EPIC FAIL: "Bleeding" Red Velvet Puppy Cake
In retrospect, it should have occurred to me that a red velvet puppy cake was a really bad idea. My neighbor's daughter was turning 4 years old and LOVES puppies. I love making cakes and she's a great kid so when her mother requested a puppy cake I said "Sure!". Neither one of us had really thought it through (obviously) so when it came time to sing Happy Birthday and cut the cake we were not prepared for the reaction of the crowd of 4 and 5 year olds. When I first sank the knife into the puppy's forearm I didn't notice the dead silence at first. I didn't even realize there was a problem until the shrieking started. By that time I had lopped off puppy's face and both paws. The kids were crying and screaming that I killed the puppy. Upon reflection, the red velvet insides did give the distinct look of blood and gory insides. In my defense, the cake was delicious. None of the kids felt better when I took a big bite to show them "look, it's a yummy cake, just try it". In fact, that's what pushed the kids over the edge and the party quickly disbanded after that. I received several dirty looks as the parents of the guests filed out the front door. The more charitable adults just rolled their eyes at me, I took that to mean "poor dumb idiot".
On the chance that you have older boys who might like this sort of thing, or if you'd like to learn from my experience, this Instructable shows you how to scar children emotionally with a simple birthday cake.
I would have included pictures of the kids reactions but none of the parents would give me permission, go figure.
Step 1: Baking the Cake
I use simple cake mixes right out the the box but I make one change. Instead of baking the cake batter in the recommended size pans, I double the recipe and pour all the batter into a sheet cake pan. This gives me a large flat piece of cake to cut into layers and shapes as needed. For the puppy cake I used red velvet cake mix, this turned out to be a very unfortunate choice. I don't know if a yellow or chocolate cake would have been better, but the kids did seem to be particularly affected by the deep red color after I cut the cake. I also believe that the color influenced their decision to not even try the cake, but it's hard to be sure with all the crying and screaming.
The icing is an old family recipe and it's very simple. Just confectionary sugar (also called 10x sugar), milk, Crisco, and vanilla or almond flavoring. I used almond flavoring since it is clear unlike vanilla and I wanted a light icing color. I also added a few drops of yellow food coloring to make the puppy look like the golden retriever puppy the birthday girl was receiving. My efforts to make the puppy cake resemble her puppy ended up being the wrong choice. I even used Lactose-free milk to accommodate one of the guest's special diet, but trust me no one appreciates that after you butcher a puppy cake while their kid watches.
I mixed the icing while the cake baked. After the cake cooled I went to the next step, shaping the cake.
Step 2: Shaping the Puppy
I cut the sheet cake into three pieces, two equal pieces and a smaller third piece (about half the size of the first two pieces). I stacked the layers with icing in between each layer and started carving. The smaller piece on top became the puppy's head, back, and rear. I slowly cut away the upper layers to form front and back paws, then a head with a snout, then insets at the waist. I used the cut away pieces to cut even smaller wedges to use as ears an used icing as glue to secure then against the head. I rounded the edges of the puppy's rear and paws to make it look more lifelike and less boxy, that was probably an error.
When I was satisfied with the shape of the puppy cake I spread a thin layer of icing over the entire cake to give the decorative icing a base. When your base icing is in place it's time to decorate the cake.
Step 3: Decorate the Cake
First I created an icing bag by folding freezer paper into a cone and then taping it securely. Cut off the pointy end and insert a cake decorating tip into the paper cone. I used a Wilton grass tip to create a real fur effect. I filled the bag with my colored icing and folded over the open end when it was full. Squeezing icing "fur" is pretty easy but also time consuming. You start at the bottom of the cake so the fur overlaps itself as you work your way up the cake. Remember to think about which way a real puppy's fur would lay so you can replicate the fur pattern.
When fur is complete, use candy to create eyes, nose, tongue, toes and definition lines on the cake. I used leftover Halloween candy to create these features. Be creative with the details, I used caramel apple chews to roll and form lines, pink Laffy Taffy for a formed tongue, and Gobstoppers for eyes and nose. It could have easily been other candies but I like to use what I have. Just remember to use edible trim, and be creative.
Up until this point I thought the cake was going to be a big hit, I gave myself a big pat on the back when I finished it and I could just imagine all the oohs and ahhs this cake would receive. That was a miscalculation.
Step 4: The First Cut Is Always the Cruelest
Here's where a fantastic triumph turns into a greek tragedy. I brought the cake with me to the neighbors's party. I received several lovely compliments and a big sweet hug from the birthday girl. I should have left at that point but I offered to stay and help out with the party - MISTAKE. When it came time to sing Happy Birthday and serve the cake I should have been three states away and running. However, instead I sliced and diced that puppy into bleeding pieces to the horror of every kid there. You'll notice the photos only show the first cut which was a paw. The cameras were set down once the kids started crying. I wish I had realized what caused the commotion before I lopped off the head and other paw but I was concentrating on plating the pieces.
I should also mention that several of the dads in attendance thought it was pretty funny and were willing to eat the cake. That is until their wives turned the stinkeye on them, after that I was persona non-grata to everyone. People gathered up their kids and left pretty quickly after the massacre.
So, the lesson to remember is that if you want to scar kids emotionally, start marital strife among the couples/parents you know, and be avoided like the plague at neighborhood gatherings, be sure to try a red velvet puppy cake of your very own.