A Gumpaste and Fondant “Piper” (aka sandpiper)

.{A Gumpaste/Fondant Piper and Hermit Crab}

Up until this project I have always made gumpasting creations that I could conjure up in my imagination. I had avoided trying to replicate someone else’s vision because I was afraid I might not do it justice. The reason I decided to bring this animated character to life in gumpaste/fondant is because my special son-in-law, Chris, loves the story about “Piper” a precious baby sandpiper. So, that is why I went out on this sugarcrafting limb.

Piper is a short film (a mere 6 minutes long) that was showed prior to the feature film, Finding Dory. This tale is about a very cute sandpiper hatchling that learns that finding food is not such a simple task to do! Both films were created by the renowned company Pixar which is known for its computer-animated films. If you would like to learn more about how they created this adorable, Academy-Award-Winning animated short film visit:

The tech of PIXAR part 1: Piper – daring to be different

Behind the Scenes of Piper; Pixar's Best Short Film in Years

{A Gumpaste/Fondant Piper and Hermit Crab}

I knew going in with this project that I wanted to include the little orange hermit crab, clam shells and of course a big bubble because all of these things played significant roles in the film. So, for this cake topper you see that Piper and the hermit crab are having a meaningful discussion about the bivalve clam they know is hiding, burrowed in the wet sand below the large bubble in front of them. Admittedly I took a little artistic license with this project when it came to how I displayed the various “Stars” of the film. But after all, I’m working with sugar here and in a limited space.

{A Gumpaste/Fondant Piper and Hermit Crab}

Below are some gumpasting tips on what I did to create my Piper cake topper:

Piper’s Feathers

One of the most fascinating things I learned about this film is there were about seven million feathers individually created for these sandpipers which were all drawn by hand. Yes, you read that right…Wow! A total labor of love! So, that meant I needed to pay extra special attention to my little sugar feathers. I know I’m several million shy of this unbelievable number of individual feathers, but I did give it my most valiant effort to depict mine nicely in gumpaste/fondant.

I used different combinations of Squires Kitchen black gumpaste along with white Squires Kitchen white modelling paste to create the grey color in various hue intensities. I used several itty-bitty sized teardrop cutters to cut them out. To duplicate the decorative white outline on the feather tips I painted each of them with a mixture of Squires Kitchen Edelweiss (white) petal dust mixed with some Everclear alcohol.

Piper’s Eyes

In my opinion her “eyes” are what makes this sharp-beaked shorebird unique because these cute little ocular orbs are what give her so much character. I felt if I didn’t capture them correctly the rest of the bird would be a disappointment. In the film they look clear and shiny. Unfortunately I had to nix the idea of translucency because in the world of sugarcrafting, achieving that would be a pipe (or should I say “Piper”?) dream. But I was able to achieve the glossy appearance by using large black dragees (sugar beads) for the pupils inside the center of the orange gumpaste/fondant irises. I then used several coats of glaze to provide the gumpaste iris with its shine. If you really want to add the cherry on top (before you glaze it) I’d suggest drawing some thin, little, wiggly lines using the ‘thinner’ side of a brown Rainbow Dust Edible Marker to represent the rays on her irises.

{A Gelatin Bubble, Fondant/Royal Icing & Sugar Sand Treatment for the Piper}

The Sand

Even the movie’s attention to the sand was absolutely amazing, from its shape and luminance to its coloring which had shades mimicking: shell, stone and reflective glass. So, I wanted to try to make my sand as faithful as possible to the film which meant straight brown granulated sugar was out of the question. So was sanding sugar as I thought its grains were too fine which meant their presence would not have the prominence I wanted. I ended up using Demerara sugar because I liked the sandy-tan coloring and its larger crystals. However, if I were to use it just as is, it was going to be rather boring and flat and certainly would not convey the feeling that you get from the film. So, I opted to color some of this Demerara sugar with a tiny bit of black icing gel and some additional Demerara sugar with copper luster dust. When I was finished I added both of these mixtures into a bowl with some straight Demerara sugar and stirred them all together. In the end I thought it was a fairly decent replica. FYI: Please note that for some odd reason my sugar sand appears slightly darker in my photographs than it really does is in person (bummer).

The Bubble

In case you are interested in making a bubble(s) see my tutorial: How to Make Bubbles Out of Gelatin.

Will There Be A Sequel ?

If you haven’t seen this short film yet I’m positive that when you do Piper will melt your heart like she did mine and Chris’. I’m seriously keeping my fingers crossed that Pixar will give her a full-length film with her as the star. I know I would be one of the first in line to see it!!!

{Here is the little orange crustacean in the movie Piper}


{A Gumpaste/Fondant Piper and Hermit Crab}


​​​​{Piper and the Hermit Crab Discussing the Bubble}