You see, there was this boy, and his sixth birthday, and his expressed interest in chocolate cake, and my having a few other things going on (including preparation for hosting a doll club meeting this coming Tuesday evening -- it's open to anybody who has an interest in dolls/doll-related collectibles). But anyway, I took shortcuts.
I made a cake from mixes, used tubs of pre-fab frosting, and otherwise cut corners (literally, as well as figuratively). But I don't know if anybody will complain, considering all...
I had a set of candle holders in the shapes of circus performers, and, well, things sort of went from there.
This required two packages of identical brand-name, pudding-in-it dark chocolate cake mixes, baked in three pans: 1 angel food ring pan, a standard 8" layer cake pan and 1 form for making taco salad bowls (it was the best I could come up with on short notice to make the cone-ish peak of the tent, & I had to trim away the "wings" all around it). It also used one full standard tub of chocolate whipped frosting to hold the layers together and to hold the colored sugar grass on the plate; the exterior required nearly two full double-sized tubs of white whipped frosting, and a surprisingly small amount of Wilton's icing color to get the white frosting to go all yellow, red and orange. In each case, though, I added a small amount of powdered vanilla, because nothing should ever go straight from the box... and, besides, I like the extra little kiss of flavor of vanilla, in many sweets.
The scariest part of this is, because I used the angel food cake pan, there was this nice, big hollow section in the middle, just right for filling with candy. Naturally, there will be a surprise when the monkey-boy cuts into it. The Bat opened a mess of little packets of hard-candy-coated, chocolate-flavored Sixlets and I mixed them with a handful of sour Runts, and poured them into the unfrosted gap before attaching the peak with chocolate frosting. (I reckon the youngsters will enjoy the candies, while the rest of us have a sip of something a little more adult in nature, because candy is dandy, but....anyway.)
The ropes and trim are made from pull-apart candy whips (wild cherry flavor). The (sadly misshapen) front gate to the tent is made from a brand-name store-bought fruit leather supported by toothpicks, since, even at doubled thickness, the stuff is far too flexible to hold its own shape (no foolin', huh?). I think that, if I choose to do this again, I'll make a frame for it out of white chocolate, first.
The lettering (such as it is) was scribbled using one of those pre-fab icing tubes with the cut-your-own-size tip attached to it. In other words, I cheated. A lot. But I had fun. And I think a birthday boy might be happy with it, too.