First Birthday Cake – giraffe cake topper

My youngest has just turned one! She’s a real cutie (if I say so myself) and I’ve loved every minute of her first year in the world (though I won’t miss the sleeplessness of the first few months). It’s been such a delight to watch her develop and explore the world around her, so I wanted to make her a special first birthday cake to celebrate.

She’s received quite a few giraffe soft toys from family and friends which she loves playing with, so a fondant giraffe was the perfect cake topper for her. As her big sister has a birthday only two days before her, we had a combined birthday party…and you guessed it, I had two cakes to make for the same day. My eldest is obsessed with Frozen (see my previous post).

Making a fondant giraffe is no easy feat. I studied and researched every YouTube clip out there to pick up design tips. There are so many amazing cake decorators who graciously share their know how online for amateurs like me and I’m truly grateful for their expertise.

Firstly I coloured some fondant with yellow and orange food colouring gel. It only took a few minutes to mix it through. I also added small amounts of tylose powder to help harden the fondant. Though I only added the tylose to the fondant I was working on at the time – otherwise it would of gone hard before I had a chance to model it.

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I formed a rough yellow pear shape for the body of my giraffe and set it aside for a couple of hours. I inserted a bamboo skewer in the middle to stabilise it. I must say that short nails are a must when modelling with fondant…I couldn’t help getting marks all over the place…nail biters would be perfect at this.

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I made the head by forming a slightly squashed small pear and added it on top of the body with a dab of glycerine (flower glue). The hardest part was definitely the face. Using some fondant modelling tools I added a smile, nostrils and using a ball tool, made indents for eye sockets.

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Next I covered the body in small orange fondant circles. I used piping nozzles to cut the circles out.

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Then I molded four sausages, two longer than the others, to form the arms and legs. I flattened the end to form the hooves and with glycerine positioned them on the body. I finished it off by adding more orange circles.

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I rolled two small white fondant balls for the eyes and positioned them with glycerine. I then used an edible black marker to dot the eyes.

The ears required a bit of fiddling to get right. I used two circle cut outs and squashed the ends together. I made two small holes in the top of the head and positioned them with glycerine. I then added two very small antlers (is that what they’re called?). I also decided that a little flower would look cute too.

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The last job was to make an orange mane and tail. I made this bit up by playing with the modelling tools. All done and too cute.

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Though before you think I’m some type of fondant genius, I must be honest and admit that this was my second attempt at making a giraffe. Below is a photo of my first attempt…how can I put this delicately…gravity was definitely not her friend😜

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The Cake

I made a vanilla butter cake in 8 inch and 5 inch layers (my recipe can be found here). I decided a lemon layered cake would be a nice contrast to my eldest daughters chocolate mud cake. Not everyone wants to eat chocolate cake after all.

I made a lemon curd for the layer filling. This recipe is super easy and can be used in so many wonderful desserts, such as lemon tarts, on even simply smeared on bread for afternoon tea. Thankfully this recipe made more than enough, so I had some left over.

Lemon curd filling

  • 4 tblsp corn starch/flour
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tblsp unsalted butter

In a double boiler whisk the corn flour, sugar and lemon juice until it starts to thicken. Once off the heat, stir through the butter. When stored in the fridge it should turn into a jelly.

Cream cheese lemon icing

  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 65g unsalted butter
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 cups icing sugar

This cream cheese icing was nice and firm with a mild lemony flavour. It would be great on carrot cake. In a mixer, mix the cream cheese until fluffy and then add the butter, lemon juice, zest, vanilla and icing sugar. Mix thoroughly.

Cake assembly

One of the best tips I’ve discovered for decorating cakes is to pipe icing on the inside of the cake circumference. This prevents the lemon curd filling, which is soft, from leaking or bulging out the side of the cake when the weight of the layers on top would normally squeeze out the filling. It’s also a good idea to keep the cake in the fridge to keep the icing firm.

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After covering both cake tiers in white fondant, I cut some yellow and orange fondant strips for the bottom tier and cut out circles for the top tier. I attached them using glycerine.

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Ta daaa! After making two cakes for the one party, understandably I’m a bit caked out…

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