Lions and Tigers and Hippos, Oh My!

Well, it has certainly been a long time since my last post! Rest assured, I haven’t forgotten about this site or my baking endeavors, but I did get a full-time job at the end of March, so I’ve certainly had my hands full. Just getting in baking projects has almost been too much these days, and leaves little room for posting about my projects. I’ve done my best to document all of my recent baking, so I should have lots of posts to come. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much I can guarantee a schedule until I’m a little more comfortable at work, but I will do my best to keep things active.

In early April, I was asked to do some lactose-free cupcakes for a first birthday. We decided on a jungle theme for these cupcakes, using these as inspiration.

My cupcakes were a plain vanilla cupcake, with the milk swapped out for coconut milk, and the butter swapped out for shortening (I seem to get mixed answers as to whether butter is ok for those with a lactose intolerance). I also used shortening for the vanilla buttercream, which did make for a stunningly white buttercream, but also leaves it with a more sugary flavour (I think the butter really balances out the flavour in a traditional buttercream, but shortening doesn’t add much on its own).

When working with fondant for projects like these, I’ve found I really prefer to make my own fondant. Often the store-bought fondant is a little too stiff, and I find it has a bit of a funny taste. It’s also much easier than I would have thought, as it only requires two ingredients, marshmallow and icing sugar.

As there were so many different colours required for this project, I started my fondant a day ahead of time – there’s a lot of kneading involved to get the colours really well distributed!

For the lions, I used a flower-shaped cookie cutter on orange fondant as the mane. I then cut out a circle in yellow for the face and placed it in the centre of the flower, wetting the fondant slightly with water to get the two pieces to stick.  I added two white balls for the nose, two black dots for the eyes, and an orange ball for the mouth.

I made the zebra and tiger with similar techniques. For both, I cut out a circle (orange or white), and pressed in some thin strips of black. I think in future, I would try to roll these out using a similar technique as for my marbled fondant cupcakes, but using thinner strips of black to form the stripes. While I did like the look, I didn’t feel that the fondant stuck together as well as it should have, so these weren’t the most structurally sound.

I chose a soft blue for my elephant because I thought it would be a friendlier colour than grey for small children. I made the ears using a heart shaped cookie cutter and rolled out some tusks using white fondant. Finally, for the hippos I used a piping tip to indent a nose and whisker holes, and cut small squares of white fondant for teeth.

Overall, I’m quite happy with how these turned out. I think I like the black eyes (lion, hippo, and zebra) better than the small white eyes on the tiger and elephant. I think my favourite is the lion! It definitely looks the most put-together of the five animals. I’m hoping I can finesse my technique if I do similar cupcakes in the future, so I can make the rest look just as adorable.

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