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cake decor idea for 11-y-old competitive swimmer

IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 08:03 AM

Hi everyone,

I know this isn't really cake decorating central, but just in case...I am in need of some guidance with a cake I'm making for my good friend's son, who will be turning 11. He's a competitive swimming, lemon-loving food snob, and I want to make his cake excellent-tasting but also giving it a pool/swimming theme (in the competitive sense).

Here are my ideas so far:

I want to make the Epicurious lemon layer cake (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...


I'll use:
-Blue sprinkles on top for pool water (possibly cake spray as well [sold at Michael's]?)
-now and later or haribo brick candies for diving board base
-spearmint gum for diving board
-halved life savers for top of diving board "handles" (this may be precarious--cutting life savers in half, hah!)
-miniature gingerbread men or teddy grahams for swimmers--maybe pipe blue goggles on them with my limited piping skills--not sure I will do this, but I can't think of any other way to portray swimmers--if I use them, I will stick them in the cake sideways like they're swimming
-skinny red licorice ropes for lanes

possibly find mini flags to hang on the sides of the cake?

Will the recipe's frosting (mascarpone, whipped cream, sugar) will be OK for this? I want to use frosting that tastes good and having made this frosting before I know it's great but it obviously needs to work, so that I can stand my little diving board in it. If there are better ideas for the diving board, too, I'd love to hear them--I've looked high and low for a plastic diving board cake topper or toy I could just put on the silly thing, but no dice. Plus, I'd like to make a diving board for each lane.

  1. j
    jenhen2 Jan 4, 2009 08:24 AM

    I would suggest fronsting the cake as usual and then using a canned frosting for the decorations. Anything with whipped cream won't hold up enough, and I swear, I've served canned frosting to the biggest of food snobs and no one is ever the wiser, plus the consistency is perfect for decorating!

    Otherwise, I think you're decoration ideas sound perfect! Really creative and I think it will look fabulous! Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: jenhen2
      IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 09:36 AM

      Very good idea. So I'd still frost the top of the cake with the mascarpone/whipped cream and then "glue" my diving board together with the canned frosting?

      1. re: IndyGirl
        jenhen2 Jan 4, 2009 09:49 AM

        That's what I think. Depending on what you decide with the water, you could use colored canned for the pool, too. I would also "glue" the other pieces with the canned so they have something to hold onto (railing, ropes, etc.).

    2. Channa Jan 4, 2009 09:02 AM

      Oh that sounds so cute!! Piping gel would be perfect for the water. You can buy blue or tint it with gel or paste colours. Wilton makes it, so places like Jo-Ann's or Michaels usually carry it.

      Here's some info, and even a recipe (haven't tried it myself) for homemade piping gel.
      Your local supermarket bakery would likely sell you a small amount-- it's popular for retirement cakes (swimming pools and golf course water traps).

      I hope you'll post a photo!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Channa
        IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 09:37 AM

        Would I put the piping gel on top of the white icing from the recipe (made from mascarpone and whipped cream)?

        1. re: IndyGirl
          Channa Jan 4, 2009 11:04 AM

          Yes, just a thin layer to give it that glassy look. Do a small test-run on a plate to be sure the colour is right, etc. Here's a link explaining:

          Another thought is to make blue Jello with added gelatine to make it extra-firm; Make a very thin layer in a glass dish. Unmould, and cut into desired shape. Again, you'd do a test run.

          I do worry about your frosting. It sounds very soft for decorating.

      2. n
        nemo Jan 4, 2009 09:17 AM

        Do lap racers use diving boards? Here's a Flikr of a diving board. I don't know what the baker used for the side piece, but you might be able to make a template of that shape and cut out of fruit leather or something sturdy. Might be easier than trying to cut the Life Savers!


        3 Replies
        1. re: nemo
          IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 09:43 AM

          Actually, someone from another board gave me the idea of using gummi savers-- so that problem is solved. I'm SO scared of shaping stuff out of royal icing! I thought about fondant, but I'm also not practiced at that, though it seems like a diving board would be really easy.

          1. re: IndyGirl
            coastie Jan 4, 2009 09:54 AM

            Pastillage is great for making small decorative items. My kid wanted fenway for her birthday. Pastillage is fairly cheap to make, moderately forgiving. Work quickly, keep the main batch covered at all times. Works well as a modeling paste for small dimensional items...or rolled flat you can paint on it to make signs and time board etc. I used pastillage for all my signage, lights, bases, roof. Have fun.

            1. re: coastie
              IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 10:53 AM

              Hmmmm, maybe I could make a score board with his name on it!!!!! OOOOOH! He would love that!

        2. l
          LightCrème Jan 4, 2009 09:50 AM

          This little boy sounds like my twin! (Only that I'm a girl, and 15) But, I'd flip to recieve this cake. He'll love it! Although, I hope when you say, "diving board" you really mean "block/ starting block." There's a big difference, and being a serious swimmer; I'm sure he'll notice.

          3 Replies
          1. re: LightCrème
            IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 10:45 AM

            OK, thank you for that distinction! Do you have a good picture of this on the web? It sounds like the starting block would be a lot easier...

            1. re: IndyGirl
              IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 10:50 AM

              OK, I just googled images of this--so what if I used several blue sticks of chewing gum cut off to make them shorter, and then propped them up somehow to tilt forward? IDeas of how I would do this?

              Details will be appreciated by this kid and his parents and our friends--I know them very well. :)

              1. re: IndyGirl
                LightCrème Jan 4, 2009 05:08 PM

                I'm no cake decorator. Although, the gum sounds like a cool idea! I nice treat after the cake too. You could cut out the shape from fruit leather. Plain old piped icing would look good. Or, you could press in some dragées. Here's a picture of the standard racing block. . .


          2. o
            ola Jan 4, 2009 10:14 AM

            I used to make an end-of-the-year cake for my kids with a swimming pool. I made turquoise frosting for the water, marked the lanes with red licorice, high dive from stacked lifesavers with pieces of chewing gum for the board(three pieces held together with icing), beach towels from fruit stripe chewing gum, teddy grahams with bathing suits. Kids love it! Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: ola
              IndyGirl Jan 4, 2009 11:08 AM

              I really like the idea of the diving board being THREE pieces of chewing gum held together with icing. (Oops, I mean starting block...)

            2. chowser Jan 4, 2009 01:25 PM

              I just made this cake since you posted it and the frosting is pretty firm and can be firmer on refrigerating. I had no problems piping scrolls and roses with it and it held up. This cake takes time and is delicious as it is so I wouldn't add canned frosting, royal icing, jello, etc., anything that will take away the taste of the cake.

              A couple of thoughts, first, an 11 year old boy could be getting too old for cutesy decorations and might go for something more plain. But, if he still does, I think blue sanding sugar could be used for the water. It'll probably melt somewhat so it'll look more like water and kind of shimmery. And, it won't change the taste much. Is this going to be a round cake? It really is impressive with the 4 layers and I wouldn't change it to a shorter rectangular cake. If it's round, will you make a tiny little pool in the middle? There won't be that much room.

              If you want diving blocks, you could use piped chocolate (white, dark, or use melting candy for whatever color you want). Draw the shape you want, put it under a sheet of transparency. Melt white chocolate in ziploc bag (or alternatively melt and put in pastry bag). Cut a tiny hole and pipe the outline. It dries and peels off easily, so you could easily do a square. You want the chocolate to melt but not be too hot or it'll be hard to control. I know you said you''re not sure about your piping skills but it's pretty easy if you have the right consistency, plus is you mess up, you scrape it off and start all over. I found a site with more details (page down to chocolate shapes). Make all the parts and then assemble using the chocolate as glue.


              You can also use the white chocolate for lane dividers. I'd spread out the melted white chocolate on the back of a baking sheet (see site under white chocolate cut outs). When cooled, just cut strips. At the same time, cut out a rectangular score board. Hmmm, on second thought, you could cut squares here and use those for the diving blocks. You could avoid piping all together. You could make flags w/ fruit leather. You could just use cheap little plastic dolls from the party store for swimmers. Just push half of their body under the water, face down, one arm straight ahead.

              But, I think the cake is beautiful on its own and already time consuming. You could easily triple the amount of time spent on a cute design. I enjoy it but it doesn't add to the taste of the cake.

              7 Replies
              1. re: chowser
                IndyGirl Jan 5, 2009 02:56 AM

                Thank you for your very helpful post! I've made the cake before as well, and it is outstanding, I agree.

                I was planning to still make it four layers, just in a square cake pan. And the whole top of the cake would be the pool. Square would just make it easier to have lanes.

                The white chocolate is a good point--I had thought about the fact that the licorice is a pain and would be hard to deal with when cutting the cake.I would indeed prefer to keep the recipe more elegant. I love the idea of just using the white chocolate as the starting block---MUCH EASIER!

                I know this kid, though, and I don't think my efforts will be lost. He's a very appreciative fellow when someone goes to these great lengths! :)

                1. re: IndyGirl
                  chowser Jan 5, 2009 04:05 AM

                  For a small square cake (I'm guessing 9x9?), you really won't have much space. I'd take it easy on yourself and make it simple. Build up some frosting and put an andes mints (or any small piece of chocolate) on top for the racing block. Do only three lanes at most, about 1 1/2-2" wide. Put them close to the edge of the cake so you can use one side to write "Happy Birthday". Make the pool by making peaks in the frosting by touching it right after you frost it w/ the edge of the spatula then sprinkle blue sanding sugar on it.


                  You can often get them at Michael's or party stores, cake decorating section. I'd probably wait until the frosting on the cake is dry, cut out a rectangle stencil the shape of the pool. Spritz quickly w/ water and sprinkle the blue sugar into the template so you get a perfect rectangle.

                  You can carefully pipe a line of frosting for the lines (the hard part will be not to touch the sanding sugar and pull it up), after that's set and dry, for the lines in the pool. Use Polly Pockets for the swimmers. You don't need to replicate anything perfectly, just give the illusion of it and people will get it. As the flags go, you could use pirouettes or those little chocolate sticks and attach the fruit leather to it w/ melted white chocolate. But that would be frosting on the cake, so to speak.:-)

                  1. re: chowser
                    maplesugar Jan 5, 2009 12:41 PM

                    Polly Pockets! What an excellent idea for the swimmers! (Mother of two girls here, I should have remembered Polly doh!) :)

                    1. re: maplesugar
                      IndyGirl Jan 5, 2009 12:47 PM

                      where does one find polly pockets? :)

                      1. re: IndyGirl
                        maplesugar Jan 5, 2009 12:58 PM

                        ToysRUs or WalMart in the toy section...she stands about 2.5 inches tall and comes with micro sized accessories (think purse the size of your pinky finger nail)

                        1. re: IndyGirl
                          chowser Jan 5, 2009 01:07 PM

                          You might be able to find them at Tuesday Morning type clearance stores or maybe even Kaybee Toys really cheap. But, as maplesugar said, ToysRUs or any large store should carry them.

                  2. re: chowser
                    IndyGirl Jan 5, 2009 03:00 AM

                    Also I love the idea of making the flags from fruit leather! Where would you put the flags? On the sides of the cake? Or around the top edge, since I'm planning to make the whole top edge the pool?

                  3. s
                    somervilleoldtimer Jan 4, 2009 07:22 PM

                    I like your ideas. But I would take apart a boy "Ken" doll, and use arms/head/back to pose a swimmer halfway out of the icing, doing the boy's stroke, whatever it may be.

                    1. maplesugar Jan 4, 2009 07:54 PM

                      Some suggestions about the pool...I spent 15+ years around pools as a competitive swimmer and lifeguard:

                      In smaller pools (the ones without dive tanks) the diving boards are pulled out for swim meets so I dunno that you need to include the board.
                      For each lane there will be a starting block, not a diving board, from the top down view it'll look like a rectangle and they're white or yellow... pick any colour of fruit leather/rollup :)
                      Rather than licorice for the lanes (hard to cut through when cutting the cake) I'd suggest using small round candies like those on candy necklaces.

                      A friend of mine just made a personalized cake topper with fondant - I'd make swimmers out of fondant if possible(Micahel's carries fondant) It'd be easier to get googles on them, and you could score bonus points and paint their suits in his team colours... but then that depends on how much time you have.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: maplesugar
                        IndyGirl Jan 5, 2009 03:01 AM

                        The small round candies are a great idea--thanks. I guess those would look more like the buoyed lane dividers!

                        1. re: maplesugar
                          PattiCakes Jan 13, 2009 05:06 AM

                          I agree on the diving board thing. Both of my kids were swimmers, and they just wouldn't relate to the diving board -- starting blocks at the head of each lane is more appropriate. A stop-watch as part of the "table scape" would be cute. I might also make a prop "record board" with the birthday boy's name & a "record time" posted.

                        2. IndyGirl Jan 13, 2009 01:40 AM

                          Hey guys--an update! Thank you all for your fantastic suggestions. The young man in question was thrilled with his cake and I was also happy with how it turned out. I could not have done it without your inspiration and suggestions. The fruit leather flags and starting block ideas were fantastic. Thank you again!

                          1. IndyGirl Jan 13, 2009 01:40 AM

                            Not sure why my pics aren't posting! Help?

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