The wife and I made this cake almost 2 years ago for my son’s first birthday party. At the time, he was very into Winnie The Pooh, and once again, there were no available, pre-formed pans. Did we let that stop us? Of course not! Did we sleep that night? OF COURSE NOT. I should make mention, that for each b-day party, we make 3 cakes. On a good year, all three are pre-formed pans. On a rough year…well this is what they get. Though tiring, it’s also extremely rewarding to give your kid something you’ve created! Even if he is one year old and has NO memory of this cakes existence going forward. Not to mention the satisfaction of the “ohs” and “ahhs” that you get (particularly from easily impressed family members)!
Step 1: Baking
Now, given that this was two years ago, I’m fairly hazy on the details, but I can offer a basic overview of the process. We started with Wilton’s 3-D Stand-Up Cuddly Bear Pan Set (available at Michael’s or A.C. Moore) and our trusty 1:1 mix of yellow and pound cake described in the Monsters Inc Sulley Cake Guide from this blog:
“1:1 mix of Betty Crocker’s “Super Moist Butter Recipe Yellow cake and Pound Cake mixes: In one bowl, combine the two dry cake mixes as well as all of the the required extra ingredients listed on BOTH cakes direction set. Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth. Split the batter in half and pour into two well greased 9 in round pans. We have found that Wilton’s Cake Release is the most reliable product for effortless cake removal! Simply coat the inside of the pan with Wilton’s Cake Release using a basting brush and if you don’t miss a spot, your cake is going to fall right out of the pan EVERY time!”
The directions come with the pan in terms of baking, removing from the pan and cooling. Just make sure you hit EVERY inch of the 3-D pan with Cake Release (or equivalent if you are brave). The first time we ever use this pan we just greased it with margarine or butter and we broke it to pieces trying to get it out (same with Pam)! With all of the nooks and crannies, good cake release and generous GENEROUS application to the pan, and both the inside and outside of the cone insert is priceless. If you have no idea what the cone insert is…you will if you buy the Cuddly Bear Pan Set. Just make sure you follow the baking directions because the cooling times are extremely important to anyone that doesn’t want thier cake to fall apart! Take it from someone that usually thinks instructions are for dummies (and learned from experience)! Similarly, with a 3-D cake like this, allow the cake to cool COMPLETELY before you try to carve and/or ice it. The cooler it gets the firmer it gets and given that its 3-D, icing has a habit of succumbing to gravity rather quickly if any heat is left in the cake. So, unless your cake is themed around the 1950’s cult classic, “The Blob”…you’re going to want to give the cake plenty of time to cool! In any case, if you follow all of the directions, your bear cake should turn out looking something like this:
Step 2: Sculpting/Carving
It’s a bear, but it doesn’t really look much like Winnie the Pooh. That being said, it’s a fantastic starting point for a wife variety of 3-D redesigns if you have a bit of vision, a lot of patience, a ton of time and a hint of carving capability! I pulled out one of my son’s Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals, and started sculpting (typically with a serrated kitchen knife). I can’t give you many pointers here. It’s basically taking your time and cutting away what doesn’t look like Winnie the Pooh in your head. I do have a bit of a knack for the three dimensional, so that helps a lot. I started with his head and worked my way down to ensure stability of the cake. Had to remove reshape and replace the ears (attached them with tooth picks), reshape the head, carve out the body, cut off reshape and reposition the legs….eventually, though I’m not sure quite how, I got to something that slightly resembled Winnie the Pooh. In my opinion, the hardest part of the process is learning when to call it quits. There will always be small imperfections, irregularities, dips, dents and asymmetry. Borrowing from one of my Dad’s construction expressions, you have to remember that icing will cover a multitude of sin! In other words, I rely on my wife to make me look good by covering up my mistakes with her icing! In any case, here’s how it turned out un-iced:
Of course, once I had Pooh Bear set, I realized, what is Winnie the Pooh with out a pot of honey?? So, for the honey pot, I used the same 1:1 cake mix as described above, and baked 4 x 4 in round cakes, cut the bottoms flat and stacked them with icing in between the layers. Then I carved out a basic honey pot shape, and pushed it between Pooh’s legs. For the top of the jar, I scraped out a bit of the top layer of cake, and inside I put an inverted the sliced off domed bottom from one of the 4 in cakes. Then I carefully hollowed out the center to give it depth. The end result looked like a “silly old bear” if I do say so myself! At this point, I handed the reins over to my wife confident she would make me look good once again!
Step 3: Icing
Right, so it was 2 years ago. I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast this morning….come to think of it, I may have forgotten to eat breakfast this morning… Anyway, as described in the Sulley Cake post, we use the Wilton butter cream frosting recipe and add milk and/or powdered sugar to get the right consistency and taste. From there, you color your frosting using Wilton Icing Colors . We used Red for Pooh’s shirt, Golden Yellow for Poohs body, and Sky Blue for the honey pot. The honey itself was actually Wilton’s pre-made Yellow Gel Icing. It’s important to remember that the amount of icing color you will need to add to your icing depends on the quantity of icing, color you’re adding and the intensity of that the color you’re looking for. Red, for example, require a LOT of icing color if you want to hit that deep dark red for Pooh’s shirt and deep yellow of his body. The unfortunate part, is that Red icing color brings with it a bitter taste, so you may want to used Wilton’s “no taste” red which will require even more color, but doesn’t carry with it a not so pleasant aftertaste. With that in mind, I will also share with you that black is notoriously difficult achieve if you’re using vanilla butter cream icing. It just sits as a grey color no matter how much you add. So, when making black icing, my wife uses Wilton’s chocolate butter cream frosting recipee, and then adds a bit more milk to ensure it can be piped from a bag. Then, tint the chocolate icing with the black icing color and you will easily achieve the deep black coloration!
As for the tip, she used Wilton’s #16 star tip for the majority of the icing work, and #3 round tip for the black line work. Click here for a link to Wilton’s tip section (you’ll understand the pun if you click it…..). The end result turned out well! Here are a few more pics. Enjoy!