“Mister Squirrel was tired of searching. His feet ached and he was hungry. He put down his suitcase with a thud and looked around. Surely there was a tall tree nearby or even a rabbit whole he could sleep in for the night? Just as Mr. Squirrel was giving up hope of finding a suitable resting spot, he saw the most wonderful thing: a large, orange pumpkin. And it was just sitting there, empty. Mr. Squirrel decided to come closer so as to have a better look.”
Extract from the children’s book: A new home for Mr. Squirrel
This week I created a Mr. Squirrel character out of sugar paste. After much research which included video tutorials, pictures, and many tips, I finally decided it was time to take the plunge. So, Saturday afternoon, I went to my favourite cake shop for ingredients and came home two hours later a large smile on my face and a bag full of supplies.
The first thing I do when I start a new project, (whether it be illustrating, painting or baking), is to find the colour scheme and textures I’ll be needing. The colour range I use is always a little more varied than necessary, which gives me the liberty to pick and chose as I see fit, and also provides a better source of inspiration. I find that textures are harder to play with when you use sugar paste, I hence rely on good utensils and an active imagination for help.
So as to portray Mister Squirrel as well as I possibly could, I tried to get a sense of his personality by writing down all the elements I knew of him in the story:
- Red, bushy-tailed with long whiskers and ears
- courageous and witty, with a wry sense of humor
- Has a ferocious appetite for pumpkin seeds and nuts, which are considered to be a delicacy
- Enjoys reading a good book while settled in his wooden rocking chair
And last but not least before getting to work, here are the different ingredients and utensils I used to create Mister Squirrel.
Difficulty: ++ (improves with every try!)
Ingredients and utensils:
- 250g ruby red sugar paste
- 250g chocolate coloured sugar paste
- black concentrated food colour (perfect for sugar paste, marzipan etc.)
- white concentrated food colour
- brown dust food colour
- a tablespoon of Maïzena
- a few drops of lemon juice and a few drops of water
- a soft paintbrush
- a silicone baking mat
- sugar paste utensils
Note: Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. The tutorials on the internet and photos you see make it look easy to make. Most people who make these videos have quite a bit of experience with sugar paste techniques. It took me about five different tries before getting something that resembled a squirrel!
The video tutorial that helped me the most was this one:
Although this Squirrel is adorable, it doesn’t fit Mister Squirrels’ personality in the storybook “A new home for Mister Squirrel”. Hence, I had to try another style completely.
A few useful tips:
I thought I would gain time by making each body part separately, then assemble them all together. Bad idea. This gives time for the sugar paste to dry out and makes it harder to stick the pieces together afterwards.
Keep the sugar paste as moist as possible at all times by rolling it into a ball in the palm of your hand. Instead of using icing sugar, recommended by many online tutorials, try a few drops of water and a teaspoonful of maïzena instead. This will keep it souple and easy to mould.
Prepare your colours beforehand and try them out with a small paintbrush until you get the exact colours you need. It would be a pity to damage your squirrel character by using the wrong colours.
I’d also recommend preparing all the necessary utensils beforehand so they are available to you when you need them.
I think you are ready to start making your squirrel character… good luck and remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, and try again!
Here’s a simple and easy tutorial on how to prepare and cover a cake with fondant (sugar paste) icing:
And this second one is a cake decorating compilation:
Both were very helpful and easy! Have fun!