I’ve never made a show-off decorated cake before… Or, indeed, anything with show-stopper decorating before. But, with Zoë’ in my world now, many things are changing… Up until now, I’ve done fairly simple cakes for her birthday parties. But her best friend, Ivy, had had a Peppa Pig cake for her 3rd birthday and then had a Princess Castle one for her 4th birthday. Zoë’s birthday is 5 weeks after Ivy’s and, as her 4th birthday approached, I realised I was going to have to step up to the mark.
I decided to try something from Juliet Stallwood’s book, Icing on the Cake. Billed as the ultimate step-by-step guide to decorating baked treats, the book tells you that “like your very own fairy godmother, Juliet Stallwood will transform you from humble home baker to icing queen with a wave of her piping nozzle!” Great – sounds like just what I needed!
Zoë and I chose the Dragon Cake. I made it in a slightly different order to the recipe below, just because I only had the evenings to make it in, plus I was making a gluten-free and dairy-free version, and I find that dairy-free frosting works better if it’s chilled in the fridge. I started off by making 2 gluten-free and dairy-free sponges – that was Thursday night, after work. Then, on Friday night , I made a dairy-free frosting and then left it in the fridge to chill and firm up. Then I rolled out some modelling paste and coloured them. I used natural colours, which is why it ended up pink and yellow – (plus Zoë loves pink). I made all the parts for the dragon and left them to harden overnight. I remember texting a friend this picture of the bits at about 11pm at night and then heading off to bed, slightly nervous…
The following morning, I sandwiched and covered the cakes with the frosting, and then covered the whole thing with a layer of the modelling paste. Modelling paste feels a little weird at first, but once you get used to how stiff it is to work with, it gets easy. Then I attached all the dragon and flame bits and I started to smile for the first time in the whole process… It had seemed like it was going to be difficult and it took quite some time. But, in fact, it was fairly easy. And it felt FANTASTIC when I’d finished it.
Zoë was suitably impressed. So were all her friends. Yay! Now I’ve just got to go one better next year…!
* gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, seed-free, citrus-free
- icing sugar, for dusting
- 150g/5½oz coloured modelling paste (I used a natural red dye and added just a few drops to the paste, and kneaded it in, to make pink)
- 60g/2¼oz coloured modelling paste (I used a natural yellow dye and added a few drops then kneaded)
- 2 x 20cm/8in round sponge cakes (I made gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate ones)
- 1 recipe quantity frosting (I made a dairy-free chocolate one)
- 100g/3½oz seedless raspberry jam
- 800g/1lb 12oz white sugar paste
- 200g/7oz red-coloured sugar paste (I used a natural red dye and added lots of drops then kneaded)
- edible glue or cooled, boiled water (I used boiled water)
- 5g/¹⁄8oz black-coloured sugar paste (I used a raisin, instead)
- You will need:
- small rolling pin
- 5mm/¼in marzipan spacers (optional)
- sharp knife
- dragon and flame templates (see this link)
- tray lined with baking parchment
- 20cm/8in round cake drum
- small paintbrush
- Dust the work surface with a little icing sugar, then knead the first colour of modelling paste until it is soft and pliable. Roll out the kneaded modelling paste until it is 5mm/¼in thick, using marzipan spacers if you like, and cut out the dragon’s head, ears, body and legs, using the templates. Indent the toes and mouth with the sharp knife, then smooth the edges of all the parts with your fingers. Repeat with the second colour of modelling paste to make the tummy and wings, indenting the line details on both parts with the sharp knife and smoothing the edges with your fingers. Without assembling the dragon, transfer the parts to the prepared tray and leave to dry overnight, uncovered, in a cool, dry place. Roll the trimmings into balls and store in an airtight container so the modelling paste does not dry out.
- When the dragon parts have dried and, using the cake drum as a firm base, layer the sponge cakes, then fill with frosting and jam to make one tall 20cm/8in cake. Cover the cake with the remaining frosting. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours. When the frosting has set, dust the work surface with a little icing sugar, then knead the white sugar paste until it is soft and pliable. To cover the cake with the kneaded sugar paste, roll out the kneaded sugar paste until it is 5mm/¼in thick, using marzipan spacers if you like. Carefully lift the rolled sugar paste and gently place it over the top and side of the cake, taking care not to stretch or pull it. Use your hands to smooth it over the top and side of the cake, making sure to smooth out any air bubbles. Trim off any excess sugar paste at the base of the cake with the sharp knife. Roll the trimmings into a ball and store in an airtight container so the sugar paste does not dry out and crack.
- Dust the work surface with icing sugar, then knead half of the red sugar paste until it is soft and pliable. Roll out the kneaded sugar paste quite thinly and cut out about 10 flames, using the template. Brush the back of each flame with edible glue or water, then press them vertically onto the side of the cake. Repeat with the remaining red sugar paste until the side of the cake is covered in flames.
- Brush the back of the dragon’s body and head with a little edible glue or water, then attach them to the top of the cake. Attach the ears, tummy, legs and wings, securing each part with edible glue. To make the nose, roll a tiny ball of the first colour of modelling paste, then flatten it slightly and indent with the end of the paintbrush. To make the eye, roll out a very small ball of the remaining white sugar paste. For the pupil, roll out a tiny ball of black sugar paste and attach it to the eye (although I used a raisin), then attach an even tinier ball of white sugar paste to the top of the pupil, flattening it slightly as you do so. Attach the nose and eye to the head with edible glue or water. To make the tail, roll the remaining first colour of modelling paste into a long, tapered sausage about 15cm/6in long. Flatten the wider end of the sausage to form the base of the tail, then attach the base to the top of the cake with edible glue or water, making sure it lines up squarely with the body. Mould a tiny ball of the second colour of modelling paste into a triangle and attach it to the tail tip with edible glue or water. Curl the end of the tail slightly to form an s-shape over the top and side of the cake, securing it in place with edible glue or water. Roll the remaining second colour of modelling paste into tiny balls, then attach them to the body and head of the dragon with edible glue or water, flattening them slightly as you do so. Leave the cake overnight to allow the sugar and modelling pastes to dry.
- Tips: You will need to make the dragon parts at least a day before they are needed. And you can change the expression of the dragon by altering the position of the pupil.