An alternate title to this post is The Cake That Made Me Cry.
As the resident baker of the family, I was not surprised to receive a text from my sister asking me to bake my niece's 8th birthday cake. I was a little surprised to see my niece's design request:
In case that's not obvious to you, she wanted an American Girl Doll, specifically Grace, to be in the center. I felt in over my head between a lack of time and talent. I tried to get a photo of the doll printed on sugar sheet, but I couldn't find a bakery that would print the image without requiring me to order the whole cake from them.
I finally decided to just save myself the trouble and order the cake. I had a picture printed, picked up the photograph, and took all four kids into Sam's to order the cake the day before the party. The baker took one look at the picture and began scolding me for copyright infringement and yelled that she would never make that cake. I didn't argue her but she continued lecturing me. As the scene was unfolding, a church member stopped by to check in on us. I was so embarrassed and frustrated. We still had to pick up a few things at Sam's. Jackson had a total meltdown in the checkout line and I nearly ran over him with the shopping cart because he refused to get up off the ground [insert bitchy looks from other customers here]. As soon as I had everyone loaded in the van, Jesse called me and I broke down crying in the parking lot.
Six hours before the party, I picked up some ready-made white fondant. During this time, there were several texts and phone calls between sisters about whether or not to cancel the party due to a sick family member. We all voted that the show must go on, with a different location and two less attendants. I went home and began baking. Baking the chocolate sheet cake with vanilla icing was easy enough.
For the actual decorating, I tore off pieces of white fondant and dyed them colors close to the doll's original outfit. To color fondant, simply put a dab of food coloring into the center with a toothpick. Then begin kneading and pulling the fondant (similar to pulling taffy) until the color has worked itself through without streaks. This is a little tricky because the more you work with fondant, the softer and stickier it becomes from the heat of your hands. Some people wear latex gloves for this step.
I matched colors for the hair, clothing, eyes, and hair as best as I could.
I have a small set of numbers cookie cutters, which made the 8's the easiest part. I don't work with fondant often so I don't have any specific tools. I rolled out the fondant with a regular old rolling pin and cut it with a paring knife. Since I didn't dye the buttercream icing, I made the shirt a different color so it would pop against the white background. In hindsight, I should have just dyed the icing and made the shirt white to better resemble the doll's outfit.
I used edible pens that I already had to draw the pupils and the heart on the hat. I tried to used it to draw the Eiffel Tower on the shirt, but I messed up and ended up having to redo the shirt. I rolled little balls to attach as a border.
The finished product looks a bit juvenile, but the birthday girl was all smiles to see her cake. She smiled even more when she opened up her very own American Girl Doll from her parents.