Mermaid Pull Apart Cake

Jane got the idea for a mermaid party by looking at the Oriental Trader catalog, so we've run with the idea as best we can. We have mermaid-themed goodie bags, and her invitation had a mermaid on it. The bounce house place didn't have a mermaid-themed bouncer, but they did have a castle that we decided could look like it's under-the-sea. (If the rain doesn't stop we'll really BE under the sea for crying out loud. It is supposed to be clear and cool tomorrow.)

Cooling cupcakes
For the cake Jane originally wanted a sheet cake with mermaid pictures on it. I MAYBE could have done something like that (using cut outs or toys on the top), but after a perusal of Pinterest I found a cupcake pull apart cake in the shape of a mermaid tail. I showed Jane several versions, heavily influencing her to pick the one I liked/thought looked best and easiest. I also liked the idea of a cupcake pull apart cake in the shape of a 7 using the mermaid colors of teal, pink and purple, but she liked the tail better. So here we go!

I baked two boxes of cupcakes, and I got 23 out of each box. I used an ice cream scoop I bought specifically for this project to try to keep the cupcakes the same size. It didn't really work because I was impatient and sloppy. But in the end it was OK. I let them cool while Liv and I went to her Spanish class, ate lunch and she laid down for her nap.

I'd made the buttercream frosting Wednesday -- I made it and the chocolate frosting for Jane's birthday birthday cake on the same day. One batch of chocolate and three batches of vanilla -- dyed two batches pink and split the third between teal and purple. I was making the frosting just before we left to go to supper at church on Wednesday, and I couldn't find my specifically purchased food dye. (It was with the party favors instead of in the pantry!) So I put the buttercream in the fridge, went to our meal and came back to try to dye it. I let it warm up but not enough -- dying it was SUPER hard. Today I left the frosting out all morning -- so probably 4 or 5 hours -- so the icing was smooth and spreadable, and I could have easily added the dye today. Oh well. (Remember how anti-food dye I once was? I still am, but I've kind of given in somehow and not sure how to return to my puritan ways.)

In formation!
After Liv laid down I got to work. I tried laying out empty cupcake wrappers to get an idea of how the cake would look, but they didn't hold their shape. So when I was ready to frost I just laid out the cupcakes, following my inspiration picture. I had read some tips online, so I knew they might slip around. I didn't want to waste icing (or make things even messier when we eventually EAT the cake), so I tried double sided tape on the cupcake wrapper bottoms to keep things stable. It didn't really work, but luckily the cupcakes didn't move around too much.

I had a ton of frosting, and I scooped it on before using my offset spatula to spread it around. I worked from top to bottom - purple, teal and pink. I added white sparkle sanding sugar and then tried to pipe on scales and details like the picture. I had bought a Dollar Tree piping bag to try, and it was the PITS. My frosting was too thick and it broke the "reusable" bag. I salvaged what frosting I could into a regular piping bag (because of course I got those too) and almost ran out. In retrospect I should have laid out my lines with a knife -- just sculpting it in the frosting before I piped on the lines. I've seen videos where they do that for details, and it's such a smart idea. Luckily Jane doesn't mind unrealistic scales! I also need to buy more couplers to use with the regular piping bags -- I only had one, even though I have many types of tips.

The finished product!
I made quite a mess of the kitchen and had enough frosting left over for the 10 extra cupcakes that I didn't use. (Nine are available for the party -- I snuck one of the butter yellow ones -- YUM.)

I used a cake box made for a sheet cake, and it worked fine. I didn't get the cake exactly centered, but it's not bad. The box was able to fold up around it, and there's a lid. I put the whole thing in the fridge -- will take it out before the party to come to room temperature, but this way it will stay fresher I guess?

Not sure how eating the cake will go, and I definitely could have made things neater and prettier (those scales will haunt me). But it was fun to research and execute, and Jane is happy! Hope it's a hit at the party!

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