Giraffe Number 1 Cake

My lovely friend Jo’s little girl Sophie turns one this month, so Jo asked whether I might have time to bake for her party (which was yesterday). Over a post-rehearsal glass of wine, she mentioned that the theme was safari animals and over the course of the next few seconds we batted back and forth, finishing each other’s sentences to come up with a winning idea: a big number 1 cake decorated as a giraffe! A quick search on Pinterest kyboshed the notion that this was an original idea but this didn’t matter; it merely provided confirmation that it would work.

Having recently used Dan Lepard’s Chocolate Vanilla Marble Cake for Lindsey’s 40th birthday cake, I knew it worked for number tins (besides which, it seemed fitting for the inside of a giraffe) so I plumped for the same recipe rather than an arguably more robust but less interesting vanilla sponge.

Smaller dollops, as mentioned in my blog post about Lindsey’s 40th birthday cake

Smaller dollops, as mentioned in my blog post about Lindsey’s 40th birthday cake

Swirly swirly

Swirly swirly

Buttercream crumb coat

Buttercream crumb coat

The buttercream crumb coat.  It’s not as smooth as I would’ve liked because the cake doesn’t resist the pull of the palette knife very well, so I didn’t want to be overly picky about smoothing and find that I fatally wounded the giraffe.

1.5kg yellow fondant

1.5kg yellow fondant

I coloured a rather hefty 1½kg of fondant in yellow because I didn’t want to leave ANY possibility that I mightn’t have plenty.  It would’ve been awful to feel I had to roll it more thinly than I wanted and find it split as I moved it.  Of course, I have lots left over but that’s fine by me.

A yellow number 1 cake

A yellow number 1 cake

Now, I’m not going to pretend this was easy; it really wasn’t.  I made sure I rolled the fondant to 5-6mm so that it withstood a bit of jiggery-pokery, but all those corners were tricky because they put pressure on the fondant and threatened to make holes.  I had to work pretty quickly, pressing against the walls in a slight upwards direction to prevent the weight of the fondant from creating a tear.  Getting into the inner corner was a total nightmare and if you look closely you can see substantial imperfections, which led to an artistic decision you’ll see later on…

Setting the scene

Setting the scene

I only bought 500g of blue fondant on the grounds that it’s pretty expensive and I was planning to do a tree so I could cover however much board didn’t have blue on it.  I rolled it fairly thinly and made sure that the gap was in one corner, then rolled a randomly shaped bit of green to overlap – it didn’t matter that it was wonky as I knew it’d be covered later.

A tense moment

A tense moment

For reasons that I imagine are obvious, I didn’t ice the giraffe whilst it was on the board, so I used a Wilton cake lifter, a steadying hand and lots of ‘oh-please-don’t-fall-apart’ wishes to move the giraffe into position.

Phew.  A brief lie-down now, I think.

Phew. A brief lie-down now, I think.

Alas, no time for lying down, for now it was time to decorate!  Allow me to introduce you to my model: this is Gerald.

Hello, Gerald.

Hello, Gerald.

I rolled out some chocolate-flavoured brown fondant, which I chopped into random geometric shapes and secured in place with a little egg white painted on the back.  I can’t claim it’s in any way realistic but there’s something pleasing about it nonetheless.

Next, I rolled a ball of the brown and sliced it through just to the side of the middle and reshaped the larger bit for the eye.  I then laid it on a bit of yellow, which I trimmed to be just a little bigger than the brown, and cut an eyelid to fit over the top.  I fashioned something a bit like a Shu Uemura false eyelash, leaving a good amount at the bottom so that I could tuck it under the upper eyelid.  Splishy splashy with egg white, plus a tiny bit of yellow and Bob’s yer uncle: a decadently lashed eye with a cheeky glint.

Lashes (with thanks to Shu Uemura for inspiration)

Lashes (with thanks to Shu Uemura for inspiration)

A giraffe's eye in sugarpaste.  What did you do with your Saturday afternoon??

A giraffe’s eye in sugarpaste. What did you do with your Saturday afternoon??

With lashes like that, it struck me that this was no longer a Gerald.  This was a Geraldine.

With lashes like that, it struck me that this was no longer a Gerald. This was a Geraldine.

Next came a nostril and a simple thin sausage shape for Geraldine’s mouth, which was positioned in such a way that I could use leaves to cover the flaws in the yellow fondant under her chin.  What a cunning plan, Baldrick.

A cunning plan, (Sir) Baldrick.

A cunning plan, (Sir) Baldrick.

A cake of this size takes quite a long time to cool down, so I had used that time to cut out lots of leaves from two different green fondants I happened to have in the cupboard, plus a few orange flowers.  I just positioned them fairly randomly over the green patch, making sure I covered the join and curled a few up the sides of Geraldine’s neck.

For the ears, I cut a leaf-shaped bit of yellow and used the pad of my index finger to press into the palm of my hand and create a cup-like shape.  I popped a little brown in the middle and then placed it in a chocolate mould (an egg cup would do, I expect) so that it dried into the curved shape.  A very simple short, fat yellow cylinder topped with a bit of brown made the horn, which I poked in to the top of Geraldine’s head with a cocktail stick.

Finally, a yellow satin ribbon pinned to the sides of the board and Geraldine was ready to party.

Geraldine, the Number 1 Giraffe Cake.  Literally.

Geraldine, the Number 1 Giraffe Cake. Literally.

What the inside of a giraffe looks like, obv.  Farewell, Geraldine.

What the inside of a giraffe looks like, obv. Farewell, Geraldine.

P.S. In case you’re interested, Geraldine was actually created two weeks in advance, wrapped very carefully in greaseproof paper, then cling film, then foil and placed in the freezer.  About 30 hours before cutting, she was unwrapped and placed in the fridge for 8 hours, then sat on the kitchen counter to defrost entirely.  It seems she didn’t suffer at all for this experience.

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6 thoughts on “Giraffe Number 1 Cake

  1. Hi, this looks amazing and you make it sound very easy, which I’m sure it’s not! I don’t have much experience, but I’m going to attempt to try this for my son’s 1st birthday. What’s the buttercream crumb coat and do I need it? Was thinking of using melted jam to stick icing on rather than egg white as babies are eating it and shouldn’t give them raw egg? Thanks, Gayle

    • Hi Gayle,
      I’d use buttercream (1 part unsalted butter to 1.5 parts icing sugar, beaten for at least 5 mins in an electric mixer until light and fluffy). It does provide a sticky surface (I’d brush it with a tiny bit of cooled boiled water just before the fondant to make it properly sticky) but it also gives a smooth surface, which is important to have under the fondant. Jam won’t even out the lumpy bumpy of the cake. There’s no raw egg in buttercream, but it is a lot of sugar which some people prefer not to give babies. I always let parents make the decision for their own children! Hope that helps.

  2. Thank you! Sorry, I only just saw you’d replied. I’ll only give him a little bit cos of the sugar, you’re right, but a tiny bit once a year will be ok. Was more worried about the raw egg cos of food poisoning x

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