For some time now, I’ve been keeping this under wraps.  It’s actually been close to completion for a while, but, being presented at the Coronation tonight, I’ve had to keep mum so as not to spoil the surprise.

I was approached late last year about making a subtlety for the coronation, namely stuffed porpoise.  The original idea was to create a pie in the shape of a porpoise.  This may come as a surprise for some, but I have absolutely no interest in pastry.  I don’t want to work in it, I find pies a tedious process, I couldn’t care less if pies were wiped off the face of the planet.  So trying to think of a way around having to create this monstrosity in pastry and meat, I came across the idea of using gingerbread when I found this.

I had already experimented with the gingerbread recipe, and found that I quite liked the taste of it, and had considered other permutations of the recipe also.  Discussion with the autocrat proved fruitful, and it was decided.

The Draft

The medieval heraldic porpoise is a much more monstrous image than what we would consider today. This provided a rich and complex form for me to first draw, and then sculpt.

Innards

Using cutouts of the original draft drawing is a great way to keep your sculpture as close to the original vision as possible.  The foundation material is a honey/breadcrumb/mixed berry combination, derived from the original gingerbread recipe, but lacking spices.  It has been built up significantly from the surface.

Porpoise bones

This piece was designed to be as spectacular as possible, so the porpoise, when cut, will have a cross section of innards, then bones, then skin.  I’ve used marzipan for this step, it’s got that lovely off-white colour that’s perfect for bone.

Starting to add some skin

Fins and stomach

Adding the back

I’ve used three different colours for the detailed parts of the porpoise.  These are simply three different mixes of blue and yellow food dyes, added into the classic gingerbread mix.

Finishing off the detail

Adding scales was the final touch needed for our porpoise.  Now to get it onto the main board.

When I first took on this project, I thought it was just the porpoise that needed doing.  I wasn’t informed that it was only half the subtlety.  There are supposed to be swans swimming around it.  So I was given a huge board, roughly 90cm x 45cm, for my partner to rout a square into, to fit this tile.  I covered the board with alfoil, slotted in the tile, then my task was to cover everything with a sea.

I’m glad my mother had ready recipes for plastic icing.  This would have been a massively expensive undertaking otherwise.  I had already planned to make my own icing, as I intend to make my own wedding cake when the time draws around, and I wanted this to be a test run of both the recipes, and my own skills with a piping bag.  But that’s a lot of area to have to cover with icing.

Icing the board

The little wave shapes there are royal icing.  That’s basically made out of egg white and icing sugar, piped into the shape you want, and allowed to set hard.  When you’re piping, be sure to pipe onto waxed (baking) paper, wax side up.  Anything else and you’re likely to find your piped creations sticking to whatever surface you’ve piped it onto.  The rest is plastic icing.

A sea of colour

Colouring the sea was the next step.  But what colour is a sea?  Blue?  Green?  A combination?  I set to work attempting a mottled mixing of the two, and ended up with colours a peacock would be proud of.  The photograph really doesn’t do justice to the greens and blues, but it’s the best my poor little camera could manage.

Wave tops become the final touch to my masterpiece

Piped wave tops, made of royal icing, are the last thing on my to-do list.  The subtlety is now out of my hands.

I have been told that my porpoise will be surrounded by six swans, made of shou pastry, who are carrying baskets of cream and berries on their backs.  But I won’t get to see it, as I’m not at the event this subtlety is being presented at.  I’ve been promised photographs, though, and when they arrive, I’ll post them up here for you all to see.

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