Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Birthday Cake Fitting My Entomologist Son...Complete with Gum Paste Bugs

When I asked my budding entomologist what kind of cake he wanted this year, he said that he'd like something to do with insects.  Last year, his party was centered more around arachnids, so I wanted to do something totally different.  Even before I asked him, I knew he would lean toward this theme, so I had already been contemplating it for some time.  I was thinking that it would be so cool to make a cake that looked like an insect collection and create edible insects to go inside.  I enjoy the fun, detailed part of the cakes much more than the making, baking, and, I was way excited to get to look up some insects and see if I could replicate them.
I bought some fondant, gum paste, and assorted colors in anticipation.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to ice the cake and leave it that way, or put fondant over the entire thing and make it look all glossy.  My main focus was the insects....  :)
The first thing I did was to get all the insect reference books out and make a list of the insects I was interested in making and those that Malachi wanted.  Next, I divided the gum paste into balls and tinted them with the colors I would need.
The Ladybug was first on my list....I wanted to start with something small and see how it would come together.  It was so fun!!  I moved on to a Honeybee, Deer Fly, Longhorn Beetle, a green Click Beetle (which I have since forgotten the name of), Blue Morpho Butterfly, Dragonfly, Fire Ant, Beetle, Click Beetle, Stag Beetle, Tiger Beetle, Swallowtail, Orb Weaver Spider, and one of those little bluish-purple butterflies that you see in the spring...  :D  I thoroughly enjoyed looking the insects up and trying to make a gum paste copy of them.  The legs on the beetles did give me some problems.  In the beginning, I thought I could use the gum paste to make them, make an indention in the side of the insects, and stick them in.  This didn't work because the gum paste just crumbled.  Then I bought some licorice and tried to cut small pieces to fit into indentations...this worked, but the legs looked too stiff.  When I was near the end, I had a Eureka! moment and decided to make legs and put them on the underside of the insect's body by using a bit of water as an adhesive.  I didn't like the way the Orb Weaver spider turned out, so I didn't use it on the cake.  The legs were made of licorice and too flimsy.  In hindsight, the gum paste attached to the underside of the body and dried into place at an arch would have worked out perfectly.  (I think,)
This is a picture of the first insects I made...  as you can see, the legs on the Longhorn Beetle, Fire Ant, and beetle were made of licorice and just looked too stiff.  Originally (in the picture, the Swallowtail's antennae were made of wire....later, I changed them to gum paste.)

This picture includes the (green) Tiger Beetle and Stag Beetle.  Their legs were made form gum paste so they have more "bend" to them.  They are my favorites...  well, I like the Blue Morpho, too.  :)  Okay...and the Deer Fly.....and.....nevermind...  haha.  I like the way the body of the Orb Weaver Spider turned out, but the flimsy, licorice legs just were not substantial enough.  They would have looked awesome with some dried-into-arched-place gum paste legs... maybe next time. 

Close up of the Stag and Tiger beetles...

This is a picture of the finished cake.  I cut out about 1/2" deep from the middle of the cake to make the "box".  Instead of covering the entire thing with fondant like I had contemplated, I decided to just ice it with chocolate icing.  I cut out a piece of white fondant and placed it in the center.  I thought about putting pins (ones that hadn't yet been used on insects...LOL) in the insects, but the insects were pretty hard and I didn't want to risk splitting any of them.  I put a little water on the fondant and stuck them on.  You can see down at the bottom of the box, under the ant, where the fondant looks shiny...this could be avoided by putting the water on the insect - as opposed to the fondant.  I didn't notice this until it was too late.  And it does show up worse in the picture than it did in reality, so it wasn't a huge deal.
Yay!!!   The cake is finished!   (If you notice in the background, there is the breakfast table loaded down with mason jars....the entomologist's mason jars....which means there are countless cocoons and a couple of chrysalises.  We are so hoping that after the overwinter thing, they will open up in the spring.  I'm not sure if the indoor climate will affect them or not.  Malachi is currently the only one who will eat at that table....the rest of us use the dining room table.  :D  )
Another view of the cake...

The really cool thing about this day every year, is that Malachi and I share a birthday!!  So, I am blessed with the gift that keeps on giving... <3

Monday, January 17, 2011

A New Kid and Winter Milking :)

Well, all my goat questions have been answered...  :)
Last Thursday, I noticed my milk goat, Annie, was displaying definite signs of labor.  I was so excited!  I could tell from some very specific things that it wouldn't be long at all before she kidded.  In preparation, I removed Jem Dandy ~ the buck we had bought for her ~ to another pen....and put some fresh hay out for her.  I decided to stay outside as much as possible so I could be there for the miracle.
While waiting, I got the maul and split some wood.  Last Saturday, we spent the day outside splitting wood and stacking it for the woodstove and I have to admit, I was bedazzled by the maul.  Maybe not the "maul" itself, but the *crack* the wood makes when you finally give it the winning lick... I love that!!  And it's great for frustration release...  :)
I was splitting a log when I heard Annie start bleating...  I dropped the maul and ran to see what was going on.  Guess what???  I was just in time!  The kid's head was just emerging.  Color me excited!  The kids (my two legged ones) must have either heard Annie or saw me running, because promptly, they were out the door and witnessing the scene.  As the baby's head was coming out, it sounded like it was choking...which freaked me out...  we had a not-so-pleasant experience with a goat that had complications ~ the leg emerged but the head was turned back on the shoulder and never would come out ~ it was AWFUL... so, with those images in mind, I was sincerely hoping this one would be okay.  I went over to check it, and decided to swipe its mouth out, in cause that would help.  It was amazing...  I continued to watch...and pray for its safe delivery and out it came.  OMGOSH!  What a miracle!
Just sweet is this?  :)
I was seriously happy to be there for the little guy's birth.  Yes, it's a buck.  Which is good, because based on the buck who bred my sweet milk goat, it probably wouldn't have been a good milker anyway.  He was so was really cold.  I helped Annie clean him off and directed him to nurse.  I think I bonded with him instantly.  <3
Here he is bonding with his mommy after some serious cleaning... 
I had previously promised my dear daughter that I would take her shopping that night so I had to leave the new baby and get ready...making sure first, of course, that he was nursing and in good health.
The next day, I went out to check on him and the poor little thing was still shivering...which led to his naming.  I decided to call him Shivers.  <3  
Upon noticing that his umbilical cord still looked pretty raw, I decided to tie a piece of floss about 2" inches down, cut it off, and dip it in iodine...just to be on the safe side.  He was looking so dang cute and fluffy....
A Kodak moment with my little Shivers...  :)

One more picture....  he is so darn adorable.....

As for my other goat question, regarding the milk....that has been duly answered, as well.  Since there's only one kid and he favors one side, there's the other side that's full of milk.  So, after about a week, I began milking her on the side that Shivers has no interest in.  I'm getting a half a gallon of milk per day, milking once a day, from that one side!  I was down to three quarts of frozen milk so I went ahead and bought a gallon of milk from the grocery store.  I really wouldn't have even had to have bought it if I had known I'd be milking.  So, it turns out, she had the baby just in time to supplement our dwindling supply of milk.  How cool is that?  Except for the one gallon of milk I bought, we've not had store bought milk in almost two years.  Now that is a milk goat worth keeping :)