Nonetheless, I wanted to share some notes (before I forget!) on how I made this cake in case any of you have pig-lovers as friends/family/clients/selves. Wish I'd thought to document the initial cake carving/spackling process, but I'm hoping the 3 pre-buttercream shots below are still helpful. If you have any additional questions about how I made this Wheek-tastic cake, don't hesitate to leave a comment or shoot me an email!
Guinea Pig Carved Cake
Makes one approximately 11 x 5 x 5-inch cake
12 or 14-inch Cake Drum (sturdy base board)
Three 8-inch square cake layers
***I made 1.5x batch of my favorite chocolate cake with 1 extra egg and 1/3 cup less coffee
Black, Brown, Yellow, Pink and Green gel OR powdered food coloring
Spatula (for frosting between cake layers)
Sharp Knife for Carving
Piping Bags (optional)
Medium Paintbrush (used for food ONLY, with coarse bristles for best texture)
LOTS of Paper Towels
Gumpaste (for eyes, ears, and nose)
Vegetable Oil (for painting the eyes)
Smaller Paintbrush (for painting the eyes)
Wilton Tip #233 (or other grass piping tip)
I started off by cutting, filling, and stacking my cake layers with chocolate frosting to make a 10 x 5 x 4-inch rectangular cake. Crumble any leftover cake into crumbs and combine with enough frosting to make an easily moldable material for spackling the cake. (If you've ever made a cake pop, this is essentially what goes into cake pop fillings.). Chill rectangular cake for at least 30 minutes, then start carving! Use back and forth motions with a sharp knife to cut away small pieces of cake at a time. I just looked at a LOT of photos of guinea pigs (including my friend's actual pigs) and became familiar with their shape from different sides. To start with, you'll want to smooth out all the top corners and carve more toward the middle to create a subtle "waist" between the main guinea pig body segments. I'm not great at thinking in 3D, so this part was nerve-wracking when I thought I could only cut away. BUT (and you can call this cheating but I won't care =p) once I started using the mixed paste of cake crumbs and frosting as spackle, both building up the shape and cutting it away, I was able to just have fun. The angle, size, and shape of the head also stumped me for quite a while, so I just kept building up the cake "butt" with more spackle haha. So if you noticed that this (pig) baby's got some back, the credit/blame falls squarely on these here shoulders...**cheeeeeesy grin**
If you find the cake getting too soft to carve well, simply stick it back in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up again and then continue working. When you're happy with the shape, chill the cake again to set the shape. While you're waiting on that, reserve about 1/2 cup of vanilla buttercream, then divide up and color the remaining chocolate and vanilla frostings to make the shades you want for the fur. I used black gel food coloring to darken chocolate buttercream and a mixture of vanilla frosting, chocolate frosting, and brown and yellow gel colors to create the lighter shade of brown fur on the pig.
Now's also a good time to color the 1/2 cup of vanilla buttercream reserved above a vibrant grass green for later. I used a combination of gel and powdered food coloring. Cover and set aside for later.
Once the cake has been chilled enough, it's time to add the fur-textured buttercream. I spent as much time figuring out the best way to do this as I did studying guinea pig shapes (is it just me or do those both make me sound ultra cool?? and not weird at ALL). The keys to getting a fur-like look with buttercream are (1) to use a paintbrush (one reserved for FOOD use ONLY) with somewhat coarse bristles, (2) to apply the different-colored sections from the back of the cake toward the head, and (3) to wipe your brush off VERY well whenever it touches more than one color at once.
To first get frosting on to the cake, I piped it in squiggles across the desired area (see above image) using a piping bag with its end snipped off. Then I went back over the area with my brush to smooth down the frosting. Now go back again and make long strokes with your brush over the entire area in the direction of natural hair/fur growth (use photos of real animals as the guideline). Be careful not to touch the brush to frosting of other colors outside of the one area you're working on at the time.
The most important part of this technique IMO is getting the borders between areas of different fur color to look right. Too distinct and it doesn't look like fur; too blended and it gets messy real quick. You always want to pull the brush in the natural direction of fur growth (usually from head to toe). So keep your (clean!) brush fairly flat (close to parallel to the cake surface) and pull the color slightly downward from the first section to the next.
IT IS CRITICAL not to touch your brush again to the cake right away. To avoid unrealistic smearing of colors, you'll need to wipe your brush clean with a paper towel between each stroke. Once done, you simply repeat this process for distinct section of fur, moving upwards on the pig "body" until you reach the head.
Once you've finished painting on the fur, it's time to make the eyes, ears, and nose from gumpaste (I used fondant+tylose). Color your gumpaste a pink-ish flesh tone using brown and pink gel coloring. The eyes are simply half-spheres that I rolled by hand. The ears are approximate circles (also hand-shaped for the most natural look) that were bent/ruffled slightly and left to firm up for 15 minutes. The nose was pretty basic with added indentations for nostrils. You could make these in advance, but they also dry enough within 30 minutes that it's fine to make them as you go.
Due to the important of the buttercream texture, you want to insert these in the right place the first time. The ears are probably most forgiving to adjustment, but the eyes and nose are much less so. The ears and nose were brushed over with some additional buttercream "fur" since they would be at least partially fur-covered in nature. I used the same fleshtone gumpaste for the eyes as for the other features and was slightly worried about getting them opaque black and shiny, but that turned out to be the easiest part of the cake lol. I simply mixed a little black gel color on a plate with a drop of vegetable oil. AFTER eyes have been inserted onto the cake, use a finer paintbrush to apply this to the gumpaste eyes. The water-based gel color and oil won't look like they're mixing on the plate, but I think it looked awesome once applied (see below).
Last but not least (cause I definitely had to cover up some messy frosting near the base of the cake!), fit a piping bag with a grass piping tip, and pipe a comfy patch of grass for your piggy friend to chillax on. Make sure there's no gap between the base of the cake and start of the grass. You may have to tilt your piping bag a lot at the beginning to accomplish this, but it's essential to giving the impression that he's "on top of" the grass.
Hope you enjoyed these tips -- if you use them to make any cake, even if it's not a guinea pig, I'd love to hear your feedback AND see a photo of your work. Cheers, X.