Posted by: cassymuronaka | June 18, 2011

Zombie babies

I’ve done a lot of things in the name of motherhood, but sculpting polymer clay zombie baby cake toppers ranks right up there bleaching my son’s hair and dyeing it purple.

The request to initiate and complete this project was motivated by a desire to please my offspring Jake’s best friend on her 20th birthday. Despite my misgivings about giving zombies as an expression of respect and affection, my son assured me that Hanna, who boasts no small amount of dyed hair herself, would adore receiving them, as well as a cake upon which they would be displayed.

The cake part of the request was almost as troubling as the figurines.  Hanna is a master cake-maker, and does not view the word “fondant” as a reason to head for the hills, instead of the kitchen.  And while I have rarely made a cake that didn’t melt in your mouth, I wouldn’t say that I am particularly gifted at decorating pastry.

Far from it.  I’ve created some birthday cakes whose layers were so wonkily put together that they looked like they would slide onto the floor at any minute.  Some have sported colors that made you want to eat the cake with your eyes closed, although nothing matches the cake my mother made for my sister on her 5th birthday: a failed attempt at mixing up a feminine shade of lavender frosting resulted in a cake covered in a hue of submarine gray.

Nevertheless, Jake’s timing was excellent.  Since mid-April, I’ve been hobbling unsteadily on my own feet or on crutches, because I am old and careless. First, I got my leg caught in a chair and wrenched the knee one way while the rest of me was trying to go another way.  Six weeks later, just as my leg was beginning to heal, I caught the foot of the same leg in a backyard drain that has already tripped me up more times than I would like to count.

That little mistake put me in the house for another six weeks, unable to drive and popping Vicodin like popcorn.

By the time Jake approached me with the sculpting idea, I was in considerably less pain and had a major case of cabin fever. I also was … uh…  somewhat clearer of mind.

I spent the first few days looking at photos online of crawling real babies and horror art of human bodies, eventually coming to the conclusion that, as a mother, there was no way I was going to make these zombies look like real babies. There a limit to my appreciation for the twisted. These things that I would make would have to be some kind of mutants.

This approach would also cover up my inadequacies as a sculptor.  I am friends with several people in the world of polymer clay who are superb sculptors, and have I no wish to compare myself with them, especially since I see some of them every month at the Orange County Polymer Clay Guild meetings.  I doubt that most of them spend their time appreciating the work of those who create unrefined limbless and bloodied creatures.

It took me about six days to create my son’s gift.  I have to credit Netflix and HBO for enabling completion, not to mention the Muronaka Family DVD Collection of Action Flicks.  I think I watched “Armageddon” for the zillionth time last week. Action movies are are good entertainment when only a part time attention span is operating. The films are highly repetitive and you don’t miss much because of the sound effects.

To construct my masterpieces, I played with both foil and plastic-coated wire armatures.  I can’t say I favored one approach over the other.  I also employed the new Pluffy polymer clay — colors more or less straight out of the bag — as well as white Ultralight to form the bodies, because they are lightweight clays. Both clays also are very soft, so this gives me a reason to further justify my coarser approach to the detail work on my zombies, in case any real sculptor should slam me up against the wall and demand to know why I did what I did and how I did it.

The biggest problem was really was the cake.  I am not of the school of thought that you never try out new recipes for a special occasion when you have not previously made them.

This is especially true of desserts, which I rarely make anyway. So, I decided to tackle a milk chocolate layer cake that was one of the L.A. Times’  “Top Ten” recipes of the year, published a few years ago.  As usual, the whole process was a bit of a trial. The cake layers puffed up in my small oven unevenly.  The frosting, which, like the cake, was very tasty, hardened quickly; much faster than I could frost the cake layers. The white tube of  Wilton squeeze decorating frosting also turned out to be runny and uncontrollable.

Worst of all, my attempt to duplicate the appearance of the black stitches on the light-colored zombies in “negative” on the chocolate cake merely ended up with the cake looking like a giant rectangular, deviant football.

In the end, it was all fine. The zombies were so big that they almost completely covered the cake, and the cake recipe was delicious (I saved a few cut-off bits for a taste test). Hanna was completely thrilled with her gifts, and later, when she brought the zombies home, her parents were not appalled.



  1. Great job, and very funny, it would be a perfect gift for my boyfriend who’s not twenty anymore, but still zombie-addicted ! I wonder how it’d look like with a tiramisù…

    • Tiramisù sounds very, very good. Thank you so much for the comment. And your “Visions du Futur” entry that you posted on your own blog is just fantastic.

  2. You got any of those “few cut-off bits” still hanging around your kitchen? The zombies are remarkably clever & fantastical cake toppers!

  3. Long gone!

  4. Gadzooks, they’re obnoxious! And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

    • Ha-ha…. thank you?

  5. Brains….brains….love them brains….
    No really. I love how you did the brains on the blue zombie.

    • Thanks Nancy.

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