I've posted before about my build-a-bear cake pan. I've used it a couple of times now and I think I can finally claim to have the hang of it. I've made the bear cake maybe half-a-dozen times and each time it has turned out more or less ok. However, the last two times I upped the ante a bit by using fondant for decorating it. This gives the bear "clothes" and is a really good finishing touch to make the bear look special.
I googled around for other people's advice on using this cake pan and I was surprised at how many people couldn't get the bear to assemble properly. People claimed there wasn't enough batter in the recipe, or the cake fell apart, or other problems. I have to say that not once has the back-of-the-box recipe failed me in any way. It makes a cake that is strong enough to stand up, good-tasting, and the proper quantity for the bear pan.
That being said, I have a new challenge when making this cake. My son is allergic to milk and eggs, and thus we've had to vegan-ize some of our recipes. In some cases that's easy to do but in this recipe we have to replace 4 eggs. However with a bit of experimentation I came upon a winning formula. I replaced the milk with soy milk (plain, sweetened, unflavoured). I replaced the butter with half shortening, half margarine (this mixture worked well for me when making cookies). For the eggs, I replaced the eggs with 1/4 cup per egg of pureed pumpkin, and I tripled the baking powder. Since I was making a pumpkin cake I also added some spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.
The resulting cake was better than any of the previous bear cakes I've ever made, and if I do say so myself, was better than almost any cake I've ever made. It was moist and rich, yet strong enough to stand in bear-shape. I had a bit of minor tearing when the cake came out of the pan, but the head didn't fall off and I was able to fix up any glitches with a patch of icing. Once iced there was no way to tell that it wasn't the same old dry cake underneath.
Since I also couldn't make buttercream icing I used my half shortening, half margarine substitution for the butter and added a touch of pumpkin and some spices. Then I iced the entire cake, even the parts which would end up covered in fondant. Finally, I rolled, cut and trimmed the fondant and dressed the bear up in its outfit. Since I was making a white dress I used white fondant and didn't bother with any dyes (I did dye the buttercream icing brown). Dyeing fondant is a major hassle (I spent more time dyeing the fondant when I made a Santa bear last Christmas than I did doing any other part of the decoration). I used white icing to trim the edges of the dress.
The last touches of decor on the bear are the eyes, nose, and feet-pads. For these I simply melted some chocolate chips in margarine, stirred, put it into a plastic sandwich bag, cut the corner, and squeezed it out. This makeshift cake-decorating bag was enough to make these flat-ish elements. The resulting bear was cute enough that when I brought it to my friend's baby shower, people on the subway and street stopped to talk to me about it, and nobody at the shower wanted to actually cut the cake. So I call this one a success.