This cake was for a 21 year old boy who (apparently!) loves surfing. I sent off some initial sketches, customer approved the one below, cake was booked in… All was fine until I actually sat down and thought about the fact I actually had no idea how to make a palm tree.
Now when you’re making cakes for a friend or family member, if your palm tree stuffs up, you just go to the two dollar shop and buy a crappy-looking plastic one and there you have it. But when someone is paying you to be specifically not-crappy at something, you can’t really rely on these kind of plan B’s. So I thought about it for an awfully long time… and I googled and I thought and I googled. For the first time, google didn’t really have the answer for me. I saw a few palm trees but none that really took my fancy, and no detailed tutorials (yes there is this wilton one, but that’s a pretty lame looking palm tree if you ask me). So I had to come up with this baby from scratch. For anybody is interested in how to make it I have posted all the info at the bottom of this blog post.*
I did the blue waves by cutting a 3 inch strip from blue icing and using a circle cutter to make the wave patter out of the top. It didn’t line up at the back though!
I used the same silhouette as the surfboard topper for the side shapes, and again cut them out with my craft knife.
The sand on top turned out surprisingly realistic looking – AND it was super easy! Simply mix royal icing with raw sugar, and a TINY bit of food colouring. I used a combination of brown and orange. (But seriously, only the tinniest amount!). It dries absolutely rock hard so it was excellent for holding the toppers all in place!
This post is dedicated to my beautiful grandpa who passed away from cancer during the week I had to make this cake. It was certainly a tough week and I was just glad the cake was finished in time. The fact it turned out well was a bonus. Sometimes we just have to soldier on; the toughest times often surprise us with our strength and resilience. Looking through old photos I realised so many with my Pa & I feature cakes. And that’s why I love cake. It’s not just something to eat. Cakes symbolise celebration, family, milestones and happy times.
*How to make a palm tree out of icing:
- 1 sturdy wooden skewer
- Florist wire (thicker gauge = easier to work with)
- Balling tools
- Lily cutter (I bought mine from the Cake Emporium but they don’t appear to be in their online store at the moment. They are these kind. You only need the biggest oval one, it looks sort of like a gum leaf.)
- Balling pad
- Fondant + tylose OR fondant mixed with gum paste
- Edible glue (water may work but I always use tylose mixed with warm water)
- A lot of patience + trial & error!
This would have been a whole lot easier to explain if I had taken photos but I was rather stressed so it was really the last thing on my mind. METHOD
- Make the leaves – use the lily cutter to cut out as many branches as you need (I made spares) from green fondant with tylose (or gum paste). You will need to work quickly as the tylose will make the icing set quickly. Be sure to cover any leaves you aren’t working on with plastic.
- Insert small sections of wire (no more than a few inches long) down the centre of the leaf. This is tricky and takes practice, as the wire tends to want to pierce the icing.
- Cut little indents out along the sides to look like a palm tree frond.
- Use your balling tool to soften the edges
- Bend the wire hanging out of the bottom to a 90 degree (or close) angle. I did this by placing the leaf on the edge of my craft mat with the exposed wire hanging over the edge of my bench, holding the soft foam balling pad on top of the leaf so that only the exposed wire hangs out, and pushing down on the excess wire against the bench edge. This is confusing to explain but makes more sense when you do it. It allows you to bend the wire without tearing any icing.
- Use a knife or modelling tools to imprint lines from centre to edge of leaves (see photo) -on the top this small detail is what makes all the difference to the finished product!
- Using your fingers, carefully push the sides down towards each other, as if you are folding the leaf in half (but obviously don’t go that far!) – this is just to give the illusion that the leaf falls a little either side of the centre.
- Stick in a flower drying block of foam to strengthen up and set hard.
- Leave the leaves to dry over a few days – it’s important they are sturdy before you try and insert them into the trunk.
- Make the tree trunk (a few days later!) – I used brown fondant mixed with a LOT of tylose because air got in my gum paste and it was all dried out. It actually worked really well with tylose though! I was pleasantly surprised. The trick is to add a decent amount.
- Roll it into a log shape and then stick the skewer down the middle of it. Stop before the skewer comes out the top but make sure it goes almost to the end. Make sure there are multiple inches hanging out the bottom to enable you to stick it into the cake when you need to. Keep in mind it will be heavy so make the exposed skewer as big as possible. I made mine the whole height of my cake so the skewer ran all the way from the board up the trunk.
- Use a knife to imprint notches up it. I was originally intending to use a small circle cutter to cut out semicircles in different shades of brown and layer them all up the trunk, but I ran out of time. I am not sure how that would turn out!
- Insert the leaves on wires into the trunk – use edible glue on the wires to ensure they stay secure
- Attach some coconuts to cover the wire – just small balls of brown icing will do the job. I used royal icing to attach them, as it doubles as a way to hold the wires put too!
- Leave whole tree to dry – I stuck mine in a foam cake dummy to set completely before I stuck it in the cake.