Here is a detailed look at how I made the bug cake that was the subject of my last post. I used the same recipe for the cake as the chocolate layer in my daughter’s Curious George cake, because I loved it so much when I made it for her birthday and I didn’t want to chance making a different recipe and having it not work out. I made a double recipe and it was the perfect amount for the square and round cakes I made. I also used the same chocolate fudge buttercream icing recipe I used for my daughter’s cake for the same reason.
This was my first time attempting modeling chocolate and working with it and now I wonder why I didn’t try it before. It’s pretty simple to make as it consists of two ingredients: chocolate and light (aka. white) corn syrup. I realized after making all my batches of modeling chocolate that I will definitely have to be a little more attentive to making necessary modifications to the recipe for the different kinds of chocolate, because the colored and white modeling chocolates turned out quite stiff and I pretty much had to break off little pieces and knead them to get them to have the putty-like texture necessary for working with. I found that the dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolates worked perfectly following the recipes found here.
Once I had decided on my design for the cake, the first thing I did was get the cakes all baked and the icing all made. It’s nice to have this done a few days in advance so there are less things to worry about come decorating day. I also like to freeze the cakes as it makes them easier to ice and easier to work with as I don’t have to worry about them being as fragile. And once the icing is made, I just store it in the fridge and take it out a couple of hours before I am going to use it so it becomes smooth and easy to work with.
Once the cakes were done baking and I was sure they had turned out, I did whatever levelling was necessary and shaped the round cake into a hill sort of shape. Then it was time to work on the details for the cake and get the fondant made. I used the marshmallow fondant recipe that I have posted on my blog, but for this fondant I knew I needed only one color, so I added the food coloring to the marshmallows once they were melted. It was SO much easier than trying to knead the color in later.
All the details on the top of the cake were made using modeling chocolate. The first thing I made was a spider. I was so happy with how it turned out that I made two. Here is how I made the spiders:
I rolled out some dark chocolate modeling chocolate between a folded over piece of wax paper then positioned an almond M & M, plain M & M and two mini M & M’s for the body and eyes.
Then I covered the M & M’s with the modeling chocolate, cut off the excess and smoothed it out.
I then used one of my daughter’s Play-doh tools to make some strings of modeling chocolate so I could make legs and antennae for the bugs. (Don’t worry, I washed it before I used it).
I then attached the legs to the spiders and made some “hair” on the spiders.
Next up were the ants:
For the ants I rolled out modeling chocolate and then used three plain M & M’s.
Then I folded the modeling chocolate over and cut off the excess. Then I added legs and antennae.
Up next were the caterpillars:
I made the caterpillars by placing 10 mini M & M’s on their side on top of the rolled out modeling chocolate.
Then I folded over the modeling chocolate, smoothed it out, then made “segments” using a mini spatula. I also added some dark chocolate modeling chocolate for the head. To make the legs I melted chocolate and then made the general shape I needed on wax paper, pressed the caterpillars into the chocolate and then removed from the wax paper once cooled.
I also made other bugs and insects, including worms, bees (made using marshmallow bananas, modeling chocolate for the stripes, and candy coated Spitz for the wings), grasshoppers, more caterpillars, a butterfly, and a dragonfly:
Once the bugs were all done, I decided to make some leaves to sit on the cake attached to a fallen branch. I knew I wanted some of the leaves to be curved, so I could put some bugs under them peeking out and so that I could also have them hang over the edge of the cake in a natural looking way:
After spending many hours making all the bugs and other details for the cake, the day before the party arrived and it was time to cover the cake and get all the bugs in place and add all the finishing touches:
First, I rolled out the fondant nice and thin and covered the cake with the buttercream icing.
I then covered the cake with fondant and smoothed it all out. I even covered the board with fondant as I hadn’t quite come up with a better plan yet.
Then I placed the top tier on the cake and covered it with icing, then pushed some worms into the cake and then began covering it with Oreo baking crumbs to make a dirt hill.
I then starting placing bugs on the cake to come up with the general idea for where I wanted everything to go. Then my husband suggested I put “dirt” around the entire cake. I loved this idea so some bugs were removed and I put dirt around the entire base of the cake. I have to say it looks much better with the dirt than the green.
I added some more leaves made out of fondant along with some little patches of grass on the front of the cake. I blended together green and brown modeling chocolate to make the stones used for writing happy birthday on as well as for some extra decorations on top of and behind the cake.
Here are some close-ups of the cake:
I am very happy with how the worms in the dirt hill turned out.
The butterfly, ladybugs, caterpillars, and the detail work done on the branch.
Dragonfly, bee, spider peeking out from under the leaf, grasshopper, and caterpillar. I dusted a lot of the bugs and most of the stones with various colors of pearl dust to make them really shine.
I also put pieces of left-over ropes of strings of modeling chocolate around the entire edge of the cake board to cover it up so it would blend in with the dirt.
This was probably the most labor intensive cake I’ve made yet as it took me nearly three full days to complete it, but it was so much fun! I look forward to making more cakes in the future!