This is imitation birchbark. Try to find a real piece/picture of birchbark to look at close up. The tier sides start out iced white, the cream tier tops are the insides of the "tree".
You need a heavy but NOT perfect coat if you are using buttercream. You would dust light grey onto the white base icing, and make it not perfectly even in tone. Then use a small paring knife to add in the horizontal cracks and the "carved" initials. Keep the lines and brush strokes going in the sideways direction as much as possible.
Then dust over with dark grey in the cracks and scratches, again brushing sideways. Add more dust wherever it looks like it needs it...
thanks for the reply. i thought i would never get a response I checked the website the cake was posted on and it said it was a fondant cake with a chocolate wrap?? don't know how that was done b/c of the dark colorations in the lines and heart on the 'bark"
i'm going to try your technique and also see if i can figure out how to do the chocolate wrap.
It's a white modelling chocolate wrap. Then the dusting and grooves are added as I described for buttercream.
I can't tell you why somebody else would choose any particular icing...In fact I would consider making rolled buttercream for the side wrap instead of modelling chocolate.
It will look more lifelike, when you roll the wrap about 1/8" thick. Remember to cut the strips just a little wider than the tier height so that the top edge stays free. And the joins can also be roughly zigzagged at the back, they do not have to be smoothly butted.
I see also thay some pieces were added as "knots" in the wood. Somebody really did their homework well. You can also dust in some lines of green moss if you really want...
thanks so much for your help! i will be practicing with the rolled buttercream and see how it goes
Ugh! I'm doing a version of this cake for my friend's September wedding! I (foolishly, lol) offered to make her wedding cake and then she goes and picks out something tricky!
...just saw this last week: when using the ganache, cover it with chocolate clay...it makes the fondant go on smoothly and and stick...just an idea!
Real birch bark is full of little bumps that very closely resemble rolled icing that has dried and then been re-kneaded. You can overlap sections as long as you make the edges irregular like torn paper.
The dusting then sticks to the bumpy surface very well. You need two or three shades of grey to charcoal, and maybe a hint of silver if the wedding has silver in the theme.
The succulents are in Alan Dunn books from 2008 onwards, and you can look at the previews on amazon to get a really good idea. They are assembled much like roses but keep them FLAT. Me, I would be making dogwood and primroses and other northern flowers, not succulents, with birchbark...