how to do this effect with any regular cake mix, boxed or homemade.


How did I get this cute little extra piece here you might ask? Well, let’s just say our first attempt didn’t work out perfectly, so after a quick run to the store my husband came to the rescue with a few more boxes!

I’m all about homemade, but when you enter a marathon baking session, sometimes you just have to use some shortcuts!

This cake was a lot of fun. It turned out exactly as I was picturing in my head. I know pride comes before the fall and our lives are supposed to marked by humility and all… but I’m pretty proud of this cake! Of course it couldn’t have been done without Melissa’s expertise and my friend Crista’s invaluable help in the kitchen. In the end, this cake sold at the auction for $130.

My son may never let me live down the fact that his Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars sold for more than my cake though!


Are you interested in doing something similar at home? Here’s how I accomplished the gradient textured look with my frosting:

Icing Tutorial:


To accomplish the “sunset” or “sunrise” look at home, follow these simple steps.
Prepare a batch of your favorite buttercream icing.

Frost the cake in a thin crumb coat layer.

Pipe a small amount of white icing onto the center of the cake. I used a tip with a medium sized round opening, but nearly any tip will do since you will eventually smash the frosting down anyway. Make sure the icing is piped on fairly thick, as you will need to spread it around without exposing the crumb coat.

Then, put your (very clean) index finger in the middle of the pile of frosting and twirl it around in a circular motion smashing and dragging the frosting as you go. After a few turns, repeat the process with your next color. You will want to make sure to create the textured effect as you go along. If you piped around the whole cake, then added texture the icing at the top would be crusted over and difficult to work with, so it’s best to do this in stages.

To make the gradient colored frosting (otherwise know as an ombre effect), I simply added a little yellow to the white frosting and mixed it thoroughly. I added a few tablespoons of the new color into the bag I was already using and continued decorating. Next I added more yellow and repeated the process with the darker yellow. Then I slowly added a little bit of orange to the yellow icing and piped a few more rounds with the new color. I went to a darker orange and eventually I added some red to get the final color.

This effect is adorable on it’s own, or could be used to create any sort of scenery. Add surf boards, palm trees and straw hut outlines for a Hawaiian sunset cake (retirement party, anyone?). Add a city scape scene for someone moving to a big city. My son wants me to add Starwars characters around the outside and do a Starwars themed Birthday cake for him next year. The sky is the limit!


Tonya Davis said...

Do you know how your friend did the sugar sheets on the vinyl cutter? My husband works at a sign company but he is unsure of how he could use them on the vinyl machine. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

It works well (at home) but I definitely would not use food on an industrial machine