If you remember correctly, the very first cake I featured on this blog (this "Jordan" cake) was for Jon, and now, 6 years later, I am much more experienced in cake making and decorating. I did a trial run with the decorating technique a couple months ago, because I wasn't sure if I would end up using fondant or just buttercream, and was so glad when I realized I could do it with just the icing.
Essentially, the way I approached this cake was to first ice each of the five tiers with a white crumb coat and allow them to chill, then add another coat of plain white icing and a thin coat of tan on the top flat part of each tier. After they chilled again, I added tiny amounts of light grey and tan smoothed on the sides sporadically to mimic the tonal variation on birch bark, then used the handle end of a small paintbrush to carve small fine lines into the sides of each tier. Once the lines were carved, I used a little icing color diluted in vodka (which dries quickly without getting sticky) to paint in the lines to complete the bark texture. I also painted a brown edge around the top of each tier to make it look like a more realistic piece of birch wood.
I finished the cake with a "J+M" inside of a heart "carved" into the third tier, and some beautiful light pink gumpaste rose sprays from Caljava Online. I had never used pre-made gumpaste flowers before, and was a little nervous about them possibly breaking during shipping from California, but they did a fantastic job packaging them in such a way that each bloom arrived in tact.
I had such a good time making this cake and I was so happy with the way it turned out. I don't often have the time to take on projects like this in addition to my photography schedule, so it was a really fun creative challenge for me - let me know what you think!