"Hey, I can do that!"

Friday, June 24, 2011

Critter Crunch

Critter Crunch

A Critter Crunch birthday cake was requested of me from a friend of my hubby.  Critter Crunch is a puzzle game available on the PlayStation Network.  Hubby and I played the demo and really liked the adorable creatures and beautiful artwork in the game.  I was not thrilled to discover that I wasn't very good at the game, though!  

  • carved 8"x3" chocolate cake (I can't remember which cake mix box)
  • iced with vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream 
  • filled with vanilla whipped pudding
  • covered in marshmallow fondant
  • "Happy Birthday" in blue Royal Icing
  • eye glossed with 50/50 corn syrup/Everclear
In the last cake class I volunteered at, the instructor mentioned that she no longer uses any cake release spray or mixture to prepare her pans.  Instead she lines the bottom with parchment paper and then, when done baking and cooling, she runs a knife down along the sides of the pan.  She believes letting the cake stick to the sides while baking will help prevent shrinking.  I lined the bottom of my pans with parchment paper and wrapped baking strips on the sides.

They baked up pretty well and came out of the pan nicely.  I think I'll do this from now on! 

Over time I've learned that having a base board (cardboard or foam core) in the final shape of the cake is extremely helpful.  Here is the rough shape, a slight teardrop cut out of a cake board.  I used a steak knife to carve the cake into shape.  The cake had been in the freezer overnight so it was easy to carve without mutilating it.

My cake wasn't originally as high as I wanted the final product to be.  That meant I needed to build up some with icing.  I also trimmed the sides to be within 1/4" of the cake board.  I wanted the icing to be flush with the board when I covered it with fondant. 

Luckily I've watched enough cake TV shows to know that I should carve first, then torte and fill.  Otherwise, there'd be a huge mess of filling squishing out the sides and cake tearing and crumbling.

As always, my dam made from cake spackle.

Crumb coat.

First layer.

My critter has some facial features and expressions.  This was achieved by putting fondant on top of the buttercream but under the final fondant coat.  I made some fondant snakes for the mouth and eyebrows.  With icing I built up one side of the mouth snake so it would have a gradual rise.  The other side was to be indented to give the illusion of his 2-tone body.

As suggested by Mike McCarey's Cakenology video (demonstrating how to carve a cake into the shape of a car), I used my hands and soft buttercream to smooth out the final layers of icing.  After giving my critter a good belly rub, he was the smoothest cake I've ever made!  I did about 3 passes, putting the cake in the freezer for a few minutes so the buttercream would firm up, then applying more room temperature buttercream on top.

Before belly rubs.


Marshmallow fondant colored with Wilton Golden Yellow and Lemon Yellow gel.

I actually think this is the best fondant job I've done on a cake!  The fondant went on even and smooth; only 2 air bubbles to pop.  It stuck to the buttercream without me having to wet it.  Hurray!  His feet are 2 chunks of extra fondant roughly shaped into triangles.  I glued him down to the gold rectangular board with some piping gel.

This cake reminded me that I seriously need to purchase some clay tools.  Gumpaste tools are nice (I have Wilton's set), but really, a good set of cheap wooden clay tools can go a long way.  I only have a few clay tools left over from my high school days, but they were invaluable for bringing out the fondant ridges and lines. 

Free-hand cut out some white fondant as his belly with a craft knife.  Notice the shaggy cuts to emulate fur!

Do you know what's a complete waste of time and money?  The Wilton Alphabet Cutters!  I tried and tried to get a decent P.  After a few attempt, I settled for what I got.  Then came a B.  There is NO FREAKING WAY anyone can get fondant out of the B shape.  I don't even have a tool narrow enough to force the fondant out from the other end.  Perhaps a bamboo skewer would have worked, but at that point I practically threw the fondant across the room.

I piped "Happy Birthday" with Royal Icing instead.  Tip is Wilton #4.

I made some eyes with white and blue fondant, cut with a small round Christmas ornament cookie cutter.  The gloss was 50/50 corn syrup/Everclear brushed on to it.

I am very pleased with how this little guy came out.  I do wish I could have figured out how to give him little ears, but oh well.  Also couldn't get a decent photo of him.  Most of my caking is done at night with little ambient light.

Photo Gallery


  1. That's a really good post with lots of handy tips! I know what you mean about the photos, I'm the same with my baking in that I do most of it at night. I have started to take photos in the morning though before I give the cakes to the lucky recipient. Food pictures taken during the day look so much nicer. I also recently invested in a nice camera but equally useful is learning how to use the settings on whatever camera you have. My pictures come out a lot better now that I know how to adjust the settings and stuff. Anyway I've rambled on but if you get a chance please check out my blog; http://BaileyAnaCakes.blogspot.com :)

  2. ps It's also an amazing cake :)

  3. Love your cake!
    Would like to know, when you smoothen the buttercream with your hands, was the cream frozen?
    When the cake was finally done, did the cream soften and cause the fondant to sweat?
    I live in a really humid place, so I have not dared to use IMBC under the fondant (I use choc ganache).
    And I know what you mean about the Wilton cutters. They are a total waste of time! I bought Tappits and have prolonged my life ever since.:)

  4. congratulations because your cake are beautiful! I love your blog! I'm italian foodblogger (excuse me for my english...!!!).

  5. When I was layering the buttercream, I put the cake in the freezer for a few minutes. The icing on the cake would be firm up. The icing I added on was room temperature, soft and slippy. Then, back in the freezer. Repeat!

    I don't know how the cake did after I gave it to hubby's friend. I informed him to keep the cake in the fridge until about an hour before serving and that the cake might sweat, but he would dry off eventually.

  6. I found your blog and finished the entire thing in two sittings and I have to tell you...I'm AMAZED by your creativity and skills! I signed up for a designer cakes certificate and my classes start in November, and I just hope I can do as great work as you. Congrats on your successes! You're awesome!

  7. I feel your pain on those Wilton cutters! I find that rolling my fondant really thin and placing in the freezer for 5 mins helps a lot. And to get out the little bits? Try using compressed air (the kind with the little straw). Your blog and cakes look awesome... keep up the great work!!

  8. compressed air?? that's brilliant! i've tried blowing them out with my mouth but just got spittle over everything (bwah)!


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