Among other out-of-the-ordinary-for-a-girl-her-age things, Tia loves ferrets. I can't stress that enough. She LOVES ferrets and all things ferret related. It started with a trip to the pet store one day when she decided she wanted a rabbit (we were just going to look at them, not buy one) and I pointed out the ferrets. There were two in the cage - as cute as could be and romping and playing around. Tia instantly fell in love. But, since daddy is allergic, she knows she can't have one until she grows up. That was two years ago.
Now Tia has a small collection of ferret things - toys, stuffed animals, a puppet, drawings, calendars, magazines, and even a pet store catalog that usually has an entire 3-4 pages dedicated to ferret items (cages, toys, beds, food, etc). Her favorite is "Coco", her well loved and worn Webkins ferret. In fact, Tia is our resident expert on the care and feeding of ferrets. I was quite prepared when she requested a ferret shaped cake for her 8th birthday (she's already 8?).
I had an idea about how to go about making her cake but I wanted more concrete plans. A search online didn't help much and I wound up patterning her cake after one I found on Cake Central, though that one had airbrushing on it - something I was not going to get into.
If you're unfamiliar with my cakes, I just have to mention that I try to make things as easy as possible. I like made-from-scratch cakes as much as the next person, but I spend a lot of time on decorating the cakes so when it comes to a cake project, I simply use boxed cake mix and canned icing - something anyone can just pick up at the store. You could certainly make your cake and icing from scratch and go from there but the results you see in the pictures, unless otherwise noted, are from boxed cake mix and canned icing (usually Pillsbury brand).
I realized I could just carve out the cake and ice it with a Grass and Hair decorating tip (Wilton Tip 233).
To start, I baked an entire box of cake mix in a 10 inch round cake pan. I added 1/4 cup additional flour to the mix because a) the altitude in Colorado and b) to make a denser cake (easier to carve without falling apart). I baked it for the amount of time a 13 x 9 cake calls for. It certainly rose enough...
I used the additional height to my advantage. It would mean less carving and piecing together to make the rounded body of the ferret.
I carved out the body and tail in one piece, then the head and the legs and pieced them all together. The pieces don't have to be carved perfectly. The icing has a way of rounding everything out. The leg pieces are also there to just add "bulk" to those areas and define parts.
To ice the body, I didn't want to use just plain brown. A ferret's fur, like many animals, is a mixture of several shades. I knew I didn't want to do the airbrushing. I also only wanted a hint of color change - and something that was quick and easy to do (sometimes I can be a very lazy decorator).
I decided to mix a small amount of vanilla icing into the brown chocolate icing.
I didn't want to mix it too much because I wanted there to be a hint of color change. I just marbled the two icings together.
Then I filled my decorating bag (with Tip #233) with the icing. This may seem like a lot of trouble, but it did make a big difference (I think) in the outcome of the cake.
It helps to practice a little with the Grass & Hair tip before you actually start decorating. I found that if I place the tip close to the cake surface, add pressure to the bag to start the icing flow and pull out slowly while still applying pressure (releasing the pressure once you have the "fur" the length you want), the "fur" tends to look better.
I removed the additional cake "parts" (the head and legs) and started icing the ferret cake at the tip of the tail working my way up the body. As I iced, I directed the "fur" toward the tail and toward the base instead of straight up off the cake so the ferret would look like it had fur instead of spiky hair. As I got to the place where a leg should go, I iced the area on the body and then lightly pressed the cake part into the side. Then I iced over the leg. Once I got to the neck area, I used some icing to "glue" the head to the neck.