When he made the suggestion, I went to the wonderful world of Google images to see what other moms had done. I am not on Pinterest (believing it will only make me feel inadequate), and I do not steal ideas from other people, but I do look to the Internet to get my creative juices flowing. And flow they did. There was one cake, clearly made by a professional, that was three dimensional - a tree house supported by a trunk and decorated with cute little books at the base. Amazing. But I had no idea how to support the weight of the cake. Part of my philosophy is that the entire thing must be edible, and it seemed I would need to use cardboard to distribute the weight. Another picture featured a ridiculous amount of fondant (which I never use) and explained that the tree was a vase covered in fondant. Vases are certainly not edible.
Lying in bed one night (Husband: "I do not want to talk about the cake. This is your thing.") I thought, why wouldn't I just lay it flat? Why does it need to be three dimensional? There is no way we'd be able to transport that! Again, duh. So I set off to the drawing board. Translation: wandering the bulk food aisle with rough sketch in hand. The trunk is fashioned out of rice krispie treats, because why not. At the time I was still trying to figure out how to make the tree stand up, and I remembered seeing Cake Boss use that technique. Of course he wrapped the treats around a PVC pipe for stability, but remember - all must be edible! I molded the mixture into a trunk shape, let it cool, and then covered it with melted chocolate, using a knife to make tree-like swirls. The cake itself is a simple chocolate cake cooked in two loaf pans. I thought I would stack them, but when they came out of the oven I realized I should have just used a square pan. Because low and behold, two loaf pans = one square pan. Oops. But it looked better with just one, so I saved the other loaf for "extra". My frosting was a masterpiece with no disasters this year! (Finally, right?) I added cocoa powder to make it brown and swirled in cool whip for ease of spread-ability, thinking to myself that I should totally patent this recipe. The rope ladder is laffy taffy and wafer cookies - I had originally planned to use licorice rope, but when the bulk food lady told me they didn't have it I turned around in a huff and found the laffy taffy. The chocolate wafer cookies had to be cut into smaller pieces to simulate the boards, and I also sliced the gummy leaves in half because their weight caused them to slip off the side of the cake.
All in all, I am pleased with the result. I tried to think of a way to create Jack and Annie but just didn't think I could pull off tiny humans. And there are no cute fondant books, but hopefully the kids will get the idea. I honestly have no idea how we are going to cut into the rice krispie trunk without making a complete mess. Oh, and if some kid doesn't like chocolate, they are out of luck. It will be J's first friend party and we invited his entire Kindergarten class, most of whom RSVP'd yes. Should be interesting.
Anyway, thanks for reading - here's the finished product: