We like to party! Or more specifically, we really like party planning. One of the first things Brette and I bonded over was the fun we had planning her daughter Cosette’s first birthday. Pink and bold, glitter and gold, the flower wall, the cake, the tutus… it was the frilliest, girliest party we could dream up and we loved every detail. So did all of the people on the “Okinawa Yard Sales” page who fought each other to buy the spoils of our labor when we decided to sell it all rather than throw it out.
After Cozi’s party, we’ve been dying to throw more parties together, but when it came time for her son’s fourth birthday party we were both kind of stuck. Ruffles and ribbons come easily… but he wanted a rough and tumble, ninja turtle party. I’ve never seen an episode of Ninja Turtles, so I was at a severe disadvantage.
Brette, however, who is the quintessential girl-mom, is also pretty phenomenal boy-mom, so she was undaunted by the task and immediately started putting together a bunting banner made of pizza slices. I take all of my cues from her, so I decided if Aunt Windy can do a princess cake, Aunt Windy can do a radical ninja turtle cake too. <Enter Pinterest> It seemed that every cake we saw on pinterest was a combination of: cityscape/brick/sewer/turtles, or pizza/sewer/turtles, or green ombre/sewer/turtles. In the end we didn’t re-create the wheel. We decided to go with the cityscape/brick/sewer combo because it matched the backdrops Brette had already made. And given my TMNT knowledge, I decided I’d just give my spin to a cake that is already infinitely popular on pinterest. Confession: even after shaping all those little heads, I still have no clue which turtle is which.
The week before the party, we hit an unexpected bump in the road, (or hole in the steps) when I fell and broke my foot. Brette had done everything for this party all on her own, and for a couple of days I was afraid she might be doing the cake too. The pain, the swelling, the throbbing… it was all a little much. But then Cruise came over and kissed my “ouchie”, and looked at me with those big blue eyes, and said, “Windy, are you still making my cake?”
No amount of swelling was going to keep me from getting on the floor to navigate through my overfilled baking/decorating cabinet, find a way to transfer cakes from the fridge to the counter with one foot and no hands, and somehow manage to create the best darn ninja turtle cake a four year old could want. Thank goodness Kelsey was doing the baking, so it was just the fondant that fell to me. It takes a village, my friends!
Here’s my step-by-step Ninja turtle cake tutorial, plus some turtle cake tips & tricks for those of you who are interested in decorating a totally radical and four-year-old approved Ninja Turtle fondant cake. Plus a timeline to get it all done without going crazy.
5 days out
- Start early. I started shaping the heads five full days before the party so they could be shaped and reshaped as they dried. Turtles heads aren’t circles, so resist the urge to make four green balls and cover them with swatches of colored fondant for masks. It’s easy enough to pinch their faces into shape. Here’s the video I used to give me direction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjVkUka1elw#t=9 She doesn’t explain what she’s doing, but it’s fun to watch someone shape fondant so flawlessly.
- I rolled black fondant as thin as I could get it, much thinner than I normally work with, and cut it using a fondant knife to be the approximate size of the mouth. Then I used a fondant tool to gently press it into the mouth and kind of hide it under the edge of the mouth.
- To create eyes I almost always use round decorating tips. For the Ninja Turtle eyes, I used a size 7 for the whites and then lightly rolled my pin over it in one direction to elongate it. Then used a 5 for the black part of the eye, stacked them and squished them lightly. The bandanna was easy enough, just a strip of color with two moon-shaped rounds placed above the eye. I used the round tips again for this in the largest size I had- 2A, I believe.
- The last “prep step” was to create the sewer cover. I wanted this to be as dry and hard as possible since it was going to be resting on top of the turtle heads and I didn’t want it to drape. It is a man hole cover, after all!
- To make the sewer, use a large circle cookie cutter, roll a long piece of fondant around that, and use the “flower leaf and shape tool” to lightly press into the fondant to create a diamond plate pattern.
The Day Before
- The morning before the party I covered the cakes with fondant using the fondant mat. It’s a new toy and is probably the best $30 I have ever spent. It cuts down drastically in the time it takes me to roll out fondant and now covering them is a breeze.
- I covered the first layer in a dark swirly blue. I wanted it to look like the night sky. The top layer was covered in a soft grey, similar to the color I used for the man hole cover.
- After the cakes were covered, I cut a variety of rectangles and a few triangles out of black fondant to create a city scape on the bottom layer. I used a small brush to wet the pieces and slapped them on in no particular order, just making sure the heights varied.
- The bricks were easy. I cut long strips into red fondant, then cut them again to make rectangles. Again I used the brush to attach them to the cake. I added a ring of grey fondant to the top to give it an edge.
- My husband is the dowel-master, but I forgot to take a picture, so I will have to describe it. He creates a triangle shape with dowels and places one in the middle for some cakes, or uses a square shape for the heavier ones. Because we knew this cake would be heavy, he went with the square. One trick we’ve learned, is to cut the dowels with sharp points on the top so they actually pierce the little bit of the cake board that is resting on top of them. This prevents any little space being created in between the two layers.
- While he pierced my creation with dowels, I set about creating the finishing touches. A small clock for the tower. Tiny white stars for the sky. Little yellow rectangles for the windows on the buildings. Again I did this without any pattern in mind, trying to keep it randomly realistic.
- Next came Cruise’s name. I rolled out thin green fondant snakes, shaped the letters, and then used the ball tool to flatten them and create texture. No cookie cutters necessary- which was a relief because I didn’t have any this size. I arranged the green letters on black fondant and slapped the whole thing on the side of the top brick layer.
- The last thing I did before going to bed was work on creating the pizza that the whole cake was going to rest on. I spread red fondant along the bottom of the tray and used the ball tool to created texture. I rolled out a long piece of light beige fondant for the crust and smoothed the seam until it disappeared. I shaped red pepperonis and draped them over my modeling tools to give them realistic looking edges.
- I started cutting white fondant that I had colored just barely yellow into crazy thin strips for cheese. After shredding about 1/10 of the cheese I needed my husband suggested maybe I freeze the fondant overnight and actually grate it over the pizza in the morning. Sometimes he is brilliant. I popped the fondant in the freezer and went to bed.
The Morning Of
- I awoke, grated the fondant cheese (Dane’s technique worked like a charm), and painted the pepperonis with accents of brown. I wanted them to glisten like they’d just come out of an oven.
- Then we started to assemble the cake, just to discover that I had made a huge mistake when I created the pizza the night before. As we went to lower layer one onto the pizza tray, I realized that the cake board covered almost the entire pizza (including all my perfectly formed pepperonis!).
- Time to rethink. I dumped off all the cheese. Places the cake inside the crust, pressed new red fondant onto the cake board, re-sprinkled the cheese and viola! All was good except that I adored my pepperonis and now there was no room for them.
- Not to worry– on to the first layer they went. I don’t care if pepperonis don’t normally grace the top of a city scape. They were adorable, and they were sticking around.
- The last thing to do before leaving was pull out the grey fondant and stick those little turtle suckers on the top! I basically just put a lump of grey fondant on the top to use as modeling clay to hold the turtles on, but luckily I have a cobblestone fondant mold from a Rapunzel cake I did years ago, so I was able to give the lump of clay a stony look.
And there it is. A step-by-step guide for creating this fun and relatively easy Ninja Turtle fondant cake.