Two years ago a client requested a birch tree inspired wedding cake. At the time I had not done one of these before – how exciting!
The top two tiers were carrot and chocolate cake sitting upon a tree trunk. The two edible tiers were covered in a crusting buttercream which is a firmer buttercream allowing me to “paint” on the stripes that are such a feature of the birch tree.
With this blog post I would like to give a brief description of how I made the birch tree trunk. Having never made one of these before I had to do some research which obviously necessitated a search on YouTube. So off I went delving into the boundless depths of YouTube. Oh what fun that turned out to be.
Polystyrene dummies or blanks come in two heights 7.5cm and 10cm, which as a single tier, made for a very shallow tree trunk. I chose to make the bottom tier out of two of these stacked one on top of the other to give a much better height to the overall cake. On reflection, I should have gone with two 7.5cm dummies, but I had 10cm to hand, so I went with them. This made for quite a chunky trunk.
The two dummies were glued together with No Nails and weighed down with a 5kg bag of chocolate.
Once the dummies were secured – then the fun could begin!
To make the top of the tree trunk I chose to use modelling chocolate which I had to make from scratch as it was not available to purchase locally. The recipe can be found in: Katrien’s Mini Cakes by Katrien van Zyl. Using the modelling chocolate on all three tiers provided a uniformity throughout as well as a more stable base for stacking the top tiers.
The modelling chocolate was rolled out to fit the diameter of the polystyrene dummies and glued on using an edible glue. Using a Dresden tool I drew in the rings that you find in tree trunks adding in a few “crack’s along the way. A mixture of brown gel food colouring watered down with 100% alcohol was used to give the modelling chocolate a colour wash with a darker colour being used in the “cracks”.
The sides of the tree trunk were covered using the panelling method. Measuring the height and circumference of the dummies, a piece of fondant was rolled out to meet these measurements. Where the two sides joined, I purposefully created a “tear” in the “bark” by folding back a section of the fondant to reveal the tree underneath.. To make it so that the sides and top merged together I just squished them using little strokes to form a ring.
Working mainly with a Dresden tool I created various vertical and horizontal lines or tears in the bark. A ball tool was used to make the knots – the inside of which I picked at with a pin to create a roughness. A craft knife was used to slice back areas of the bark.
What was really fabulous about making a cake like this one was that you did not have to be precise quite the opposite in fact in order to make it look as natural as possible. No two trees are ever the same, so one could let rip and have some fun.
To recreate the colours find on the bark of the tree, I worked with green, brown, ivory, black, grey and white coloured food dusts. The vertical cracks and tears were coloured using chocolate brown gel food colouring.
There was a small knot near the bottom of the trunk that I really had a lot of fun working on – I wanted it to have a mossy feel about it, it took a little bit of playing around with the various colours to achieve this.
To be honest there’s no right or wrong way of doing a cake like this. It does not have to look super realistic – it’s cake so why not be a little fantastical. I love working with fondant – one can get really creative – I wish I had the opportunity to it more often.