Oh Deer! Staggering Sculpted Cake Artistry
I don’t normally do modelling; I’m expert in airbrushing and sugar flowers and have only really touched base on other skills. I have been doing cake craft for nearly 30 years so I’ve tried most things but have fallen into my comfort zone. I had a successful wedding cake business for many years which I loved, and I did create the odd cat and dog for wedding cakes but nothing ever this big. So, I thought I’d challenge myself — and I certainly did that. — Cassie Brown
This stag’s head model was designed & created by our cake ambassador, Cassie Brown.
- Polystyrene dummy
- Rice cereal and marshmallow mix
- Wilton Fondant & Gum Paste Tool Set
- Wilton Sugar paste
- Cassie Brown Airbrush & Compressor
- Brown airbrush colour
- Wilton Brown Icing Colour Gel
- Wilton White Icing Colour Gel
- Hot glue gun & glue sticks
- Pole measuring 1″ x 12″
- 2 Large cake drums
- 18# Wire
- Florist tape
- Water brush
- Piping gel
- Confectioner’s glaze
Making the Stag’s Head
Start with a good base. I used a pole about 1 inch in diameter and glued it to a cake board with a hole cut out. I then glued a second cake board to add strength. Take a polystyrene dummy and cut a hole in the centre; slide this over the pole and glue this onto the board using a hot glue gun and glue sticks.
Take your rice crispy mix and create an oval shape at the end of the pole, then add the nose and neck so it balances out. I did my research on this so I recommend you do the same! Look into the muscle structure of a stag’s head and neck, and follow the shape of that. I know it sounds horrible but to create a good shape, whether it be a person or an animal, you need to understand the mechanics of how their body is formed.
If you get this right, the icing then becomes the skin and it will all fall into place. Remember to create the ears; if the rice crispy mix gets too sticky, add a little butter to your hands to stop the sticking. Personally, I leave this overnight and come back with fresh eyes. Then you can add to the shape or carve away any excess mix with a knife.
Covering the Stag’s Head with Icing
I used sugar paste for this. Roll out a large sheet of icing, then brush the rice crispy treats with piping gel. Roll the paste loosely around the rolling pin and then unroll over the head. Carefully press down and cut away any excess paste. I find doing this in smallish areas helps! Simply rub your finger over the joins of paste to cover up any cracks. I do the ears separately and the neck in about three parts.
Once this is covered with paste, use the side of a little palette knife to make small hair-like indents along the nose and then down into the neck and up the ears. Using the pointed end of the cone-like tool, gently brush over the lines to give a little more texture. I then spent a little time studying the eyes from different photos I have. Start with a ball of paste about 2cm in diameter and then attach this to where the eyes should go on the stag’s head. Make sure you get them even on each side and not to close to the nose; use a little water to attach these.
Roll a sausage of paste about 1/2cm in diameter by 3cm long. You will need 2 of these per eye. Gently brush the sausage of paste with water and then attach to the bottom of the eye so it overlaps the eye slightly. Put the second sausage onto the top part of the eye to create an almond shape. Smooth the part around the top and bottom of the eye so it blends; I used one of the modelling tools to do this. You may need to add extra paste to the eye just below to add a little bulk. Make sure it all blends in so there are no visible lines.
Draw lines from the bottom of the inner ear to the outer edge to give some depth and texture. Then look at the nose; I made 2 indents with the ball tool for the nostrils and drew a line down from the nostrils to join the mouth. Then, make a line indent for the mouth. Once you’re happy with all the marking and texture, leave it to dry.
Making the Stag’s Antlers
To make the antlers, you’ll need 18# wire, kitchen paper, and florist tape of any colour. Start by stretching the tape to release the glue and then make a little flag at the end of the wire. Spin the wire around and stretch the tape, moving down the wire at the same time. This is a little like driving; you soon get the hang of it and then you don’t even think about it. Cover 5 wires first, then tear the kitchen paper into strips of about 2″ thick.
Roll the kitchen paper around the wire; it should stick to the wire with the tape on. Then, tape over the kitchen paper. This will add bulk to the horns without the wait. Measure 15cm down from the top of the first wire and introduce the second wire, but leave this protruding by about 10cm. Tape down about 12cm and then add the third wire. Then attach the fourth stem about 13cm down. I thickened the bottom of the stem with more kitchen paper as the antlers are supposed to be thicker nearer the head. You may need to bend these into shape to make them more lifelike, again by looking at your reference or the real thing.
Carefully push the antlers into the head of the stag, just in front of the ears and a little to the middle. I left about 13cm of antler before the first stem comes out. To cover, roll out a sausage of paste about 1cm in diameter and push it onto the first antler at the top. Repeat with the other antler. Once the antlers are covered with paste, turn your attention to any cracks and marks in the paste. I slightly dampened the cracks and rubbed my fingers over to smooth over joints. I didn’t want to make them perfectly smooth as they use their antlers to fight; they shouldn’t be perfect!
Colouring the Stag’s Head
I hand painted the stag’s eyes. First, I mixed a little Brown Icing Colour with White Icing Colour and then painted lines going from the purple of the eye to the outer edge. Be careful not to paint the eyelid, then leave to dry. Add a second and third layer and make the brown a little darker with every layer. Paint the pupil of the eye with a mix of black and brown to create a very dark brown; this is more of an oval shape than a circle. Wait for the paint to dry and then paint the eye with confectioner’s glaze to make it shine. This will make him look really lifelike.
I strongly recommend practising the airbrushing first. Place about 4 drops of colour into the colour well and practise on a piece of paper. Aim the end of the airbrush at the paper and gently pull back the trigger to draw a hazy line. Make sure you take your finger off the trigger while you’re still moving; this will stop you getting dots at the end of the line. Also, you should practise the distance that you hold the airbrush away from the model as some people are more heavy-handed (so you’d need to be a little further away!). Make sure you aren’t too close as you will create lines.
Drop about 10 drops of brown airbrush colour into the colour well. Hold the airbrush about 4″ away from the deer and gently pull back the trigger to create a fine mist. Make sure you move the airbrush in the same direction as the lines you’ve created to make the fur. I shaded a little darker over the nose and mouth and just above the eyebrows, leaving it a little lighter around the eyes and down the nose. Shade under the chin and in the bottom of the ears to add definition. Then, lightly spray over the antlers with the same brown but much lighter. I shaded little areas slightly darker to add shadow. My tip for this is to give a very light layer of colour first, then go back if you need to. When airbrushing, it’s much easier to go light and then to go dark. Once it’s dark, it’s too late!
Stand back and admire. This stag’s head is not to competitor standards but I have loved creating it; it was to challenge myself to make something a little out of my comfort zone. I am very happy with this. Have fun and push yourself — you don’t know you can do it until you try! — Cassie Brown