Fondant, Farm Animals, and Far-Out Fun!

laying fondant on cake stripes punk farm book Recently, our school librarian asked me to make a cake inspired by the “Punk Farm” books, written and illustrated by Jarrett Krosoczka. The author would be making a trip to our school, and several students had won the opportunity to share some cake with him during their lunch break! So I got to work with step 1: research. Armed with both “Punk Farm” and “Punk Farm Goes on Tour,” I sat down to read. And read. And read. I’m happy (and somewhat embarrassed) to admit that I read each book several times, my mind going a mile a minute thinking about both the cake, as well as how I plan to incorporate this book into my elementary music classroom. I chuckled aloud at the chicken who says, “I’m scared!” and the pig who’s afraid to get dirty, for nothing escapes me when it comes to jokes intended for small children. Luckily I have the sense of humor of a small child, so I enjoyed myself immensely. (It must also be said that his presentation to our students was not only a heartwarming explanation of the background of a few stories, but a kid-friendly lesson in perseverance and following one’s dreams.)

So after I finished my very serious “research,” I set about brainstorming a way to recreate these funky little dudes. I finally settled on trying to capture their personalities with fondant. Here is the method I followed:

1. I drew each animal on a cardboard cake board and then cut it out. They are each about 4-5 inches tall. I made photocopies of the cardboard cutouts:

sketch of punk farm animals for fondant cake2. I covered the front of each animal with the base color of fondant and wrapped it around the edges, gluing the edges on with a bit of gum glue adhesive (gum paste mixed with water). You can see below that I had already wrapped the white base color around, and had just cut out the red feathers and was about to wrap them around, as well.

punk farm animals fondant and cardboard3. Once the base color of fondant was attached to the cardboard, I flipped the face over and added all the features, like sunglasses, hair, mouths, etc. Since I had a photocopy of the drawings I had made, I knew how big to cut these features. Here is a photo of each fondant-covered animal:

punk farm book cake animals made of fondantOnce the faces were done, I taped a stick to the back of them and stuck them in the cake. I also used scrapbook paper and stickers to make the “Punk Farm” banner.

punk farm book cake

If you enjoyed learning a bit about “Punk Farm,” you can find Jarrett on all the usual social media places (@StudioJJK). And here’s some inside information: he’s a cake-decorator as well. Check it out on his Pinterest wall!

Which other children’s books would look good as a cake? I’ve done only one before (a “Five Little Monkeys” cake, complete with jumping monkeys!), and am counting down the days until December so that I can complete the “Polar Express” idea one of my good friends suggested. (I’ve worked out how to make it have smoke, I think!) I’m always looking for more project ideas, so comment below if you have thoughts!

Icing Smiles: One way you can make a difference!

Icing Smiles logo
Check out Icing Smiles here: http://www.icingsmiles.org/

I live a fairly regular life. I have a regular job, live in a regular home, and occasionally, despite my preference for the late Romantic period, listen to regular music. Things like traffic and slow internet annoy me terribly, and the last time I got upset enough to cry was almost exactly a year ago, when the dog ate my Easter cake. (It’s been a year and the story still hasn’t reached “Oh, this’ll be funny someday!” status.)

But, as happens every once in a while, something hit me with such gravity that it really threw me back in my place. Last November, as I was meandering about the “America’s Baking and Sweets Show,” I happened upon a nonprofit organization called “Icing Smiles,” which matches bakers with children that are in the midst of serious illness, and provides the child with a “Dream Cake” for his or her birthday. I sat in the car when the show was over and watched a captivating video from their founder that explained perfectly the mission of this organization.

To be quite honest, part of me thought: how silly! A child is fighting for his life here, and the best I have to offer is a cake with Thomas the Tank Engine? This cake-decorating hobby feels frivolous at times, but never more than when I pictured myself walking into a hospital room and presenting a family in the midst of crisis with silly cake. I would rather melt into the wall than “show off” a cake to a family that has, literally, life and death on their mind. 

But then I saw the online photos of previous recipients, with absolute wonder on their faces. These kids, hooked up to wires and IVs or recovering from operations or waiting for transplants, endure a pain and worry that I cannot even comprehend. With Icing Smiles, I would have a chance, if only for an instant, to provide a fleeting moment of distraction. I realized that yes, it is frivolous, but isn’t a birthday frivolous, anyways? An entire day dedicated solely to mark the date the world first saw You as You? It was exactly this sort of triviality that these children deserved. A day where they think not of doctors and needles and pain and fear, but of cake. And frosting and sprinkles and chocolate and smiling!

Here are some of the ways you can help “Bake a Difference” for a sick child (or their sibling- and how cool is that?!):

* Be a “Sugar Angel” (baker): When a need is identified in your area, you get an email asking your availability. If you are free, a representative will send you the family’s requests. (Note: many states, including mine, do not require Sugar Angels to be licensed bakers. You are covered under Icing Smiles’ insurance, and your cake supplies are tax deductible.)

* Help with Delivery: Bring the cake from the baker to the child.

* Cookie Club: For those unfamiliar with (or not interested in) making large cakes, you might like to join the Cookie Club. These volunteers bake cookies to send to the medical families on a “regular day.” Just because. Other volunteers bake cookies and treats for families staying at Ronald McDonald houses.

* Donate: Icing Smiles is a volunteer-run organization, but they obviously have unavoidable operating costs. They rely on donations/partnerships from individuals and corporations alike.

* Fundraise: Host a bake sale! Have a restaurant fundraiser! Help your local school run a fundraiser! (How neat- kids helping kids. 🙂 )

* Get the Word Out: Follow Icing Smiles via social media! If you work in the medical field, tell your PR department! Ask your local bakeries if they’ve heard of Icing Smiles and if they’d like to participate!

Have questions? Leave a comment below! Or check out their website here: http://www.icingsmiles.org/

My first cake as a “Sugar Angel!”