If your little boy has a birthday coming up, why not make a fondant-covered, multi-tier jungle-theme cake for him and his friends? Monkeys, lions, elephants -- boys eat that kind of thing up. And they literally will with a jungle-theme cake decorated with safari animals and tropical trees. The cake is relatively simple to make, and bakers unaccustomed to working with fondant can replace it with easier-to-use buttercream icing instead. Ambitious or experienced cake decorators can create the animals and trees from fondant, but feel free to buy cute plastic figurines. The cake can be made up to 48 hours ahead of time for a more relaxed schedule on party day.
Grease the 12-inch and the 8-inch round cake pans with vegetable shortening and then coat the shortening with flour. Follow the directions on the store-bought cake mixes. Pour the batter into the pans and bake. Once done, allow the cakes to cool for two to three hours.
Place one of the 12-inch cakes on a plastic, glass or foil-covered cake tray. Spread a moderately thick layer of buttercream icing onto the cake and place the other 12-inch cake on top. Repeat to make the two-layer 8-inch cake.
Use an icing spatula to cover the top and sides of the cake in a thin layer of buttercream icing. Roll out a sheet of sky blue fondant to a thickness of between 1/8-inch and 1/10-inch. Place the fondant on the 12-inch cake and smooth the top and sides with an icing or fondant smoother. Repeat this step to cover the two-layer 8-inch cake in fondant.
Roll out a package of green fondant to a thickness of between 1/6-inch to 1/8-inch. Use a 2-inch leaf-shaped fondant cutter to cut out approximately 50 leaves. Use a 1 ¼-inch leaf-shaped fondant cutter to cut out approximately 150 leaves. Use a fondant cutter or sharp knife to cut off ½-inch from the height of each leaf. Carve veins into the leaves with a dull knife or other dull utensil.
Moisten the backs of the 2-inch leaves with water and place 30 of them all the way around the bottom edge of the 12-inch cake and 20 of them all the way around the bottom edge of the 8-inch cake. Leave a little bit of space in between the leaves. Moisten the backs of the 150 smaller leaves with water and place them on the cake, just in front of the 2-inch leaves.
Attach animal-shaped candies onto the cakes, just above the fondant leaves. Space the candies approximately 1-inch apart.
Place three cake pillars onto the 12-inch cake. The cake pillars must be the same height as the plastic animals you purchased. Place the 8-inch cake on top of the pillars. Arrange the animal figurines in front to hide the pillars and place a single animal on top of the 8-inch cake. Surround the top animal with plastic figurine trees.