Monday, April 16, 2012

The Birthday Gator

Runway cake
Every year on each of my kids' birthdays, I've made their birthday cake.  I think it started because my oldest son liked airplanes since he was old enough to toddle through the house, screaming "AhBEE!  AhBEE!" when the F-4 jets from our local air guard base flew over our house.  (It took us awhile to figure out that he was actually saying "airplane")  We couldn't find a bakery who could decorate a cake with F-4 planes with cammo colors.  Taking into consideration my incredibly poor artistic abilities, I managed a cake with a chocolate runway with die cast metal planes stuck on cardboard and frosted over.  I found a picture of it in the depths of my hoard of his baby pictures. 

When this same son's birthday came around last fall, I wanted to continue practicing my decorating skills.  My dear husband , who constantly spoils me ROTTEN, surprised me with a couple of cupcake decorating books containing tons of cute cupcake ideas.  Some look almost overwhelming, but one day I'd really like to try doing some of the craziest ones.  Mostly, though, I've used them to give me some ideas.  Many of the designs are made with cupcakes grouped together and frosted as if they were one cake.  Because my kids all live over an hour away, there's no way I could transport an arrangement of cupcakes held together with frosting. 

Since my oldest enjoys asking friends and family to bring him back an alligator or a shark when vacationing, I knew which of the designs in the books I was going to do - the one where the cupcakes are arranged in the shape of an alligator.  I modified it slightly because I was short by a couple of cupcakes and because I had to be able to move them. 

Gator Eyes
Gator Claws
The book recommends using zip lock bags and cutting the corner out, but I really don't like using the zip bags -- over the years, I've never had much luck using them with tips with and without couplers, I used a #150 carnation tip, mixed up a swampy green color (mixed blue, red, and yellow paste color until it was sufficiently yukky looking) to create the overall "skin" and broke apart Hershey bars for the bumps.  While the book used marshmallows for the eyes, I couldn't justify opening an entire bag of marshmallows to use just one, so using a #12 round tip, I simply piped two round eyes and used a little blob of black frosting from that tube of black frosting.  Also, the book uses little hard candy bananas for the claws - I didn't have any, so again used a tube of yellow that I had with a leaf tip  and kind of starting out like a regular leaf then releasing the pressure on the tube and pulling away.  Not as pretty or perfect, as you can see, but it did the job. (I'm realizing now that keeping an assortment of those things that look like toothpaste tubes full of colored frosting, is probably practical for the times when all I need is a little bit of one color.)

Finished Gator

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