Note - Bird turned four in May 2007. She loved that party so much that she wants a semi-sequel for her 5th birthday. Part of that means another castle cake, so I'm trying to remember how I did the first one!
Bird has loved pretty, sparkly things for as long as I can remember. She loves to dress up - even if that just means wearing her normal dresses (and not costumes or the like.)
So when she turned 4 last year, it wasn't exactly a surprise that she wanted a princess birthday party. Thankfully, it was just generic princesses, so we had free reign to do all sorts of non-Disney things.
Husband decided to turn our dining room into a castle. He got the really big appliance boxes from our local Home Improvement store, and spent his time the night before the party putting this together:
It kept him busy while I worked on decorating this masterpiece.
Bird's only real request for the party (aside from the princess theme) was that she wanted a castle cake. At first, I thought she meant something easy - bake the cake in a castle-shaped pan. Even nicer - it was a current pan at that time, so it only necessitated a trip to the craft store to buy it.
But no. Although she thought it looked pretty, she said she wanted something that looked like a castle. And castles aren't flat. Which left me rather stumped.
Thankfully, a friend pointed me in the direction of this site, and I found all sorts of castle shaped cakes. Let me tell you, there are some talented people out there!! I saw all sorts of configurations - some of which I figured I could do, and lots more that I couldn't. I had it narrowed down to a couple of easy ones, (ones I actually knew how to frost) and finally called her over to pick the type she wanted.
Except I forgot to close the window for this one. The one I pointed out to Husband cause I thought it was so pretty. The one I figured I couldn't really do in a million years.
The one where she actually said "Oh Mommy, that one is BEAUTIFUL!!!" (Seriously. She was only 3 and she actually uttered those words. How could I deny her?!)
There were several hurdles requiring my attention:
- I did not have the pans this cake required. (Thank heavens for several weeks and those 40%off coupons for those local craft stores!)
- I did not know how to make fondant frosting. Nor do I like the taste of real fondant frosting. (I eventually found a recipe for buttercream fondant frosting that tasted really good, but I'll save that for another post. Probably when I have to make another castle cake!)
- Something in the cake had to be egg-free, so that Bug could eat it too. (I finally settled on making egg-free cupcake towers. )
The actual construction of the cake took a couple of days. The party was on a Saturday. I baked all of the parts on Wednesday and Thursday, saving the actual decorating for Friday night.
In the end, the body of the castle was 2 8-inch square pans, with about a box and a half of cake mix split between them. The circles are 2 6-inch circle pans, with about a box of cake mix split between them.
For stability, there is a cardboard square between the 2 square cakes and a cardboard circle between those two layers as well.
The bottom half of the towers are regular sized cupcakes; the top half of the towers are mini cupcakes. The tower tops are indeed ice cream cones. I'd thought about either melting pink chocolate over them or just covering them in pink sprinkles, but I was too tired. I used a single 12-inch shishkabob skewer to vertically hold the tower together. It took a couple more skewers to anchor the tower to the body of the cake. (I did that after I did the white frosting on the towers)
Fondant (even buttercream fondant) is a tricky mistress. It looks really good, but if you haven't covered up the cake underneath, it will show every mistake. So I had to frost the cake with regular (homemade) frosting first. Then, once I'd mixed & rolled out the fondant, I could cover the cake with it. I went in 3 stages: the square parts first, then the circles, and finally the towers. I actually did not frost the cupcakes all around - I wanted them to look a little more stone-like, so I only frosted the tops to help them stick together, and then wrapped the tower in the fondant.
Once I had a while castle, I made a huge batch of regular pink frosting and went crazy.
The morning of the party, I heard Bird get up and go out into the kitchen. Then she went into the dining room. Then she finally made her way to our room. She came up to me and asked "Are those castles for me?" When I told her they were, she responsed "They are so pretty! I love them!!!"