Bookish Bites : Monkey and Robot in the Garden (part 2)
Welcome back! Here we go with part 2 – decorating and constructing the Monkey and Robot cake. Milo and I chatted a lot before making the cake and so there are some, ahem, artistic extensions of the book in our cake. Namely the flower garden (not in the book) and the tool shed (also not in the book!). “Where do monkey and robot keep their trowel and all their tools? Do they have a green shed like us?” Let’s hope not, ours is knackered and old but happily covered with a recovered honeysuckle plant to make up for it. But yes, a tool shed. Okay then, let’s do that!
I was going to make a bird table as there is in the book but was a little concerned about space. Milo also wanted Monkey and Robot to have a garage for their Mercedes (?!) and a road, but again space issues.
I drew templates for the tool shed, monkey, robot, props to use to stand them up, garden spade and fork, little plot signs, several trowels (they didn’t make it into the final cake – Milo ate several and the rest looked like arrows), a couple of trees (they also didn’t make it though looked really cool but we couldn’t get them to stand up) and the “very smelly manure” sack that you can see at the front of the finished cake.
I’ve made a PDF template of the tool shed should you want to make your own.
It was quite fiddly cutting out monkey and robot and being sure that I didn’t chop off a tail or robot arm. Once the shapes were cut out we put the dough on baking trays and then back in the fridge for half an hour before baking. Milo used the excess gingerbread to make gingerbread “lumps!”
I let these cool down before constructing the tool shed. This is pretty simple to do. Start by making up a piping bag of royal icing. Mix it so the icing is pretty thick, too runny and your gingerbread will slip and slide. Pipe the icing along the side edges of the wall and stick these to the back and front panels. Let the icing set before you tackle putting the roof on, you may have to hold the house together to ensure there is no wall slippage. Once set, pipe the royal icing on the top edges of the front and back walls and gently lay both of the roof pieces on the top, then quickly pipe icing along the join where they meet.Hold in place for at least five minutes.
You can neaten up the icing job once everything is set. I then stuck a sunflower to the roof join and one growing up the side of the house (using royal icing as a glue). I also later stuck a few flowers on to the roof, just because they looked pretty. I leaned the door against the entrance purely because I thought it would be more fun for Milo to be able to open and close it. Milo liked the idea that the spade and fork would lean against the house. The gingerbread house then went on the cake board.
During the whole process, Milo and I made the little flowers to go in the flower bed and on the pot plants, the sunflowers and the carrots. We used all the colours that we needed for the project as a whole and that worked with the illustrations in the book and added in white and lilac just for variety. We used plunger flower cutters to make the flower shapes – of all sizes. I piped a little royal icing in the centre of some of the flowers and added a silver dragee to the middle of a few too, just to mix it up. The carrots were simple. Just roll a little piece of orange sugarpaste into a carrot shape, stick some green leaves to the top and press some lines into the carrot with the back of a knife. I made the Monkey and Robot sign, manure sack, Monkey, Robot and flowerbed signs out of sugarpaste, using the edible pen for extra detail.
In case you’re thinking that my kitchen looks unusually neat and organised… this is what you can’t see.
Then onto Monkey and Robot. I cut round my original gingerbread templates in red and blue sugarpaste. I used warm apricot jam to stick the sugarpaste to the gingerbread shapes. I then cut out the details; monkeys’ face and yellow boots, robots’ eyes and mouth in the appropriate colours. I used a black edible pen to draw in the details.
Then I attached the props to their feet to well, prop them up! Or as Milo liked to call them, “rocket boosters!”
And now (“finally” I hear you cry), onto the cake construction. First make the chocolate buttercream, Milo’s dad did this – his first time making buttercream and it was very yummy indeed!
Then cut your flowerbed cakes into the correct sizes. I used chocolate for the flower bed and the sunflower bed and carrot for the carrot bed. I spread buttercream around the edges and over the top of the chocolate cakes, and around the edges of the carrot cake. Cut Flake chocolate bars to stick around the edges of the carrot and sunflower bed and orange Matchmakers for around the edge of the flower bed as bedding fencing and vermicelli on the top for chocolatey “soil” goodness.
I left a rectangle of baking parchment underneath the cakes so that they could easily slide onto the cake board without making any chocolate mess.
All that was left to do is decorate! The fun bit! Milo and I poked holes into the ground of the carrot cake with a chopstick so the carrots could be popped in and out just as Monkey and Robot enjoy doing in the book, covered the sunflower bed with the sunflowers we made using a chocolate button for the middle and covered the flower bed with the pretty flowers we made. Monkey and Robot could then stand happily in their beautiful garden. Milo wanted to add another pot plant so we did, and that was that. One Monkey and Robot in the Garden cake finished.
And finally, play and eat!
Milo’s verdict: “I want Monkey and Robot cake for my birthday and now!” Below he is eating Monkey’s wellie boots and a pot plant!
It was really tasty! We’ve only just finished eating the gingerbread! This would absolutely make a fantastic cake for a child’s birthday party with so many elements everyone is sure to find something they’d like to eat. Oh, and don’t forget to head over to Playing by the Book and check out all the other edible books at the festival. There are some truly brilliant creations, I honestly wouldn’t know where to start choosing a winner!