May 22, 2019

My Rustic Tree Bark (Birch Bark) Wedding Cake - All edible bark! (With product links and photos!)

Originally posted years ago, the links have been checked and still connect to the products on Amazon but if you happen to find a broken link (it's been a few years now) just either let me know, or feel free to search for the term once you land there. 

Many professionals and social media people with businesses and video channels use my ideas and recipes, and they make hundreds and thousands of dollars while I'm lucky if I make $.50 cents a day from product links so I appreciate those of you who purchase something through my links at the bottom of the page.  Thank you so much!


Our daughter's wedding is over!  It was this past weekend, and in order to not only control costs, but also because we didn't want to give control over to others and be disappointed, we did all our own... well, everything

The venue provided chairs and tables but literally everything else was done by us (me).  The decorations, the flowers, the centerpieces, planters, the... cake.  Yes the cake.  Although that was not originally in the plans!

I'm not a cake maker/baker.  Oh, a birthday cake here or there for my family members but anything more than that? Nope. But our daughter is a very 'nature' type girl and her life is surrounded with plants, flowers and nature. So that was the theme of the wedding and she decided she wanted a rustic cake as well.  One that looked like real tree stumps.

She didn't care about details so much as the overall feel of a realistic looking tree bark cake.  And while searching online for bakers and cake decorators in our area that had photos in their galleries showing they could possibly pull off a creative edible bark cake... our daughter was disappointed.  Mostly it was buttercream, usually poorly done (for professionals) and wasn't real looking at all.

She asked if I could make her cake.
Uh... No!?  Your WEDDING CAKE? 
Nope.


Two weeks went by.  Conversations with a local cake decorator (who was the best one we could find to tackle this style cake but even hers wasn't really the realistic version we wanted) were dragging as our daughter absolutely felt she wanted me to try to make it.

She asked me again.  Intimidated, I still said no.

But I thought about it for two days.  And I looked online at cakes others had made and thought to myself; "Oh I would be disappointed if our daughter's cake ended up looking like that..."  Or, "Why, I am sure I could do better than that one!"

I didn't know HOW to do it... but I'd make it happen.

Not having a plan, I went to Michaels and Walmart and I bought anything and everything I thought I might use to make a tree stump cake with edible bark.

  • I didn't know what I was doing.
  • I didn't watch video's or go looking for photos others did.
  • I did my own thing and just kept at it until I was content with how it was turning out.
And that is how I made our daughter's cake.

I did go online to order round edible, printed tree stumps to use as the top of the cake that could be seen.  I ordered from 3 different companies because I wasn't sure which would have good products.  They were vastly different shades and thickness; none perfect, but well enough I could make them work for the top of the cake that would be seen. 


How I made my edible bark

I used Oasis wafer paper, fondant, a random paintbrush I bought new at Walmart, and some water. (PRODUCT LINKS ADDED BELOW THIS POST.)




BAKE YOUR CAKES AND FREEZE THEM.
SLICE AND FILL WITH BUTTERCREAM FILLING IF YOU ARE USING.
FREEZE AGAIN.
I did a crumb coat on most of them, but realized with this particular way of decorating, it really didn't matter.
USE FROZEN CAKES while putting on the fondant as it just makes it easier if they aren't soft and pliable.

IF YOUR CAKE IS TALL (like mine - 4 or 5 layers) then consider using a decorators styrofoam piece for the bottom to withstand the weight of the layers of real cake on top.  Secure all layers using either jumbo smoothie straws or wood dowels.  Each layer of cake will be on a cake board, cut smaller than the edge of your cake - although I put one of my layers directly on the cake as one edge of the board kept showing! 

HOW I MADE MY FONDANT AND WAFER PAPER BARK - all edible!

My first try, I used a pure brown Wilton fondant in chocolate. The under color should be either black, gray or brown. On the rest of the cakes I used a mixture of them.  All ended up a different color but it doesn't matter, as long as it's not pure white.
I kneaded it like play-doh until I could roll it out.
I did pieces about 6-9 inches long to make them manageable.
Roll the fondant out pretty thin - but not quite as thin as you want the finished product to be.
Fondant is HEAVY though and so it has to be thin enough to adhere to the cake.



My first round was 4 inches tall.  I measured to get about that size but you don't have to be precise because the fondant is going to get bigger when it roll it thinner, and as you work with it.  Plus, the bark comes up over the edge so you don't need a straight edge and it doesn't have to be exactly the right size.



THERE ARE NO STRAIGHT LINES IN NATURE.
So I ripped the wafer paper - do not cut it.  Having a 100 pack of wafer paper made it easy to rip them because I knew I had more than enough if I 'messed up' anything.  Although I quickly found you can't really mess this up.  Nature is very forgiving on things looking like they do... even on rustic cakes.



I laid the wafer paper on the fondant and rubbed it a bit.  The fondant is sticky (I used NO powder sugar or anything but plain fondant) so the paper starts to adhere to it.


Dip a 1" wide new, clean brush, into plain water.  Don't overload your brush!  Just moisten it.
Start to brush all over the paper.
Go very light in some areas and more wet in others.
Don't saturate the paper though!  It WILL rip and disintegrate.  You want it to be moist enough that as you press and roll on it, it will crackle and rip to look like real wood.

Lightly moisten the wafer (rice) paper.



Roll a rolling pin over the paper to pull it gently as you press - ripping and crackling the wafer paper.
Do as much or as little as you like, judging as you go.


You can trim the excess fondant off with a sharp knife.
See how the darker areas are where the paper was more wet and pulled apart.
The barely moist is where it was showing through, but leaving the wafer paper intact.

Now you take a smaller DRY brush and dip it into some of the edible black and brown pearl dust to 'paint' your bark.
Dry brush over the crackled areas, the black and/or brown you choose goes into the cracks and starts to make them look more like bark.

Birch has streaks of black with tiny indented black pock style marks so you can fake those with a brush later too.

LEAVE SOME WAFER PAPER HANGING OFF THE ENDS.  This, you curl around your paint brush and hold a minute to give it the curled bark look.  Having it on the ends also helps to hide the seams when you apply it to the cake and butt two pieces of fondant/wafer paper bark up against each other.


You will be finishing the brown and black painted/dusted on details later so once you have a good start, use clear piping gel as GLUE to adhere the fondant bark to your cake.

Using a new brush, lightly brush the back of the fondant all over with the sticky piping gel.

I draped it over my hand and wrist to hold it while I painted the back.

You also apply the tree rings this way IF you are using printed rings.  Some layers I put the rings on first, then the bark.  But this first one, I did the bark first, then the ring.  I think it's easier if you do the rings FIRST, then the bark. 






I had just finished putting all the 3 side pieces on, as well as the top tree rings.



Now it was time to keep embellishing the top rings and the sides with more dry pearl dust put on in the cracks, but also, I found using a wet brush, mashing it in a small circle into the wafer paper and then applying dry edible brown/black dust made some great 'knots' in the wood!




Here you can see it starting to come together as I 'painted' on more dust to the bark.
Don't forget to barely moisten the edges of the wafer paper and roll them around your paint brush to give them that peeling bark look.  And brush the edges of the bark rolls.


I used a brush with either water and/or a little piping gel around the top edge, covered with dry brown/black edible dust to go around the top, trying to hide the seam between the tree rings and the fondant/wafer paper bark.
 

I used the dull edge of a butter knife to push into the top of the tree rings and give it some depth.  I also used the brown and black edible powder dust in various spots on the top rings to make them look more dimensional.  My thumb ruined a spot where it ripped through the sugar paper due to it being wet from the piping gel 'glue' so I made it into a knot by adding dry black pearl dust!
 






These ends sticking out are where you barely moisten it with water and roll it around your paint brush for a few seconds to curl it.



BEFORE I started to dab and dot and 'paint' the bark with dry pearl dust in brown and black....


Random photos while working on the dry dusting part....  where the paper below was brighter white, it's because it's a piece I added when the bottom layer was too mushy.  I barely moistened the new top layer, brushed with dry pearl dust and it blended right in for the finished product.



CONTINUE with all the layers YOU wish to use.
I made 5 layers (including my first trial 6" X 4" layer) but because of the weight of the cake, and the fact that I had two layers the same size, I put one off to the side more as decor.  ALSO - when I cut the 2nd layer to make it more round, it ended up being basically the same size as the first layer.

But I didn't really care and neither did my daughter.  We just stacked them with wooden dowels for support between the layers on cake boards, and 'went with it'.  That's how we did the whole wedding... LESS STRESS when you shrug off mistakes or things that don't turn out and you just keep going!




You might be interested in these items - all related to this post.  I ordered some things online (wafer paper in the 100 piece pack size) as well as buying some at my local Michaels (which was VERY expensive and I wouldn't suggest that - I could have gotten it much cheaper online but at the time I didn't know WHAT I was going to do or how I'd make it so I was just buying anything I THOUGHT MIGHT WORK or I MIGHT USE.  Lastly, picked up the gel and some more fondant at Walmart while buying groceries.)


Wilton Pure White Rolled Fondant

Wilton Decorator Preferred Chocolate Fondant

Wilton Easy Glide Fondant Smoother

100 Count Edible Rectangle Wafer Paper

Clear Piping Gel

Pearl Dust Coloring for Food, Black 

Pearl Color Dust, Brown

4-Piece Round Cake Pan Set - Includes 6", 8", 10" and 12" Aluminum Pans - 3" Deep

 

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