Making a Penguin birthday cake

I’ve always made Rufus’ birthday cakes since he was born, and I didn’t want to fall at the first hurdle. Last year, a monkey cake, and this year… a penguin. Luckily the first Google search result for “penguin cake” looked both amazing and relatively easy. I didn’t worry about the earmuffs or the cheek glow, but the rest of the cake I copied verbatim!

The video covers assembly and design really well, but unfortunately I couldn’t find notes on the recipes to use for the cakes, the buttercream, or the ganache, so here’s the ones I used:

As is traditional, I stayed up until 1am the night before, waiting for the cake to cool enough to trim the tops flat, and assemble it with the buttercream icing in between the layers. Then the stack went in the fridge overnight (after a lot of reorganising of the fridge to make it fit); this was on the advice of Liz, my sister, as cold cakes are easier to carve into shape (turns out she’s right, when I started trimming a cake before it had cooled properly they were crumbling apart completely). I didn’t bother with different size cake tins, just using four 8″ cakes, rather than tapering them off… more offcuts are a good thing, as Liz reminded me!

Carving the cake into shape was great fun, and resulted in a LOT of offcuts!

The smoothing was done as best I could with a silicone spatula, and then I sent Penguin back to the fridge to cool off again.

The most difficult bit was draping the black rolled fondant icing sheet over the penguin. In the video this results in a beautifully tight, smooth fondant icing “skin”, but mine was a lot more like draping a sheet over something to make a comedy ghost. I smoothed it off as well as I could, but the icing felt overworked and was stretching so much the ganache was starting to come through in one place. The effect didn’t matter too much in the final result, as I put the white bib over the worst section, but I’d love to know what the trick is here.

Roo loved the main result, and despite me worrying that he wouldn’t want the cake cut (because the penguin was too cute!) he was shouting “open it! eat it!” as soon as the candles were blown out!

I reckon it took me about 6 hours in total, but worth every second.

P.S. This cake is HUGE.

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