I love the story of the Princess and the Pea! When my children were little, I took them to a community college production of the play. We sat in the front row! I know my three oldest children remember that and I have fond memories of sharing that with them.
Consequently, I have always wished that one of my granddaughters would warm up to having a Princess and the Pea birthday theme, but the Disney princesses always won out. So when my coworker was asking for ideas on what to do for her daughter’s first birthday party, I spoke up! She jumped on board my little pea green bandwagon right away! We both began researching and conjuring up ideas for the party. Thankfully, I was only in charge of the cake–mom took care of the rest. She’s a lot younger than I am and I think anything more than the cake assignment would have put me in traction. Ha!
I will try to explain the process I went through for the cake, but feel free to use your favorite cake and frosting recipes. Be warned–this was a labor-intensive cake to make, but so worth it!
I started with a 12×12 square pan and found that 1-1/3 boxed cake mixes were perfect for one layer. (Note: If you don’t have one of these pans, you can make a smaller version of the cake by using bread loaf pans.) Prepare the second box of cake mix and add 1/3 of it to the first batch to make 1 layer. Set the remaining 2/3 aside for the next 2 layers. I baked 3 layers, for a total of 4 boxed cake mixes. After allowing the baked layer to cool, I cut the layer in half to make two 6×12″ pieces. I piled 5 layers for the bed, frosting them between each layer. I alternated them so they would be level after each couple of layers. I felt that 6 layers would be too many, but you may want to add the 6the layer. I chose to make some green cake pops with my last layer. Frost the cake with buttercream frosting, thinly frosting the sides as you will be adding more frosting as you decorate the “mattresses”. You will want to make a double recipe of the frosting since this is a large cake. You can use any flavoring for the frosting to compliment whatever flavor of cake you choose.
I then baked the footboard and headboards for the bed from a boxed Pillsbury Key Lime cookie mix. It caught my eye because it was green. You might prefer to use your own sugar cookie recipe or even a gingerbread cookie recipe. Just make sure that it is a crispy cookie.
I then made a pattern out of parchment paper 6 inches wide (in retrospect, I would have made it 5-1/2 inches wide, since the cookie expands as it bakes), and about 8 or 9 inches high. I found that rolling out the dough right on the cookie sheet helped to keep the shape of the cookie. Continue as if you were making a gingerbread house by rolling out the cookie dough about 1/4″ thick and using the pattern to cut out the rectangle from which you will shape the headboard. Next cut out a rectangle from the top of the headboard, leaving the side “posts” intact. I used a miniature heart-shaped cookie cutter to make the design in the middle of the headboard, but this is optional.
Using the same pattern, make a shorter footboard and shape it in the same manner as the headboard. Bake according to package directions. Since the cookie dough has expanded after baking, if you need to trim the sides, do this as soon as the cookies come out of the oven. You will find it easy to do with a sharp knife while they are still warm, as they will harden after they cool. Plus, you will be needing a treat about now, so the trimmed pieces are your reward for your hard work. I also baked the remaining dough into cookies and they were so good!
To decorate the cake, divide the remaining frosting into however many colors you choose to use, leaving one portion white. I used flat decorating tips (right) for some of the mattresses and rose-making decorating tips (left) for the ruffled bedskirt effect. Remember, you only need to decorate the sides, as the front and back of the “bed” will be covered by the headboard and footboard.
I used a roll of General Mills’ Fruit By The Foot Berry Tie Die Flavor for the trim on the blanket, as well as at the bottom of the bed. These are already shape-stamped down the middle–you just need to separate the roll to reveal the decorative design. Each flavor has a different design. So cool! Thank goodness I have an imaginative daughter-in-law. She buys these for her kids and it was her idea.
Once the cookie headboards are cooled, “glue” them to the front and back sides of the cake with a little bit of buttercream frosting. I tried to make them short enough so that the stacked “mattresses” would tower over the footboard.
Next, I made some marshmallow fondant for the pillow(recipe below). This fondant is extremely easy to make and actually tastes good! I died a pea-sized (literally) bit of fondant green and placed it on the side of the lower mattresses. You can see it on the lower pink mattress in the picture. I chose to dye some pink for the blanket and used corn syrup to glue the Fruit By The Roll trim to the edge of the blanket. I died a small amount a light copper color for the princess’ head. I shaped a nose and dipped a toothpick into the copper food coloring and “drew” the sleeping eyes and mouth. I realize that the story is about the princess NOT being able to sleep, but it was just easier to make her a sleeping princess. I like to think that she is trying very hard to fall asleep!
I also shaped the pillow as best I could, then set the pillow down at the head of the bed. Next, I used a mound of white buttercream frosting for the princess’ body and set the head sideways on the pillow, anchoring it against the mound of frosting. I then dyed some frosting the color of the hair I chose to use and made some messy ringlets on her head. Finally, I covered her with the blanket. Voila! Done!
Isn’t this the most adorable 1-year-old princess?
Scroll further on down for the Marshmallow Fondant recipe.
- 16 oz. white mini marshmallows (use a good quality brand)
- 2 to 5 Tablespoons water
- 2 lbs. powdered sugar
- ½ cup shortening (keep this in a side bowl as you will be dipping into it as you work the fondant)
- Cornstarch for rolling out the fondant
- Desired food coloring
- In a microwave safe bowl, melt marshmallows and 2 T. water. You can also do this step in a double boiler. Microwave for 1 minute, stopping and stirring after the first 30 seconds. Continue doing this until the marshmallows are melted. (It took me 1-1/2 minutes).
- Add ¾ cup powdered sugar to the marshmallows and mix.
- CAREFULLY PROCEED AS THIS NEXT STEP CAN GET HOT.
- With the shortening, completely grease your hands generously as if it were soap and you were washing your hands. Now generously grease your clean counter and dump the marshmallow mixture on top.
- Start kneading as if it were bread dough. The fondant will be sticky! At this point, you will be glad you greased your hands so well. Plus, you will have the softest hands when you're done.
- Add the rest of the powdered sugar and knead in, regreasing your hands and counter when needed. If it is too dry, add an additional 2-3 Tablespoons, one at a time until the fondant is soft and smooth. This process will take about 5-8 minutes. Make sure your final product does not tear when you stretch it. Add more sugar or water, depending on whether the fondant is too sticky or too dry. If you see tiny bits of dry powdered sugar, continue kneading and add a bit of water.
- You can use this right away, but it is best if you double-wrap it and chill it overnight, making sure to liberally grease it. This fondant will store nicely in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
- To roll out, sprinkle some cornstarch on the counter and begin kneading to incorporate the shortening. If it is too stiff to knead, your can microwave it for about 10 minutes to soften it. BE CAREFUL TO KEEP AN EYE ON THE MICROWAVE, MAKING SURE NOT TO BURN THE FONDANT as it is sugar-based.
- Now is the time to divide the fondant and add your desired food coloring. Doing this before you refrigerate it can alter the color of the fondant. Start with a small amount of food coloring--it is easier to go darker than to go lighter. Also, deep colors like red tend to go darker as ti sits and ages.
- You are now ready to roll out your fondant. If you live in a humid location, use cornstarch to keep it from sticking to the countertop. If you live in a dry environment, use shortening. Or try both and decide which you like best.
- Roll out your fondant to ⅛" thickness. This is thick enough for ease of handlling and strength integrity.
- For the Princess and the Pea blanket, cut a "blanket" the right size for your cake with a sharp knife. Using corn syrup, stick the Fruit by the Foot edging to the edge of the blanket.
- Color and shape the pea and princess head with the leftover fondant.