It seems like it's been forever since I made this Tiered Wafer Paper Mermaid Cake when really it hasn't. I've made this Mermaid Cake a couple of times and decided it was time to share the How-To. For those of you wondering, wafer paper is a thin, edible paper that is made out of rice or potato flour. It's lightweight and therefore, a great medium to use as "scales" compared to fondant or gum paste.
Take one sheet of Wafer Paper and lightly spray a light coat of color using an airbrush. If you spray too much color, the paper will warp and curl up. I used an array of colors and shades that were requested by my customer. You can find my favorite Airbrush Machine, the Air Genie Pro here. It is easy to use and clean! The Airbrush Colors can be found here and here. A quick note on wafer paper: One side is smooth and shiny while the other side has a little texture matte finish to it. When airbrushing the color, make sure you spray the textured side of the paper. The piping gel will need to be applied to the smooth side of the paper. Lay in a single layer and allow to dry completely. Once dry, use a round 1.5" punch to cut the "scales". Store in airtight containers until ready to use. Warning: This can be tedious and time consuming. I recommend making the gum paste details ahead of time, allowing them to harden up before painting them gold.
Cover cakes with a crusting buttercream and allow them to set up, approximately 20 minutes. Using a fan paintbrush, paint a light coat of clear piping gel on half of the wafer scale (1) and on the upper side of the bottom cake tier (2). Adhere the scale to the cake, leaving a small portion floating above the top of the cake (2). Rotating colors, go all the way around, slightly overlapping each scale, gently pressing it down to stick (3). Once you've gone all the way around the cake, start layering the next row, this time brushing the entire backside of the paper scale and placing it staggered and centered about half way up the two scales behind it (4). Continue until the entire cake tier has been covered, then repeat with other tiers. When you get to the bottom of each tier, you will have approximately 1/4 - 1/2" of the bottom without scales and exposed buttercream. That's okay. We will come back to this soon, I promise!
Proceeding with Cake Tops
Next thing is the tops of the two bottom cake tiers. Continue adhering whole scales with piping gel on the top of each cake tier (only the two bottom tiers - not the top one), alternating colors as you go along, slightly overlapping them and lining them up to the edge of the cake (1). Complete one cycle. Take a round scale and cut it in half, then slightly round the cut edge of each one (2). Brush piping gel on the cut portion and (3) lay it on top of scales just placed, center staggering each to cover the exposed buttercream (4). Leaving a portion clean and without piping gel allows the scale to lift, giving the desired layered scale effect.
When the tops of both bottom tiers are done, it's time to stack them. Leave the top center of each tier exposed and without scales (1). To make sure the next tier size will cover the exposed area sufficiently, place a cake board of equivalent size on top. There should be no visible buttercream showing, then remove cake board (2). Insert appropriate amount of wooden dowels (or plastic dowels) and cut to size (3). Brush a thin coat of buttercream over the dowels and exposed area. This buttercream will help "glue" the oncoming tier in it's place (4). Carefully place and center the middle cake tier. Repeat the process with the middle tier before adding the third and final tier. When all three tiers are stacked, take a long wooden dowel and push it thru the center of the entire cake…all three tiers. Cut dowel to be flush with the cake (1). Take one round scale and brush with piping gel. Adhere it over the dowel (2). Alternating colors, overlap them over the center scale in a circular pattern (3). Continue until entire surface of the cake top is covered. Add cut, rounded off half circles at the edge of the cake, as previously done (4).
Now remember when we were left with the bottom portion of each tier exposed (2)? As promised, this is how we fix it. Take a round scale and trim off a third of it (1). Take the bigger portion and brush the bottom cut edge with piping gel. Use a toothpick to gently lift any scales that are in the way and carefully place it in the same staggered center position (3). Press it gently with the toothpick to help it adhere (4). Do this all the way around to each of the three tiers. Here are the tiers in different stages and before any of the gum paste details are added. If you look closely, you'll also notice the before and after of the cake board. It's okay if some of the scale edges lift/curl as it adds movement.
Finalizing the Details
Next thing, add the gum paste details. Use a little bit of piping gel on the back and hold it in place for a bit to make sure it sticks. Brush a thin coat of piping gel onto the exposed cake board and sprinkle/scoop some light brown sugar (or crushed graham cracker crumbs) on top, gently pressing down to adhere. Small sections at a time is best when doing this step. In case you're curious, you can find the gold I used here. It has become my absolute favorite! I'm crushing on this Seahorse!
Add my favorite Sweetapolita Sprinkles and small sea life creature details on the "sand" all the way around the cake. They can be added on the top and middle tiers as well, adding some "wow" factor. The Mermaid Tail comes in two sizes and I used both in this cake. For the cupcakes, only the small was used. As for the rest of the sea life, you can find those molds here , here and here.
Here is the entire cake put together. This is an example of how important it is to have proper lighting and backdrops when taking photos. They can either make or break a picture. Big difference!
In addition to the cake, I also made these cupcakes. They were piped with a mix of pale blue and pink buttercream swirls, topped with sprinkles and a variety of gum paste toppers.
Last but definitely not least, was the addition of these custom decorated Mermaid Cookies. Assorted shapes that included mermaid tails, sand dollars, sea horses, starfish, clam bras, underwater sea life (cookie sticks), etc. By the way, did you know I also have an Etsy Shop where I sell my cookie creations? My shops name is, you guessed it, Sweet Coralice.
Thanks for sticking around. This was a time consuming cake AND post but I appreciate each and every one of you that persevered through it! Now, what do you think? Up for the challenge?
Cori - xoxo