Some food, some drink.
For My Daughter’s Birthday: How to Sculpt a Dolphin Themed Cake.
For the theme cake diy-types out there, the Interwebs is and absolute god-send; and in the age of Pinterest, you'd think it'd be super-friggin' easy to find a proper pattern to use to magically transform a couple of nine-inch rounds into a dolphin. Well, apparently that isn't the case; and the one blog post that kept popping up on everyone's pinboards didn't have a pattern. Well, one thing that I can do after 8+ years of a science degree is document; and so y'all don't have to go thru what I did, I've outlined exactly what we did to assemble a dolphin-themed birthday cake, including a pattern(!) you can download and print.
There's a bit of a standing tradition going on in our household where themed birthday cakes are concerned. The guidelines (as outlined by my significant other / household CFO) are simple: The cake can be from a box, but we gotta do our own sculpting and/or decorating. I've since added a corollary to this that the frosting can't be from a can (Gag me with a spatula. Seriously). Regardless, we all admit that no one in this house can make a well-polished theme cake worth a crap. However, we kinda feel like setting some guidelines ensures there there's always plenty of love put into the kid's birthday as a whole; and I'd even go so far as to say that despite their age, the kids recognize that as well.
So, lemme paint this picture for ya: Ever since we got back from vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina this last summer, my daughter has been completely smitten with dolphins. So, my wife thought it only appropriate that she should have a dolphin-themed birthday cake. It's at this point that I'm conscripted into the hunt for an appropriate pattern; and after a few evenings of searching, the best I could come up with was an abandoned blog that helpfully featured a simple picture of cake pieces cobbled together that looked very much like the profile of a dolphin once the buttercream was applied. I'm all about repeatability in method; and as I can't help myself where precision is concerned, I did a bit of reverse-engineering and came up with a pattern that I'm happy to share.
So, here's the pattern: <<Click right here to download.>> It's a pdf, so if you just print it, it should be close enough to scale that all you'll need to do is lay it on top of the cake, cut, and piece it back together. Enjoy!
- Regarding the template, the legend is self-explanatory; but everybody recieves information differently so here it is: Dark grey areas are waste, and areas labeled "Flip over" need to be flipped upside down to fit this porpoise puzzle.
- I don't care what your directions say, you'll need two standard 16.5 oz boxed cake mixes (one for each 9 inch pan). Bake-over shouldn't be a problem, but you might wanna keep both those rounds on a parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet just in case.
- If you're a friend of the math (my relationship's a bit estranged), then you'll notice that the pattern occupies cake rounds that are eight and a half inches in diameter, not nine. Well, hey guess what? your cake is gonna shrink as it cools so everything's gonna be all right. Oh and while were on the subject of cake pans, treat yourself and buy a couple of good ones; and after the credit card cools, take a blood oath to never, ever use a metal utensil on 'em.
- I'm not saying that I have the best method for sculpting cake (and if you're a pro, feel free to critique constructively), but generally speaking, it's much easier to deal with a frozen cake. Bake, de-pan, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze overnight. After cryo, level the rounds with a serrarted knife that has a blade longer than the diameter of the cake, and cut your pattern out of each round using a sharp, narrow-bladed knife (Frosting is easier with a frozen cake as well).
- We're all a bunch of fondant-haters in this casa, and when the day comes that I've found a fondant I can stomach, I'll be sure to let y'all know. Until that day, we'll rock a buttercream. My fav is the recipe on the back of the C&H box, and you'll need to triple it if you plan on doing a crumb layer, a top layer, and edging/embellishments (Interesting note here: The box calls this "Five-Minute Buttercream" and opts for a teaspoon of vanilla instead of a tablespoon.)
- This cake just barely fit on a 15.5 x 20 inch flat cookie sheet. If you have time, you'd definitely get presentation points by wrapping a larger dimension of sturdy cardboard in foil or parchment. For a bit of extra support, be sure to stack the whole mess on top of a large cutting board.
To this rank amateur's credit, I have made a few pretty cakes in my day, but I'm just so not good at it that it takes me a year and a day to finish. Not only has this fall been super-busy, but for this birthday party I had to whip up tacos and chicken fajitas for ten. And while you're not gonna hear excuses outta me, I'll be the first to admit that we kind of rushed thru the zhoosh on this here dolphin-themed birthday cake. All the same, the birthday girl was elated, which is really what matters here, right?
So I bet y'all are thinking, "geez, I could do better than that." Well, you're likely right; so if you do decorate a better looking dolphin cake, we'd love to see how you did it!