Scuffy The Tugboat Cake

Scuffy the Tugboat

3-D Scuffy The Tugboat Cake

Do you recognize this little tugboat?  If you’re like me and have a fondness for the Golden Books of your childhood you do!  It’s Scuffy The Tugboat from the beloved Golden Book.  The book is a classic that you shouldn’t miss out on, so if you haven’t read it yet go out and find a copy.  It is a beautifully illustrated and written book to share with your children and grandchildren.

Book and Invite

Children’s books offer great inspiration for birthday parties, and  I thought Scuffy The Tugboat would be a perfect party theme for my nephew’s 3rd birthday!  Also it was a great excuse to make a Scuffy cake.  At the time, I thought that everyone knew exactly who Scuffy was, but at the party many people thought the cake was just a tugboat.  I couldn’t believe they had never heard of Scuffy!

Fondant Scuffy Eyes

Scuffy’s Eyes

I knew I had to get the eyes right for the cake to truly look like Scuffy.  The eyes always bring a character to life, and it’s exciting when you get to the eyes, because once you put them on you can tell if everything is going to work.  You can have everything else right, but if the eyes aren’t spot on, you may have to try again.

Scuffy Closeup


Side of Scuffy

Scuffy Side







Originally I wasn’t sure if I would use piping or fondant for the details on this cake.  I tried piping, but the result was not what I wanted, so all of the details are fondant and gumpaste.  The cake itself is just cake (no rice krispies) and though it is a 3-D cake, the shapes are not difficult, so it is pretty simple (as simple as 3-D cakes get).

Tugboat Bow

Bow of tugboat

The tool I use most often for wood grain is a plastic ruler.  I use the edge of it, and drag it across the fondant to make the pattern.  I brushed this wood grain with brown gel paste to bring out the grain.  I love to do fun cake boards, and this is one of my favorite. I went around the cake board with some red grosgrain ribbon and added yellow rick rack on top of that.  I think it is a cute detail for a child’s birthday cake.

3-D Scuffy Cake

Scuffy The Tugboat Smokestack

Scuffy Smokestack

Scuffy Cake









The most challenging part of this cake was definitely the smokestack.  I didn’t know how to make a hollow gumpaste cylinder, so there was a lot of experimenting.  Finally I wrapped a very sturdy paper cylinder from a roll of plastic wrap in parchment paper.  Then I rolled out a rectangle of blue gumpaste.  I cut the gumpaste to the exact size needed to cover the roll, and wrapped it around.  I sealed the seam with a bit of water and let the cylinder stand upright for a couple of days.  Once the gumpaste was dry, I slid the paper roll out and was left with a hollow gumpaste tube.  My previous trials taught me that the gumpaste will stick to the paper tube if you don’t wrap it in parchment.

3-D Scuffy The Tugboat Cake

Scuffy 3-D Cake

Well that is the Scuffy cake!  I hope you are inspired to read the story and maybe make a Scuffy cake or cupcakes of your own!

Scuffy Book

Scuffy The Tugboat Golden Book

Owl Houndstooth Cake

Owl Cake with Houndstooth

Owl Cake

This cake was a last minute idea for the birthday of a very close friend of mine.  Colleen is one of my best and oldest friends, and as you can probably guess, she loves owls.  When I was first thinking about what to do for her, I thought about making a 3-D shaped owl cake or cupcakes.  I looked at a lot of different owl images. Owls are very popular right now, but a lot of them seem a little too cartoonish, and I didn’t want the cake to look like it was for a child.  I thought that I should stick with a “grown-up” color scheme and maybe something fashion related to fit Colleen.  That is what brought me to the houndstooth pattern. Owls are wise and dignified and the houndstooth pattern, being very classic and timeless, seemed to fit, so putting them together just worked for me.

Owl Topper

Gum Paste Owl

To make the owl, I used gum paste, which I make by adding tylose to my fondant.  I like this method because it allows me to take already colored fondant that I have on hand and turn it into gum paste for modeling.  I know there are commercial gum paste brands, but I have never used these. I also used gum paste for the houndstooth pattern.  I cut each one of these with an x-acto knife.  It was a painstaking process, and since then I have searched for and found a houndstooth cutter.  The benefit of cutting by hand is that you can customize the pattern size to your cake.

Owl and tools

Weighing gum paste owl

When modeling figures, a scale like this Salter comes in very handy.  I use it to measure small amounts of fondant and gum paste so that I will know how much to use next time.  The owl is made of 3.3 ounces of chocolate brown gum paste.

Modeling Owl Eye

Eye made of gum paste

Owl and tools

Weighing gum paste owl







I looked through all of my scalloped cutters hoping to find one that would be just right for the green part of the eye, but I couldn’t find one small enough so I ended up using a bismarck tip (Wilton #230) to cut the little half circles and make the scalloped detail.  I continued to improvise with the bismarck tip and found that it worked wonderfully for making the little green feathers on the owl’s wing.  For the white and black parts of the eye I used tip #2A and tip #1.  I tinted some gum paste egg yellow, and used a small daisy plunge cutter to help make the feet.

Owl Houndstooth Cake

Owl Side View

This was such a fun cake to design and make, and I was honored to be able to make it to celebrate the birthday of an amazing friend!

Valentine’s Cookies

Valentine Cookies

Embossed Valentine’s Cookies

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and while it is getting closer by the minute, it’s not too late to make some lovely cookies for your sweetheart!  These cookies are pretty perfect for a Valentine’s party or fun project.  You can make them as simple or detailed as you like, and who can resist a delicious decorated sugar cookie?

Embossed Quilted Heart

Quilted Heart Cookie

Love Heart Cookie

Love Embossed Cookie







I made these cookies with a clever cookie set that lets you use texture mats to imprint the details into fondant. The cookies look intricate and detailed, yet the process is very straightforward.  If you have shaky hands and shy away from piping, this set is perfect.  With the texture mats, you can get the look of a beautifully piped cookie, without the work.  The cookies are beautiful plain or embellished, and mistakes can always be eaten! See below for a step by step on making these cookies.

Cutting the hearts

Heart Cut-out Cookies

First you need to start with an excellent sugar cookie recipe.  This one is my favorite; the dough is so irresistible that a lot of the cookies don’t even make it to the oven!

Rolling Cookies

Rolling pin and cookies

Heart cutout cookies

Baked cookies







Once you’ve got your cookies baked and cooled, now it is time to decorate!  This is the fun part!  To decorate about 14 cookies you will need about 7 ounces of fondant.  Use any colors you like.  To get the pink color I used, use a 3 to 1 ratio of Wilton rose gel coloring and Americolor burgundy gel paste.  For 7 ounces of fondant I used 3 drops burgundy and 9 toothpicks (half dipped) of the rose coloring.  While I generally stick with Americolor gel paste, I prefer the Wilton rose color to the Americolor pinks.  I sometimes end up with too much of a Pepto-Bismol pink with the Americolor and with the Wilton Rose you can achieve more of a raspberry.

Texture mat and fondant

Embossing fondant

You want to roll your fondant to about 1/8″ thick.  Spray your texture mats with non-stick spray and wipe away the excess.  You can press the mat into the fondant using either side of the mat.  One side will make a raised impression and the other will make an indented impression.  I opted for the indented impression with the exception of the love mat.  It only works one way or else the writing will end up backwards.

Imprinted pink fondant

Imprinted fondant

Embossed fondant hearts

Texture mat hearts







If you have trouble with the texture mat sticking to the fondant try to let the fondant set out a bit (5-10 minutes) after you roll it, or use a tiny bit of cornstarch on top of the fondant to make it less sticky.  I think these look lovely just imprinted, but for extra oomph you can add some piped dots at the intersection of the lines on the quilted cookies, and some painted accents to the love and baroque heart cookies.

Painting heart cookie

Painting “Baroque” Heart Cookie

Painting "Love" Heart

Painting “Love” detail







To paint the accents I use a mixture of Wilton White Pearl Dust, Vodka, Royal Icing, and gel paste (1 drop Americolor Sky Blue and 2 drops Americolor Teal).  Just mix the gel paste, pearl dust, vodka, and royal icing until you get the consistency of paint.  The royal icing is optional.  I added it because I had made it already to pipe the dots on the quilted heart.  It makes the “paint” a little bit thicker and more opaque.  If you don’t use it, the paint will just be a bit more transparent.  They key to painting the details is using a teeny tiny brush.  I used the very smallest one I have.

Painted Baroque Heart Cookie

Baroque Heart Cookie

Piping details

Piping on heart cookies







To pipe the dots on the quilted cookie, I used a #2 tip, and added a 1:2 ratio of sky blue and aqua to get the turquoise colored royal icing.  After you have piped the dots, look back to see if there are any pointy dots.  If so, just press down gently with the tip of your finger to smooth the peak into a nice rounded dot.  As long as your icing has not set too long, this should work. To attach the fondant hearts to the cookies, I used just a bit of thinned royal icing (since I already had it) spread over the cookie, and then just gently pressed down to get the fondant to adhere.  You could also use piping gel if you have it on hand.  I hope you have fun with this project.  There are so many variations and possibilities!  I would love to see your designs, so please post a picture if you give it a try!

Valentine's Close-Up

Heart Valentine Cookies

Excellent Sugar Cookies
My favorite sugar cookie recipe for making cut-out cookies!
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and sugar.
  3. Using a pastry blender cut in the butter until particles are fine and crumbly.
  4. In a small bowl, using a fork, beat the egg, heavy cream, and vanilla.
  5. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients.
  6. Stir until dough comes together. Using your hands, combine and knead the dough into a uniform consistency.
  7. Roll out dough to about ¼” thick on a floured surface or non-stick baking mat.
  8. Cut out shapes and place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet (or cookie sheet lined with a non-stick baking mat) and bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are just slightly brown.
  9. Cool for 5 minutes, and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack and enjoy or let cool completely and then decorate!
Note: For cookies with super sharp edges, freeze cookies on cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes (or refrigerate for 15 minutes) before baking.