I thought I was going to be the next Cake Boss. I bought a bunch of cake pans and decorating tools, even one of those big fancy mixers. I had all these great ideas and watched all the inspiring shows — Ace of Cakes, Cake Wars, Cupcake Wars, and of course my favorite, Cake Boss.
What I soon learned, however, I’m no cake artist and there are way too many factors that can turn a work of art into a horror show. Like the time I made a My Little Pony cake with toy ponies and a big rainbow made with M&Ms. Thanks to the high humidity of an 80-degree day, the icing wouldn’t set, causing the M&Ms to slide off and my fluffy white clouds melted into gloppy puddles of sugar water.
Now, several years later, I find myself digging out all those special cake pans I’d bought, the ones molded into special shapes like cars, trains, and animals. The one I needed for my newest project idea just happened to be the one that had sparked my cake baking interest, NordicWare’s Backyard Bugs cakelette pan.
I’d recently written an article about family activities to do at home that included making garden stepping stones using an old cake pan.
By using the bug cakelette pan as my mold, I could create ladybugs, bumblebees, butterflies, and dragonflies made of stone.
Then with a little paint, some sparkle, and a bit of bling, these little bugs will be the highlight of any garden or yard.
For this project, I chose to use mortar mix to avoid the chunks of rock and gravel found in concrete mix. The small-sized bags it comes in made it easier to work with as well. How much mix you’ll need depends on the size of the cake pan you’re using. For my bug pan, I started with 1/2 cup of mix and gradually added water until I had a thick mud. I continued adding mix and water until I had enough to fill all eight cavities of the cakelette pan.
Be sure to coat the inside of the pan with petroleum jelly so the mortar doesn’t adhere to the pan when it dries. I used a small paintbrush to coat the detailed areas and smoothed out any lumps of jelly with my fingers.
Next, I used a small spoon to scoop the mixed mortar into the cake pan cavities, smoothing them off at the top. As the mortar begins to settle, tap the pan along the sides to release any air bubbles (pic. 1). You may need to pick the pan up and gently tap it on the countertop to help the trapped air rise to the surface. Blot off any excess water with paper towels or newspaper (pic 2).
It will take up to 48 hours for the mortar to dry completely so put the pan somewhere safe. Once they are dry, place a large platter or cookie sheet on top of the pan and flip it over. You may need to tap the pan with a hammer to help remove the bugs from the mold.
Now all that’s left is adding some color. I recommend starting with a coat of primer to seal off the porous surface of the mortar.
I chose bold colors of red, blue, yellow, and green spray paint as my medium because my painting skills are about one step above preschool finger painting when it comes to skill level. Frankly, I have whole new respect for graffiti artists after this little project. Working with spray paint is a messy business.
To keep color off the wings of the bee and dragonfly I wrapped them in plastic sandwich bags secured with rubber bands. I used the rubber bands around the stripes of the bee and dragonfly to keep the stripe pattern clear of color.
Once the main color dried, I used paintbrushes and contrasting colors to add details including black paint for the ladybug spots and bumblebee’s stripes.