Itty Bitty Teen Weeny Pumpkin Fairy For Halloweenie


Pumpkin pile and Halloween fairy in less than 4 inches

A lot of cute Halloween detail packed into a tiny space!

As previously mentioned, I’m in the UK for a year so I don’t have most of my cake decorating tools. In fact I typed this paragraph while attempting again to stack ganached cake layers for Peo’s birthday cake since the previous attempt fell over in the fridge because I don’t have any wooden stakes to hold tiers together and it turns out the fridge here has sloping shelves.

O.o

Anyway.

I brought only what I needed for a small entry in the Birmingham cake show in November. So when another cake show popped up on my radar for early October, I was glad I was too late to sign up to enter the contest. But then I noticed that Renshaw Baking had a Modelling Magic contest where folks could make a Halloween cake topper with 200g or less of their sugarpaste, send in a photo, and then possibly be invited to bring the piece in for judging. 200g is a very small amount and I had brought my new PME mini modelling tools with me, so I decided to give it a go.

I wasn’t sure by the contest description if interior supports were allowed or not, since it said it had to be 100% sugarpaste. I usually use a lot of foil and toothpicks in my figures, so I decided it’d be a fun self-challenge to make something with lots of small features that had no internal supports whatsoever. I made a little board out of scrap cardboard with foil over it as a base, but otherwise used no toothpicks or anything else other than fondant inside the piece.

I also knew I had to get the piece from Cambridge to London on a bus, then a train, and then the jostly London Underground through to the show. That meant the design needed to be bottom-heavy, well-supported, humidity-proof, and any thin bits would need to be supported by design.

My first idea was to have a cute little pale witch or goblin decorating a Jack-O-Lantern, but I quickly realized I’d have unsupported arms doing that. I pondered various options until I came up with the notion of many tiny Jack-O-Lanters in a pile, some lit and others dark, and have a wee little Halloween fairy lighting them, positioning her so that all of her limbs would be supported. I knew that would give me the opportunity to try to make tiny little delicate wings, something I hoped would impress the judges.

The finished topper; a little fairy lighting a stack of Jack-O-Lanterns.

back

From the back.

Well it must have worked, because I won first place during the Saturday contest and got a bag full of goodies!

certificate

First place, woot!

books, pens, fondant, marzipan, and cake decorating tools

What a great prize pack! Thanks so much, Renshaw!

I took photos as I worked – albeit a few hasty and thus blurry or poorly lit ones, sorry – to show you how I made the piece so you can go forth to make your own.

I started by making several small balls of black and yellow as the inner cores of the pumpkins, and I let those dry overnight. Well, they were dry enough in the morning, but I actually left them for a couple of days because I’m a busy homeschooling mom in a foreign country running around to see castles and museums and whatnot all the time, battling transportation woes and occasional sharknados.

So when I next had time, I took a bit of orange and made a partial pinch pot like so:

orange pinch pot beside black ball

Even with the dried inner cores, you have to be careful as you go because you really only get one shot at this on this tiny scale.

I very lightly dampened the inside of the pinch pot and rolled it around the inner core, moving the outside around as gently as possible to make it even and seam-free. This was my first time using Renshaw paste and I must say, it did a very nice job of self-seaming.

orange ball

You want enough orange to cover the core without being too thick, so pinch off any excess as you go. If you end up with a small seam as shown here, that’s fine because you can put that on the bottom.

Then I used one of the PME tools (I think each tool has a name but I’m too self-trained to know the proper names for all of these things, sorry) to make indentations as shown below. Of course then handling the tiny things often munged those indentations out and I’d have to redo them, but I found it helpful to at least start with them.

indentations on orange ball.

It pretty much looks like a teeny pumpkin at this point.

Next I carved eyes. The PME set has a little half-circle tool that was just right for cutting our round eyes, but for triangle ones I’d just use one of the sharper pick style tools to pick out a bit of the orange and then poke into three corners to form little triangles. There’s no set rule to this stage other than to remove a bit of material down to the inner colour and then try to make symmetrical eye-like shapes.

eyes

If you indent round eyes upwards in the inner corners, they look cute-sad.

Next I’d make the nose as per the triangle eyes method mentioned above. Then I’d do the mouth, which was tricky to do without munging the other features. I poked the smile corners where I wanted them to be, then lightly traced lines for the mouth I wanted, including any built-in teeth. Then I picked out orange from inside the lines carefully, gently removing or folding back any spurs that stuck out. This is one of those things that takes some practice and familiarity with the medium.

pumpkin face

After cutting out the mouth, make the tooth square by using a pick tool up into the corners, and then a flat-edged tool pushed gently up against the bottom and sides. Repeat as necessary until you’re happy with it.

If I’d had my mini circle cutters available, I’d have tapped one against the top to make a round indentation. But those are back in storage in Austin, so instead I grabbed the closest PME mini tool and hacked out a little circular shape on the top. Then I used one of the conical tools to make an indentation in the middle.

pumpkin lid and stem

You could skip this step, but it’s one of those details that sells them as Jack-O-Lanterns. I bet nobody noticed the little “lids” but if they hadn’t been there, the piece wouldn’t have seemed as detailed.

My first attempt at covering a black interior with orange went horribly wrong, so I’d mashed it together in a marbled ball. I then used bits of that marbled stuff to make tiny stems. I shaped a little stick, dampened the hole, and stuck it in.

mini Jack-O-Lantern

Completed little Jack-O-Lantern!

The procedure for a “lit” pumpkin is exactly the same as an “unlit” one, just using a yellow ball instead of a black one. You can vary faces as suits your whims.

three Jack-O-Lanterns

Slight differences in design add a lot of different character to each Jack-O-Lantern.

I let all of the pumpkins dry at least overnight (since it took me several late night post-baby-bedtime sessions to make them) so they were nice and firm. Somewhere along the line I also covered the mini board with a thin layer of green fondant and let it dry as well.

To stack them, I arranged them all in front of me and decided first which one was the weakest, because that could go in the middle. Yes, the mostly-hidden pumpkin in the middle was still one that took effort. Why? Because it let me hide the worst one, and because when competing you never know where a judge is going to peek. Your competition mindset should never include skipping details! Of course if you’re just doing this for someone who wouldn’t notice, go ahead and put a dried orange ball in the middle.

Anyway, I tried carefully stacking them in different ways, keeping the “lit” ones to one side since I knew I wanted it to look like the fairy was going through the pile and lighting them. By planning out the stack in advance, I knew what fit where and risked less damage in putting them together.

I moved them all back off (but in an order so I knew what would go back on where), then stuck the middle one in place with a tiny bit of wet fondant. I then did the bottom outer ring the same way.

To attach pumpkins to pumpkins, I first placed the upper one where I wanted it to sit on the lower ones and carefully made tiny marks against the upper one where all the touch-points were. Then I wet tiny bits of orange fondant, smoothed the edges of the bits onto the upper one on those marked points, and pinched it out to make a little soft fondant spike. Then I gently pushed the upper pumpkin into place and used a damp, small brush to smooth out the smushed adjoining bits of orange fondant. That way they were all firmly held in place but with a lot of open air in between. If you look closely at these photos you can see the joins:

stacked Jack-O-Lanterns

I put the sad one on the bottom because it’s holding up the weight of the others. Little details like that help tell a story.

stacked pumpkins

I took some decent photos at this point in case I didn’t get time to add the fairy. This would not have been as good an entry, but it at least could serve as a completed entry as is. Also, in this photo you can see one of the chunkier joins I didn’t smooth as well, at the top.

When it was time to add the fairy, I knew I needed her completely supported by the Jack-O-Lanters if I was going to do her with no internal supports. That meant putting her on the bottom but reaching up and over, so her arms could be on the pumpkins and not free-floating.

I drew a rough sketch to the correct size on a scrap grocery receipt:

sketch

As I mention in my Fondant Figure 101 tutorial and Dynamic Figures ebook, starting with a human figure really helps make sure you keep proportions correct. I held this up to the stacked pumpkins to make sure everything lined up where I wanted it to go, and then used it as a guide when making the body pieces.

To make the torso, I started with a bit of purple fondant in a teardrop shape:

purple teardrop

I sized this to my drawing and kept having to make it smaller. It’s really easy to accidentally go too big at this scale.

I then gently and slowly made a pinch-pot of the base of the teardrop, flaring out the edges to be a little dress.

dress

Working out the bottom edge. This is thin, but ultimately I went even thinner to give the dress some movement and the suggestion of a cloth edge.

Next I picked the side I wanted it to go on so that her arm would be able to reach up and be “lighting” the top lit pumpkin. I wet the front of the torso and gently, carefully pushed it into place, starting from slightly above and pushing down (including from inside the skirt) so that some of the purple fondant filled the face holes of the Jack-O-Lanterns, helping to anchor it in place.

torso mounted

The front of the dress is squished into the eye and nose of that Jack-O-Lantern, making it fit with a tight, strong bond. This was important because most of the fairy’s weight would rest on those points.

I pinched the top in at the sides and flattened the top to shape the upper dress. I used the side of a tool to make a little waist indentation around the middle. Then I used one of the PME tools to poke in little shoulder holes and came in from the bottom to poke leg holes underneath:

leg holes

It was hard to get a photo but you can sort of see the two little leg holes under there. Not that I generally recommend standing your piece on its side using your computer and a block of fondant to hold it in place, but it does also show how strong my structure was.

For both the arms and legs, I rolled a thin snake of white, then an even thinner snake of black, and wrapped the black around in bands like so:

making arm stripes

These didn’t come out perfectly even, but at this scale that’s nearly impossible to do because it all wants to stick to your fingers and melt.

Once the bands were on, I gave the whole thing another gentle roll to make it smooth. Then I cut it, decided which orientation looked best, wet the shoulder holes, rolled the arms to a point on one side and a flat end on the other, and poked the points into the shoulder holes. I also lightly wet the undersides to glue the arms to the pumpkins. Then I made super teeny tiny hands (see my 101 tutorial for hand making, and then see a licensed therapist for a huge quantity of relaxation medication before attempting these on this scale).

I had rolled a wand stick the night before, but it was so tiny (about the width of a Jimmy/sprinkle) that it kept breaking. So I took the longest portion that was left, put it ever so gently into the fist hand, made a tiny little flat star of yellow and stuck that to the pumpkin, then stuck the other end of the stick to the yellow star with a tiny yellow point to make it look like a 3D sparkle wand.

amrs on

The arms are fully supported. The wand looks unsupported and it is in the very middle thanks to the pre-dried stick, but it’s actually firmly anchored in the hand and in the sparkle bit. If we hadn’t been restricted to fondant only, I’d have painted a bit of disco dust onto the yellow part.

I made little shoes by making elongated black tear drops and folding the point back over as curly toes, mounted them on the base, and made little indentations at the ankle with one of the mini ball tools.

For the legs, I took my banded snake and bent it in half, anchored the bottoms in the shoes, then shoved the bent part up against those leg holes I’d made previously and used one of the tools to jam leg material up into the holes. That sounds so sweet and gentle because cake decorating is romantic and I write romance novels.

legs mounted

See, now it feels wrong to have taken this photo.

Also, as I blog this I realize I must’ve done the legs first since the arms aren’t on in that photo. Which goes to show just how tired I was while making this, and just how poor my memory is! It actually doesn’t matter which you do first because everything is resting on or hanging from that torso, so as long as the torso is on well, the rest is fine.

Anyway, next I made the head, which I’d usually mount with a toothpick but since the challenge here was to use no internal supports, I couldn’t do that. I made a ball, indented for the eyes, put in the smallest possible black balls (anything less got stuck in my fingerprints), pinched out a nose, and used that PME half-circle tool to indent a smile.

head

Sorry for the blurry photo but I was in a rush and this is really tiny, even for a macro lens.

I put some water on the neck of the torso and mounted the head. Then I went to bed, knowing that if I touched it again at that point, I’d wreck it.

The next day I marbled what remained of the black and white limbs into a marbled tiny pinch pot, hacked at the edge to make some hair locks, and gently put it into place with the tiniest amount of water. I didn’t fuss about the top because I knew there’d be a hat on there.

hair on

The trick with hair is to suggest locks, not to try to make individual hairs.

The hat was super simple: a teardrop pinched out at the bottom like the torso but going further and keeping it nice and round.

hat

Give the hat a bit of a bend and you’re good to go.

Somewhere along the line I also made tiny wings by lightly marbling some white with a bit of purple, then rolling it as thinly as possible and cutting out the shape I wanted. I picked little holes in a matching pattern on each with one of the sharper PME tools, and let them dry for a couple of days.

wings drying

If I’d been smart, I should have made extras as backups!

Once the hair was on, I mounted the wings with a bit of water on the back of the torso.

wings on

You can see in this closeup that one actually broke on the tip. I left it. Tampering would have made them fall off. Once they’d dried on they were reasonably strong, but before that this was the most tenuous part of the entire piece.

I put the hat on, weighed it one last time (I’d been weighing throughout to make sure I never even approached the 200g limit), and then set it aside to dry for the show.

weight

The air in between the Jack-O-Lanterns helps this piece come in well under the maximum weight. Not that they even weighed the pieces at the contest, but they might have!

So there you have it! Now go make something itty bitty and cute, then link your photos in the comments.

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