It was my sister’s 25th birthday the other day, and I decided to make her a very special cake this year. She loves fairy tales, always has, but especially gnomes. I guess she gets a kick out of their personalities. There’s so much sass crammed into those tiny creatures!
I’ve been wanting to do a stump cake for a while. They went viral not too long ago as part of a lumberjack cake, but I’ve seen these cakes floating around for years. They make an exceptionally adorable “Where the Wild Things Are” cake.
The techniques for the cake range from difficult to easy-peasy, and this one, friends, is easy-peasy. It has a lot of moving pieces, though, so let’s get started!
Cake, any flavor, at least 2 layers
Milk chocolate frosting (or one of light brown color)
Fudge frosting (or one of dark brown color)
Classic buttercream, for crumb coating and decorating
Green food coloring
Assemble cake layers. Cover assembled cake in a light crumb coating and put in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove cake and immediately coat the cake in the darker color frosting. The coating can be rough because once it’s coated, you will use a cake spatula to create vertical lines around the cake. Allow the knife to create peaks over the top of the cake by pulling the spatula straight up off the cake.
Once you have created the base for the bark, use a small cake spatula to “carve” the lighter frosting into the bark. Use sporadic and uneven strokes, sometimes going at slight angles. Occasionally, draw in a knot by carving in an oval that is pinched on its ends. Draw the same image inside the oval smaller again and again until you draw a filled in circle. Mimic the motion of the knot around it, drawing slightly angled lines nearby.
When you’re satisfied with the look of your bark, push the peaked edges onto the top of the cake. Using the lighter icing, carve circles around the top, mimicking the rings inside a tree. Put in the freezer for 1o minutes to allow icing to set.
Take the remaining buttercream and add green food coloring until you’ve reached the desired color. Put in a piping bag fitted with a #233 tip (the grass tip). Depending on your patience level, you can pipe grass around the base of the tree stump on the cake board, or you can ice the board using a spatula. Pipe grass around in decorative patches. Return to the freezer for 5 minutes.
Pre-made white fondant
Yellow M&M Minis
Knead fondant with your hands until the warmth softens it, then roll until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Use the fondant set to punch out daisies, keeping in mind you will need 2 punch-outs for each daisy.
Assemble daisies by placing the punch-outs slightly off-centered so the petals are fanned out. While still soft and warm, press a yellow M&M Mini into the center of the daisies to create a seal. If the daisies are too cold/dry to attach, use a small amount of corn syrup or water to attach the punch-outs and M&M Minis.
Allow time for fondant to set and dry.
*If you buy a set that doesn’t come with a plunger to push the flowers out, then use a thin, dull object to gently pop them out. I used the end of spoon that had rounded edges.
Pre-made white fondant
Light corn syrup
Using a skin-toned chocolate (I achieved mine by mixing pink and yellow chocolates), roll spheres to create the heads of the gnomes. Pinch off small balls to create hands.
If you’d like to make gnomes in dress-like outfits, pick a color for his clothes and roll into a cone shape.
To create the gnome wearing pants, create the cone the same as for the previous gnome, but be sure to cut the cone short, at about waist-length. Take a different color and roll it into a cube shape. Using kitchen sheers, snip them down the middle to create pants, but not fully to separate the pants.
Before it cools/sets, dip the end of a toothpick into the corn syrup and push through the cone shape, making sure enough comes out the bottom that could stabilize the gnome on the cake. A small puddle should have stopped up by his shoulders; use this puddle and the nubbin of toothpick to attach the gnome’s head.
Roll small tubes to create arms for the gnome. Attach using corn syrup. Attach the hands made earlier.
Roll the fondant in a small circle. Cut a small section out of the middle and pull it over the gnomes head. The fondant will spread and wave as it creates the beard and receding hairline of the gnome.
Using another color, create small cones that fit the size of the bald spot on your gnome’s head. Attach using corn syrup, and while still soft, press the edges of the hat down to make sure it fits him snuggly! Slightly curl the top of the hat to make it less of a cone shape.
Allow these little guys to set for a few hours.
*I use a bit of modeling chocolate, so for me, this is reasonable. For this small project, though, there are several recipes online to make your own modeling chocolate using corn syrup and chocolate melts.
There you have it! It’s surprisingly easy, and a quick assemble, but boy, does it leave an impression.