This past weekend was my nephews 2nd birthday party. When I volunteered to make the cake for his Very Hungry Caterpillar party I was intending to actually make the cake, cover it with fondant, and decorate it.
But... I've had a nasty side effect from a migraine medicine the doctor had me try. It's made my heart beat too fast, even just walking from one room to the next makes my pulse shoot up like I'm running a race.
It takes time to get the medicine out of your system. So I needed a plan b. Because rolling out fondant and baking the cake just wasn't going to happen.
My plan b was to buy a sheet cake. From the grocery store. (Yup the grocery store. When it's the 11th hour and you need a cake it's the
only best option.) I had them frost it with white, pipe the border, and add some cute polka dot confetti sprinkles around the edge (I noticed them on another cake while ordering and thought they were perfect). They did a nice job, exactly what I asked for, and it was cute!
Once I had the cake I proceeded to decorate it with the caterpillar as I'd originally intended.
I really wanted to mimmic the famous Eric Carle look as closely as possible. After wracking my brain for a few days on how best to recreate painted tissue paper collage with something edible I decided to use Sugar Sheets.
I started with plain white sugar sheets and "painted" them using gel food coloring. Toothpicks, and paper towels were used to get the textures and details. First I would add some yellow to one spot, then some green or blue. Smear it around, and wipe it off or blend it with a paper towel. I used the tooth picks to scratch lines or make dots of other colors.
It was really fun and by the end of it my hands looked like I'd been painting (I should have worn some gloves). I had one green sheet for the caterpillar's body, another sheet that I painted a variety of colors and finally a partial sheet (leftover from another project) that I colored red, purple, brown, and yellow for the head, antenna, feet, and eyes.
I painted the sheets the day before picking up the cake and let them dry overnight.
While my sheets were drying I traced the caterpillar onto paper and cut out the pieces using a craft knife. I made sure to number all the segments, and also the feet. And mark anything there were two of (antenna and eyes) with a L or a R so I knew if they went on the right or left.
The next day I had my template, I had my edible "tissue paper", and I had my cake. I began cutting my pieces from the sugar sheets using my templates as my guide.
And before long my little caterpillar was taking shape.
I used the pre-cut black letter sugar sheet to spell out my message. Except for the number 2 and my nephew's name. Those I cut out of painted sugar sheet so they looked like Eric Carle Letters. I used the black letters as a template so my hand cut letters were the same size.
The only snafu came when I tried to place the caterpillar on the cake. I knew the chances assembling all those little pieces on the cake and having the caterpillar turnout straight were slim to none. I thought I could stick all the pieces together first using royal icing. My idea was to frost the basic shape onto parchment, place the pieces of the body on the frosting and let it dry.
Unfortunately I think my frosting base was too thin because as soon as I peeled it off the parchment it broke into five or six pieces. I ended up doing exactly what I feared- piecing the body together on the cake. But I still think my idea would have worked if I'd used a thicker base of frosting.
Last but not least I used royal icing to pipe the yellow line down the back and draw the caterpillar's hair with a toothpick.
In the end I actually turned out to be quite happy with plan B! I was thrilled with how much the painted sugar sheets really did resembled the tissue paper collage method of Eric Carle.