My Cake Decorating Gallery

Monday, February 20, 2012

Maria's 1st Birthday Cake with Gum Paste Butterflies

I was over at our friends' house discussing an upcoming birthday cake for their daughter Maria and we discovered that Maria likes butterflies. Well, that is a perfect theme for a cake and we looked up some ideas. First, we decided this one would be a great (and easy to manage) cake for me to bring over to the party (From the website "":

Then, once home, I got to searching about other butterfly cakes and came across several other, more elaborate ones. Finally I came to this awesome gum paste butterfly tutorial and beautiful cake to go with it (from

I loved the way the color scheme worked on that cake and the tutorial made me realize that butterflies would be super simple to make and they'd look way cooler too because they'd be 3-D unlike the above cake. (Though the above cake is still nice, no offense!) I purchased all of the supplies on Amazon as noted in the tutorial, and even some glittery "disco dust" in purple and pink. Too fun!

One Sunday when The Husband was ice fishing and The Son was sleeping, I made 41 gum paste butterflies during nap time, and let them dry on racks. That night after The Son went to sleep, they were dry enough to paint them all. I looked online for some inspiration and also took some ideas from this photo I found on
So here is what I came up with - it was pretty easy to roll out the gum paste and easy and fun to paint them, also! I followed the gum paste butterfly tutorial from Clockwork Lemon which was super helpful. I even bought the same butterfly punch, a slightly different butterfly cookie cutter, and a few colors of disco dust based on this tutorial. Everything worked out pretty well except that purple punch didn't make sharp edges in the gum paste so I ended up having to go over many details with the tip of a sharp knife.. so that was a bit more work but still do-able. I would just stick to cookie cutters in the future.

I used vodka to apply the paints (most of them were liquid paints) and adjust the colors and tints. I also used vodka to apply the disco dust/glitter (edible!) - the vodka quickly evaporates leaving the colors bright. Water will cause gum paste and fondant to become sticky so it is a no-no for applying color. I used varying colors of pinks with accents of purple and yellow and I used black for outlines and details. I thought the monarch-painted ones were the most interesting looking yet time consuming. I would do those again, though.

The gum paste butterflies aren't really meant for eating (though they are edible) and last for ages so I did them about a month before the party. When you have a toddler, it's better to plan ahead time-wise! I baked some basic yellow cakes - two layers of 12in rounds for the "adult cake" and one tall 6 inch cake for the "smash cake." I made some simple buttercream and colored it pink. This was the filling for both cakes (along with raspberry preserves) and also the outside frosting for the smash cake. We had a request that Maria's dad had to have chocolate frosting so we decided we'd keep that for the "adult cake" and skip it for Maria's cake. 

I made two double batches of chocolate ganache. The first batch I let cool completely and then whipped it in the kitchenaid. It turned a lighter brown and I used this as a crumb coat/first layer for the adult cake. It took pretty much the whole batch to make a reasonably smooth cake. The cake could sit like this for a while before applying the final coating of shiny chocolate ganache. I did the shiny coating of ganache the night before the party. 

Friday night, after having applied the last layer of shiny chocolate ganache and smoothed it as best as I could, it was time to place the butterflies and do the last minute decorations. I didn't have any free time to look for a new piece of ribbon at the store but luckily I had some leftover with the right colors from my owl cake (see a few posts back). I actually believe it would've looked nicer without the ribbon but in this case, I was just trying to tie both the smash cake and big cake together since they were different colors. I think the pink ribbon took away from the butterflies and was too busy on the large chocolate cake, but at the time it was faster than piping a border.

After doing a color coordinated spray of butterflies on both cakes - hot pink melting into light pink then some yellows and finally fading into purples and blues - I also did a little piping on top of the cakes to say Happy Birthday and such. Then, yay, it was done! I took some pictures and had some boxes that fit the cakes reasonably well, so I didn't even stop at the cake supply store this time! I didn't get a photo of the inside of the cake (oops) but everything made the trip to Maria's house OK and everyone seemed to like the cake. It was a lot of fun to try my hand at some gum paste adornments.

I also had a great time watching Maria dive into her cake, she really tore it up but didn't really eat any, and it was fun to watch her make a mess (but not too much of a mess!) Happy Birthday Maria! Glad I could be a party of your special day. Now that I have all these butterfly making supplies, I look forward to making some more for other cakes!

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