Pangolin Cake

Pangolins are incredibly cool. It’s hard to believe they’re real. They look like mythical creatures with their dragon-like scales, huge talons, long sinuous tails and two-legged walking.

Take a look at this YouTube video Can You Walk Like a Pangolin and tell me this isn’t straight out of The Dark Crystal.

However fantastical they appear, pangolins are real. They are the only mammals with scales, which are made from keratin, the same material that make up your finger nails. When threatened, a pangolin will curl up into a well protected ball like a roly poly.

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A pangolin rolled into a protective ball.

Even though they look similar to armadillos and aardvarks, they belong to the order Carnivora, which means they are more closely related to dogs, cats, and bears. There are four species of pangolin found in Africa and four found in Asia. The Asian species have hairs in between their scales.

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Sunda pangolin, Manis javanica, with hairs between its scales.

Some species are arboreal with prehensile tails, like the Black Bellied Pangolin that can hold its entire body weight by its tail alone. The largest pangolin species, the Giant Ground Pangolin, can grow up to 1.8 meters long — that’s nearly six feet!

All pangolin species are extremely endangered. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. They are hunted for their meat and their impressive scales, sometimes mistakenly believed to have medicinal properties.

 

One of my best friends loves these unique animals, so to celebrate her birthday and raise awareness and simply glory in the wonder of the pangolin, I made her a chocolate pangolin cake. I also must give credit to Creature Conserve for giving me the idea on their Give Time page that mentions throwing a party themed around your favorite endangered animal. Let’s celebrate these precious animals!

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For the pangolin itself, I used this recipe I found on Pinterest for fudge pine cones. Don’t they kind of look like pangolins already?

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Chocolate Pine Cones on Sweet & Crunchy

I used strong coffee to flavor my fudge in place of the almond extract and I mixed generous handfuls of pecan halves into the fudge as I worked it into the rough shape of a pangolin.

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Fudge shaped into the pangolin before scales (almond slices) were added.

To make the pangolin scales that gorgeous amber color, I melted sugar on the stove till it caramelized and then I dipped each almond slice in the caramel. Time consuming but well worth it! I love how they turned out.

The eyes of the pangolin are also melted sugar. I spooned out the caramel and let it drip onto wax paper and when the droplets had cooled, I pressed them into the fudge. It was a lot like using glass beads in polymer clay. The fudge was a lot easier to work with than I was afraid. And it was delicious too!

The trees and flowers were made with the same method of dripping caramel off a spoon. It took several tries to find the right temperature at which to start dripping.

The cake is an augmented Devil’s Food cake mix with sour cream. The coconut and pecan filling is from The Best German Chocolate Cake on Tastes Better From Scratch. The chocolate frosting is a salty fluffy chocolate recipe I love to use on anything and everything. But the special ingredient in this cake is my homemade sauerkraut. That’s right, it’s a German chocolate sauerkraut cake! I know that’s not the traditional style of sauerkraut cake OR German chocolate cake, but I thought the texture of the fresh sauerkraut would blend perfectly with the shredded coconut and chopped pecans while giving the sweetness of the caramel a delicious kick of saltiness. Everyone at the party loved the taste of it just as much I did!

Now I want to try sauerkraut in so many more things…

I had to use special care when assembling this cake because the fudge pangolin was so heavy. My mother pointed out to me that I needed some kind of structure to hold it up. Five straws cut to the height of the cake and pressed in through the top with popsicle sticks laid across them provided the perfect scaffolding for the pangolin to sit upon. A throne, if you will, surrounded by cushions of chocolate frosting on a rug of coconut and pecan custard.

I had a lot of fun with this project. I’m excited to try more beautiful baking.

Baby tapir

I got another baby tapir commission. I LOVE making these little guys. They are so cute and each time I get to refine and distill the cuteness for overload…

 

 

This is the best one I’ve made yet! I’m very proud of not only the shape, proportion of leg to body and head size, but also the brown and black balance underlying the white spots and stripes. I mixed the brown roving (wool) with the black to get a nice dark brown and then really focused on getting the lighter brown on the cheeks.

 

There is a cost, however. Those dang spots really took forever! I thought my fingers would fall off! I had to redo one of the ears because the white spot on it was turning the black gray. It’s all about balance and finding the magic point at which the black is thick enough to sustain a white spot poking into it but thin enough to be a flexible little ear…

It’s a challenge. But one I delight in!

This little one now makes his home in Half Moon Bay, California with his lovely new owner.

Tapir mother and calf

A while back I was commissioned to make another mother and calf Malayan tapir pair. I love making these. The majestic shape of the mother is hard to capture in my felting somehow… I think it might be the unusual tapir face and how it flows into the neck and shoulders. The patterns on the baby are definitely a challenge too, but one I delight in taking on!

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I love these animals. The long mobile nose is the cutest! Have you ever heard a tapir chirp? This is what it sounds like. Did you know they have three toes on their back feet, but four on the front feet? There are a couple different varieties of tapirs, including the Mountain Tapir, which has long fur — such a fuzzy guy! One of my goals in life is to needle felt all species of tapir.

Loris

My world changed the first time I saw it. I had always been fond of monkeys for their human-like faces, prehensile tails, and wondrously dexterous hands. Other primates were fascinating too: the thrilling grace of a gibbon is nearly unmatched in the natural world and the wise expression of an orangutan goes straight to the soul. But when I saw the face of a slow loris, my heart was stolen.

Not only are they stunningly adorable, they are amazing. AMAZING. They are so unique it is sometimes hard to believe they’re real. They have a toxic gland under their arms which they lick and use as venom. They  have special backbones that allow them to bend at incredible angles. They have a tooth-comb that they use to groom themselves. They’re nocturnal and can climb swiftly and nearly silently through the trees.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to being cute and fantastic: these animals are endangered. Deforestation and wildlife trade, as pets or for traditional medicinal uses, are threatening the existence of this amazing creature.

After falling in love with the slow loris, I created a new snonkey (snail-monkey), the Lorisnail. Here is the needle felted Lorisnail, who will appear in a story of mine someday:

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Needle felted Lorisnail

The concept is still taking form in my mind… I will share more about it in another post.

Meanwhile, I was still burning with passion for the precious loris, little fireface, so I felted a loris:

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Needle felted loris
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Needle felted loris (closeup)

This little one will go up in my etsy shop (FamiliarOddlings.etsy.com) on September 16th, the start of Slow Loris Awareness Week. It will be $150 USD, $50 of which will go to The Little Fireface Project to help the loris.

Want to learn more about the slow loris? Visit Dr Anna Nekaris’ Little Fireface Project.

Keep an eye open for Slow Loris Awareness Week!