I have to start with a word of caution. If anyone ever asks you to make a retirement cake for a man who plans to spend all his time fishing…and they ask that he hold a fishing rod…don’t do it! Make him hold a can of beer or a cup of coffee, a book, a fish, something else. Anything else! It’s almost impossible to make a man holding a fishing rod without it looking obscene. Case in point.
This cake took about a week to make, most of the time spent watching the different bits dry. Let’s start with making the palm trees. I added some gum tex to some fondant, colored it, and rolled it out. I cut out some leaf shapes and cut slashes along the sides to imitate palm fronds. Using 16 gauge floral wire, I put about an inch of it lengthwise into the leaf and put the leaf into a curved flower former to dry. After a few days drying time, I took 5 leaf stems, bunched them in my fist around a wooden dowel to make a tree shape. I cut the wire ends to the same length, leaving about three inches of the dowel exposed. I wrapped the dowel and stems together with floral tape to make a tree. I used some green fondant to fill in the empty area between the leaves and the wires and the dowel. Going back to the green fondant, I added some brown gel coloring to make the tree bark. I brushed the wire/dowel piece with piping gel and worked the brown fondant around the piece with my hands, just smashing and mashing it all around to get a nice bumpy textured look. I made sure the fondant covered the bottom of the wires, making it flat. I had to work the fondant around the top to cover any raw edges and make it meet up well with the green. I set the finished trees in a block of styrofoam to dry.
The dock was the next project. I followed my usual technique of adding gum tex to fondant and then coloring it. I rolled it out and cut some planks and two base pieces to go under the planks. I used an offset spatula to cut the planks freehand so they wouldn’t be perfectly straight. I wanted this dock to look old and well used. I used the spatula to add some grain lines to the planks. To make the dock supports, I used lollipop sticks, covered them with piping gel and wrapped the sides and top with fondant. Everything was added to the pile of pieces set out to dry. After a day, I lined the planks up the way I wanted and glued them to the two base planks. I use vanilla extract as fondant glue, brushing a drop on the bits to be melted together. The dock base was set aside to dry, turning it over occasionally so each side could dry. After a day, I added the supports using vanilla to melt the tops of the supports to the bottom of the dock. It wasn’t very stable but held together well enough.
Now to make the fisherman. I added a lot of gum tex to fondant and kneaded it in well. When I wasn’t working with it, I kept the fondant/gum tex mixture wrapped in plastic wrap and put into a plastic bag to keep it soft. I started with his pants, making a big roll and then splitting part of the roll in half to make his legs. I bent it at the hips and knees and added toothpicks at the waist and ankles so I could add other body parts later. I made the feet, brushed the tops with vanilla to glue them to the ankle toothpicks. I rolled out another round roll for his shirt along with two little rolls for the sleeves. All these bits were attached with vanilla and added to his lower half. The arms were rolled as one long piece then bent and manipulated to make elbows and wrists and fists. (Oh my. Sorry, I can’t help slipping into Wizard of Oz mode when I list three things) The arms were attached with vanilla and little bits of toothpicks where they met the shirt sleeves and the waist.
To make his head, I started with a long ball and rolled the bottom between my fingers to elongate an end to make his neck. I etched his smile with a toothpick and some red gel coloring. I rolled out the tiniest bit of fondant for his nose, again using vanilla to attach it. I repeated this process for his ears. I used the ball tool to make eye sockets with white fondant for the whites of his eyes and little bits of black for the iris. His eyebrows were scratched in with black gel coloring. His hair started out as a fondant rectangle that I drew lines in and smashed together, more lines, more smashing, etc., etc., etc., to make hair texture. Then I made a stack of books and boxes and paper towels to hold everything in place while he dried.
The cake board is a piece of thick foamcore covered with wrapping paper that looks like water. I covered that with clear plastic because the cake sat directly on the base. The baked cake was a long rectangle. I cut one end off and attached to the side to make the island jut out. Blame my poor photography skills because you can’t see it but there are hills and valleys on the island. I just cut out divots and made sure I used a good crumb coat of icing to seal everything together well. When I was coloring the fondant for the island, I didn’t mix the gel color in completely because I wanted different shades for the grass. I covered the island then rubbed it with the end of the grass tip (Wilton tip 233) to etch a bit of texture on to it. I did that same thing with the brown beach fondant. I used a line of piping gel to attach the beach fondant to the cake and the cake to the board to keep it from slipping around. I added the palm trees, along with some fondant coconuts.
The fishing pole is a piece of floral wire with black fondant wrapped around the edge. I added it to the man when I was making him. I left the wire sticking straight out until I placed him on the cake board so I could trim it to fit down into the water when everything was ready to go. And go we did, off to the retirement party where the cake was a big hit.