Butterfly Cake for Epidermolysis Bullosa – Plus How to Make Dark Fondant Tree Bark

I was invited by my good friend Kyla Myers of Crazy Cakes in Austin to a Facebook collaboration to raise money and awareness of Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare genetic skin disorder in which skin blisters and tears at the slightest touch. Children born with EB are often called “butterfly children” because their skin is as fragile as the wings of a butterfly.


Donate to our team fundraiser page for Debra USA.

Debra is an international organization that provides support for families suffering with EB and also funds research towards a cure. If the above link stops working in the future or you need to donate via another country, please see the Debra International site or the Debra UK site.

Below is a video about my cake, individual photos, and a free tutorial on how to use Satin Ice Dark Chocolate fondant (or any other dark-coloured fondant) to make a bark effect.

As mentioned in the video, the meaning of the piece is to first catch the eye as a simple butterflies-on-a-stump cake, but then as you move around you see there is the shape of a huddled child, juxtaposing the toughness and rough appearance of the bark against a single butterfly on the child’s hand.

I stacked two 9×13 cakes and then the equivalent of 3 more cakes in decreasing sizes of rounds, carved and moved pieces as necessary, and covered it all in ganache. There is also minimal internal structure.

Butterflies airbrushed and one side hand-painted black.

Additionally, here’s a photo of a quick trick I learned for making butterflies that have their wings close together. While usually you’d use this PME plunger cutter with gumpaste and dry the butterflies on a folded bit of cardstock (as you can see in the background), I decided that for butterflies with their wings close together, it’d be nice if the patterned bit was on the other side. So I used one of the rails from my Mini Cake Pop Easy Roller set (the ones that you use to intially prepare your slab of cake ball stuff) as a rig for drying the butterflies with the pattern out. This turned out to be a good way to hold them while airbrushing as well.

Be sure to visit the collaboration page to see many other gorgeous works of art by some of the best decorators in the world, all dedicated to raising money to help fight EB.


Donate to our team fundraiser page for Debra USA.


Dark Chocolate Bark Effect

In creating this cake, I wanted to use my last remaining supply of my favourite chocolate fondant: Satin Ice Dark Chocolate. It’s available in the UK but fairly expensively, and too often short-dated so I’ve decided not to buy it here anymore. But it’s the darkest-tasting chocolate fondant I’ve found, so I’ll miss not having it anymore unless I can find a good deal on it at cake shows where I can check the date in advance.

But it turned out that starting with a dark fondant to create a bark effect was tricky business. I know from so many classes, videos, demos, and tutorials I’ve seen over the years that the cheap way to make a bark effect is to make a rough stick of crumpled aluminum foil, use that as a roller, and then colour the bark as needed. Usually that involves doing a dark wash to seep down into the cracks and then airbrushing or lightly dusting on colour on the surface layer.

It’s a fact of photography that dark surfaces don’t show up as well as bright ones, and I didn’t want this cake to look like a lump of darkness. I wanted the shaped features to stand out clearly, and the texture of the bark to come through.

So that meant I needed to lighten the surface layer while preserving those dark cracks.

I started out by making a sample slab of bark-effect fondant:

making a slab

Make a crumpled stick of foil and roll it over your fondant. Add any additional lines or textures you need using modelling tools. Also, you can see here how poorly this dark slab comes out in photos.

Then I airbrushed that with white, trying to not get into the cracks. It didn’t work very well; the white went all over evenly, which I guess is the point of airbrushing. And even when I tried to then darken the lines back up with some warm brown, the whole thing just came out mildly bronzed-looking:

colour has barely changed

hardly colour change

So I wadded it up and rolled it out again (one of the benefits of the dark chocolate fondant is it pretty much eats your colouring mistakes!), and this time tried instead a sponge-painting style approach. I put a tiny amount of Americolor Bright White on a plate and wadded up a bit of paper towel with a flat-ish side, then lightly tapped the towel into the white until I’d sponged it all over the plate, ensuring there was only a scant but even amount on the paper towel. Then I sponged that over the bark and what a dramatic effect it immediately made:

white sponged on

Then I went back to the airbrush and very lightly dusted some sections with a dark yellow:

yellow added

And then more airbrushing with the warm brown again:

brown added

I was really happy with this look, and this is what I ended up doing on the entire cake later.

I also investigated what would happen if I did some green patches, like moss on a tree, and while it might suit some looks I decided I didn’t like it for this cake. In particular, I felt that it was darkening it too much when half the point was to make it lighter for photos.

green added

That’s how you do it! Roll out your dark chocolate fondant with a crumpled foil stick, add any accent lines or whatever else is needed, sponge-paint on some white, then lightly airbrush any other additional tones as necessary. You could even stick with the white if that suits your tree style.

If you found this information useful, please once again remember the core point of this post: to raise funds and awareness for the Debra organization.


Donate to our team fundraiser page for Debra USA.

Posted in Cake Decorating, Donated Items, Experimental Techniques, Fancy cakes | 1 Comment

Episode 14 of the Podcast

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Episode 13 Featuring Wayne Steinkopf and Mystery Guest

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Episode 12 Featuring Mitchie Curran

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Episode 11

Episode 11 of the podcast is up here, featuring the folks from Innovative Sugarworks.

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Episode 10

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Episode 9 of the Podcast, Plus Silly Movie Trailer

I chatted with Michelle Boyd, Sachiko Windbiel, and Mallory Mae Ragland for this episode, and at the end made up a silly fake movie trailer about their adventures. The full episode and its show notes can be found here: http://www.eat-the-evidence.com/podcast/episode-9-august-10-2017/

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Easy Dragon Egg Cookies Plus Glitter Airbrush Paint Review

Disclaimer: all products reviewed in this post were purchased fully by me. This review was not requested by anybody and no compensation has been received. However, I am an acquaintance of the owner of Dinkydoodle designs and she has in the past given me another product as part of a demonstration I participated in.

Between the new podcast and my regular busy life, it’s been hard to find actual cake decorating time lately. Ages ago some friends and I planned to get together for the launch of the new season of Game of Thrones, and I had all of these grand ideas for fun, decorated bakes to bring. But then reality hit and I needed to make something fast and easy.

So I Googled around and found a lot of variations on making dragon egg cookies by basically cutting an egg shape and then either putting on fondant scales after baking or laying on extra cookie scales before baking, such as this tutorial from Otaku Crafts. I figured that’d be a good experiment to run with my new favourite no-spread, UK-friendly recipe basic sugar cookies from The Pink Whisk (because as I keep mentioning on the podcast and in my own chocolate rolled cookies recipe, differences in flour and butter between the US and UK make swapping recipes tricky when you’re trying to avoid spread). It helps that the Pink Whisk recipe doesn’t require chilling, and my friends keep saying they love the shortbready goodness of the cookies, so it meant I could make everyone happy with minimal time involved.

I decided to gussy up the dough by colouring two thirds of it green and purple, and then left the last third natural, thinking then I could just finally crack open the bottle of Dinkydoodle Silver Glitter Airbrush Paint I’d purchased some time ago and give it a go.

I didn’t have an egg cutter large enough, so I used one of the Ateco ovals and trimmed the tops. It didn’t have to be perfect, because I then used one of the smaller Ateco ovals to cut the scales and layered them on from the bottom up. I rolled my dough thinner than usual for both so the resulting cookie was slightly thicker than usual, but not fully doubled. The dough stuck nicely to itself with a bit of a firm push and didn’t need water or anything. Other doughs might require water.

Then I baked them, let them cool, and airbrushed on the glitter paint. It was so sparkly I actually danced up and down and made squeeful noises! The photos don’t fully show how sparkly the cookies were, but you can see at least some difference between the airbrushed cookies and the plain ones:

airbrushed and plain cookies

Glittered cookies on the left, plain cookies as they came out of the oven on the right.


Even in close up the photo doesn’t do the sparkle justice, but you can definitely see the difference.

It didn’t show up as well on the light colour of the natural dough as it did on the tinted dough, though. So I would expect it probably shows up better on darker fondant or chocolate versus lighter colours. That’s to be expected with a light glitter.

comparing cookies

On the left is my scrap-dough cookie with glitter sprayed on. At the top is a glittered purple cookie. On the right is an unsprayed natural cookie.

To be clear, the glitter is a true glitter. It is bits of glittery stuff, and fully edible (unlike the plastic “non toxic” glitters labelled “for decorative purposes only”). It’s reflective in the light, but in particulate, not in a thorough cover like a pearl spray. To show you the difference, I also airbrushed one of the green cookies with Dinkydoodle’s Pearl airbrush colour:

glitter versus pearl

The left cookie has the glitter, the right has the pearl. You can clearly see how the pearl is shiny but whitens the colour overall, whereas the glitter makes the original colour sparkly but doesn’t really affect the colour itself much.

This is really cool because it gives decorators an option to add sparkle without whitening, whenever that might be desired. And happily, the particulate was fine enough that it didn’t clog my airbrush at all, and my airbrush is not a Dinkydoodle model. So as with any airbrush paint, as long as you properly and thoroughly clean your airbrush after you’re done, it shouldn’t cause any problems relative to any other colour. Plus it’s SO FAST compared to brushing on glitter.

For the plain cookies, I used my old Americolor Gold Sheen Airbrush Paint, so in the end I had a lovely selection of shiny dragon egg cookies to take to my friends, and it was all super fast and easy with no icing required:

shiny cookies

As one of my best friends is prone to singing: “SHIIIINY!”

However, there was a downside. As much as I was gleefully, squeefully happy with the glitter paint, I got really frustrated with how it slopped all down the side of my airbrush cup. I thought at first that I must be even more tired than I thought, but then I was more careful and it kept happening. And when I switched to the Americolor gold, it didn’t happen at all.

I wondered if it was something about the Dinkydoodle bottle, so I opened the bottle of their Bronze Pearl airbrush paint that I’d purchased in the same order as the silver glitter, and tried that, and it too slopped down the side of the airbrush:

dribble mess

No matter how careful I was, it dribbled down the side of the airbrush and all over the counter.

I examined the Dinkydoodle bottles in comparison to the Americolor bottle and realized that the Americolor bottle has a significantly longer pour spout, and with a straighter edge. This means the Americolor spout hangs cleanly over the edge of the airbrush cup, whereas the Dinkydoodle bottle leaves too much gap and allows for dribbles. It’s likely that when the Dinkydoodle bottles are less than half full and can be tipped up more, they will dribble less, but with that curved plastic they may continue to dribble anyway.

Americolor on cup

The Americolor bottle’s spout easily clears the lip of the airbrush cup, meaning all of the paint cleanly goes into the cup.

Dinkydoodle on airbrush cup

The Dinkydoodle spout is shorter and has a less defined edge, so the liquid is more prone to running down the lip of the cap instead of into the airbrush cup.

These were my first experiences with Dinkydoodle airbrush paints since I still have so much of my old Americolor that I’ve had for years, so I don’t know if this cap style appears on all colours. I’ve had the Dinkydoodle Pearl colour around for longer and hadn’t yet opened until this test, and it appears to have a plain screw top bottle. While this takes a bit more care to use than the Americolor spout, it was much, much cleaner than what I am guessing is the newer cap design for Dinkydoodle. And in fact the newer cap does screw off, so for the remainder of these bottles I’ll just screw the drippy lid off each time.

comparing cap styles

The Dinkydoodle Pearl is on the left and the Bronze Pearl is on the right. The Pearl was purchased about a year before the Bronze, so I’m guessing they’ve changed cap style since.

As mentioned, I’ve had the glitter and bronze pearl around for several months at least so it’s possible this problem has already been noted and fixed on even more recent bottles, and the obvious workaround is to just screw the lids off. I recommend others do the same to avoid mess and waste.

So my conclusion is I really, really, really love the silver glitter airbrush colour. It is super happymaking in adding fast, edible glitter to projects. The pour spout across the line is problematic, but there’s a workaround. Hopefully they improve the caps soon, but otherwise the ability to quickly spray glitter is a definite plus!

If I learn about an improved cap, I’ll update this post as soon as possible.

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Podcast Episode 8 is Up

And I will actually get to a post as mentioned in the podcast about dragon egg cookies and airbrush glitter! Hopefully in the next couple of days.

Episode 8 Page

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Episode 7

Episode 7 of the podcast is up! You can play it and read all the show notes here.

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