Akram's Ideas

The Bird’s Nest

When I first decided to take a class in cake decorating I didn’t expect to pick it up so quickly. I’m not really the best of cooks, and I’m usually not that patience of a person (but of course teaching has really helped with my patience).  When I was younger my Mother took a cake decorating class and for a long while she would make all sorts of cool birthday cakes. I remember one she did for my sister of Teddy Ruxpin ( how many of you remember him?) and then there was the one she made for me when I was in my teens, all done up with film reels and the like ( at the time I was determined to be a movie writer, director, producer).

Anyways, my Mother was good at it and I guess I have a knack for it as well. Although I felt that my decorating skills were acceptable, I thought wouldn’t it be cool to really challenge myself. I had already gotten the opportunity to make a wedding cake for a friend of a colleague some time ago and that was a real honor that they asked me to make the cake. I still wanted to be in a competition, like on the food network. Low and behold I was looking through the local paper and came across information about the county fair. One of the competitions was on cake. The options where decorating, taste and both decorating and taste. I thought here’s a chance to compete, at a small scale I know, but I just wanted to see how I’d do.

I started this project by thinking about what I wanted my cake to look like. I knew I wanted to do fondant and I’m not really a floral persona, not to mention buttercream roses take a while to make. I was searching the web for ideas when I came across the most adorable cake topper.

Bird Nest Cake Toper
Photo By RedLightStudio

Of course this is just a cake topper and not edible, but then it dawned on me what if I were to say sort of replicate this topper all in cake. I thought about how I would go about it, and my first discussion was that if  I used a bunt pan and turned the cake upside down I would have the nest like shape. The bunt cake did however have a whole in the middle of it, so to fill the hole I used the excess cake I cut from the cake and mixed it with frosting, then stuffed back into the whole. 

Stuffing the whole of the cake
Stuffing the whole of the cake
Here's the cake after it was flipped over
Here’s the cake after it was flipped over

Then came the decision of how to make the nest twigs. I thought of various ideas and made a few mini bunt cakes and took them to work for some input. The buttercream, was okay, the chocolate liquorice wasn’t what you’d say a fan favorite. but the individually rolled fondant pieces seemed to look the best and tasted good, since I make my own marshmallow fondant.

I knew that the fondant would take a while so I started three days before the contest. I made my stand by “White Almond Sour Cream Cake” which I originally found on some message from about making wedding cakes, I have since saved the recipe here http://bit.ly/12bmvzo. I like moist cakes so I sliced the cake in half and placed a filling of strawberry jam in-between it. I just like the taste of the white cake and the strawberry jam, and since I made the cake 3 days early I wanted to ensure moistness.

I made some mini cakes to test before going full scale
The cake with jam filling and hole filled
The cake with jam filling 

Once the cake was done I spent the next day making fondant. I wanted a natural look to the nest so I made three colors of fondant, yellow, orange and brown. I rolled each ball of fondant out and then sliced them into strips which I rolled by hand to create a twig look. Some would break apart so I had a very natural variation of sizes I still felt that the colors weren’t exactly what I wanted so after setting the twigs on a baking sheet I went back with a paint brush and some brown food coloring and painted over the tops. I used a little water on the brush so the color wasn’t so heavy and it created a nice subtle shade on top of the actual color. I used a brown buttercream frosting on the cake itself to attach the fondant strips.

Rolled Fondant
Rolled Fondant
Me rolling the fondant
Me rolling the fondant

 

Me getting excited about the cake
Me getting excited about the cake

The day of the event I added the finishing touches. At first I was going to make cake pop birds, but given the size of the cake it was just to large scale, and then I thought I’d model some birds our of cake, that was a disaster. So with the suggestion of my hubby, I made fondant birds. and even a egg. I used heart sprinkles for the details of the birds like the beak and hair bow and bow tie. I also had planned on making a few roses for decoration around the nest, but all but two of the roses fell apart, I think my buttercream was a little soft. Anyways, my hubby came to the rescue again and snapped me out of panic mode, suggesting I strategically place the roses in certain locations and using a grass tip I added a few bits of grass. Lastly and one of my favorite features, is the dirt within the nest. I used a mix of both white chocolate and chocolate shavings to create the dirt, and it looked great.

Me sculpting the birds
Me sculpting the birds
The birds
The birds
The nest was so big I decided to add an egg
The nest was so big I decided to add an egg
Floral touches
Floral touches
The bottom of the cake I placed some chocolate filled cookies that kind of looked like twigs.
The bottom of the cake I placed some chocolate filled cookies that kind of looked like twigs.

 I got the cake done an hour or so before the registration deadline for the competition, and holding that cake in the car on the drive there was nerve racking, glad it was only about 15 minutes or so to get there. I was able to get registered but because the weather was so hot, they couldn’t leave any of the cakes out on display, instead they had to be placed in a fridge in one of the judges buildings. So, they came and took a picture of the cake to put on display. It was just a small 3″x 5″  picture, which if I enter again I will definitely take a nice picture before hand and matte it for them to use instead.

We had to wait about two hours before they announced the winner so we got to go look around the fair. When we got back to the cake both I was asked to speak with the official judge who asked me some details about the cake, before informing me that I had won “Grand Champion” . I was so excited, I thought maybe second place or something, but “Grand Champion”, this meant not only did I win first place for the category of decorating and taste, I was the best in the cake division which made me “Grand Champion”.

I’m glad the cake came out so well, and since me and my hubby don’t actually really eat all that much cake, I left it with the judges to enjoy.  Now that I’m a winner, I have thing about next year’s cake competition, in order to hold on to my title .

Back of cake
Back of cake
The cake
The cake
Final cake
Final cake

 

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Akram Taghavi-Burris

designer, writer, educator, tech nerd, crafter, baker, sewer and vintage collector, who Brings Creative & Crazy Ides to Life.

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