One of the hazards of being project-obsessive is I will get so involved into a project,. and have way too high expectations. I am an amateur at most of the things I try, and more often than not, it’s the first time I’ve ever tried whatever it is.
When my daughter was turning 2, she was VERY into Elmo, so I started brainstorming party ideas in February even though her birthday is only in June. While looking around I found an Elmo cake that I just HAD to make.
The blogger at zerogravity had posted an entire series on how to make this cake, complete with step by step instructions so despite the fact that even my average everyday layer cakes don’t look so great, I thought “Hey! I can handle this!
I completely researched everything to do with cake decorating for months. I bought and borrowed everything I could possibly need for this cake, and even got Kevin to build a cake stand for it complete with dowels to make sure it had some strength. Then about a week before the day of the party it was time to get started!
I baked eight cakes. Yes, you read that correctly, EIGHT. Forget about the fact that this was a party for a 2-year-old, being held in our backyard, with only family present. And yet I was going at this like I was baking her wedding cake. Anyway, after baking them and slicing them I had to freeze them. Supposedly freezing them actually makes them moister when you eat it, but for me it was just practical since I was going to be taking a WEEK to make this cake. I’m pretty sure entire buildings have been built in less time.
The following day I started construction. The cakes had to be put through the dowels, stacking them one at a time and then frost each layer. After they were all stacked it was time to carve the cakes into a general shape of Elmo’s body. This is all JUST for his body, not his head or arms or anything else.
Then it had to be put in the fridge to firm up, and I had to frost it with chocolate frosting, and put it back in the fridge to firm again. I know chocolate seems like a bad idea, but too much red and you’ll dye everyone’s mouth apparently. And using chocolate as opposed to the white frosting makes it much less noticeable if you should miss a spot when you add the red fur.
After that I had to make the rest of Elmo out of Rice Krispies. Rice Krispies aren’t as heavy as cake, so it keeps the cake from falling apart… Or do they??
I actually went through THREE extra-large boxes of Rice Krispies to make the arms, legs, head, eyes, nose, and alphabet blocks. Now this is a very crucial thing you’ll have to remember if you ever make the
mistake decision to make your own Elmo cake: Do NOT make separate batches of Rice Krispies, Do NOT try to get away with a smaller batch, and then gradually add more and more to batches to the head after the original batch has already cooled. This was my HUGE error and I paid for it.
At this point, we are now at the MORNING OF the birthday party. I’ve already dyed a gallon of frosting red, which by the way was a pain in the… neck. I am now CRAZY excited to get things going on making Elmo look like himself. I got up at 6 am and started the slow work of adding each little piece of “red fur”. I had to carve Elmo’s mouth and frost that as well. and let me tell you… It. Looked. AWESOME. My mother had been especially doubtful throughout the entire ordeal that it wasn’t going to work out, but when she came over to see it before the party she was REALLY impressed. I had it almost completely frosted and he was amazing, even if he was a little “heftier” than the real Elmo.
Then things took a turn for the horrific. I had finished frosting his entire body, and was working on his head when I noticed it was starting to move. I started to freak a bit, but Kevin saved the day by sticking some toothpicks into the cake underneath the head, hoping to add some extra support. And that worked, for about two minutes. That’s when I realized that the head wasn’t moving as one thing, that it was actually breaking away from itself, the cereal was getting warm and you could literally see where I had added each separate batch to the head. Kevin came in again with smaller dowels and toothpicks and got Elmo’s head to stay put.
It was now an hour before the party was about to start, so my family came over to see how it was coming, and let me tell you, they were AMAZED. They couldn’t believe how great it was. It was time to add the Eyes and nose and he would be complete. As I turned around to get the last pieces, I heard a small noise. I turned to look just in time to see Elmo’s head break into three pieces and fall right off the table.
I’m not going to lie to you. I cried. I cried like a small child. There was no fixing this cake, I don’t think a professional could have in the amount of time I had left. My husband came to my rescue and picked up an ice cream cake, but not until after he got rid of Elmo. He had to because every time I looked at it, I dissolved into tears again.
There’s a lesson in here somewhere I’m sure. Kevin will tell you that it’s that you shouldn’t get so emotionally involved with a project and remember that it’s just a cake. My mother will tell you that you should undertake projects you’re qualified for, or you’ll never meet your own expectations. I will tell you that the lesson here is that Elmo secretly hates me and wanted to make sure I got to the point of being proud of myself before he self-destructed his own head.
I need know I’m not the only one that things like this happen to! Tell me about your own project failures, please!