Firstly apologies for the title – I couldn’t resist! But anyway, following on from Paddington in November, this week saw me tackling another of the big three – bears that is. I don’t know if the same is true internationally, but in the UK, if you were to be asked who the most famous fictional bear was, chances are you would either answer with Paddington, Rupert (remember him?) or A. A. Milne’s classic creation, Winnie the Pooh.
Inspired by Milne’s son’s favourite teddy bear, Pooh Bear first appeared in the book Winnie-the-Pooh, a collection of stories by the author in 1926 and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. Milne also included poems about the bear in the children’s verse books When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. In all of these classic volumes that I held very dear in my youth, Pooh and all of his now-famous friends (also toys owned by Christopher Robin Milne – yes THAT Christopher Robin) were famously illustrated by E. H. Shepard.
We have Disney to thank for the dropping-of-the-hyphens (turning Winnie-the-Pooh into Winnie the Pooh) when they acquired the rights to start producing animated productions in 1961 and, thanks to Disney’s ongoing use of the character, he remains just as popular to this day. As you can probably tell, it was to the Disney incarnation that I looked when designing a cake for a woman who has been a big part of my life.
Mrs Lucas was originally my sister’s teacher at primary school and was a driving force in supporting her through her education. She has continued to remain close to our family over the years and, when I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher, it was Mrs Lucas who encouraged me to start volunteering at her school.
This week sees her retiring after a long and inspiring career and I wanted to do something to mark the occasion. She has always been a big fan of Mr Pooh and so it had to be the man himself.
I originally planned to do a smallish sculpted bear with a pot of honey, but once I started sculpting, he evolved to become a fair bit larger – absorbing the cake set aside for the honey pot into the main build too. In fact, he stands at almost two feet tall – go big or go home, right?
Pooh is carved entirely from vanilla cake – no rice krispie cereal in this bear – and filled with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream. He is then covered in my Foolproof Ganache before being wrapped in Renshaw’s original Ready-to-Roll yellow sugarpaste.
His signature red t shirt (which incidentally first appeared in 1932, when Stephen Slesinger drew him for an RCA Victor picture record) was added using Renshaw’s Ready-to-Roll sugarpaste in Poppy and the eyes, eyebrows and nose were crafted from Renshaw’s Ready-to-Roll black sugarpaste.
Top tip: When trying to achieve really bright or dark colours, like red, navy and black, you are always better off using pre-coloured pastes as you wouldn’t be able to achieve the same depth of colour yourself. After being spoilt recently by the new Renshaw Extra, I was a bit worried about going back to the original stuff, but I have found the trick is not to be scared of it. If you hesitate, you give it a chance to misbehave.
On the subject of misbehaving, I seem to be cursed when transporting bears. When Paddington and I made the long journey to Birmingham in November, we had to do an emergency stop to avoid a collision when a lorry cut me up on the motorway, which is how he acquired his ‘damaged in transit’ card for the show. Similarly, en route to Mrs L’s retirement party, some bright spark decided to pull out of garage forecourt right in front of me and yes, another emergency stop. Fortunately Pooh remained standing, although he took some surface damage. Luckily, nobody seemed to notice and he was a great success.
I was genuinely a bit worried when Mrs L refused to cut and server Pooh to her guests (never thought I would need to type THAT sentence), but thankfully the lure of delicious cake proved too much to resist and he got to fulfil his cakey destiny…