Tonight's post is the official state marine mammal of Alabama: The West Indian Manatee. This is also the first project I've ever done that features gray icing, which of course makes me think of that line from Steel Magnolias regarding the armadillo grooms' cake, "I can't even think how you make gray icing!" Probably obviously, you add a very small amount of a black paste coloring to white icing; I used AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste in Super Black. In addition to stiff consistency royal icing, you'll need round tip #12, petal tip #101, oval tip #57, round and flat toothpicks (to draw on the features with the black food coloring), a flower nail, a Styrofoam block to rest the nail in, parchment paper squares, a glue stick, and a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of cornstarch and powdered sugar. Start by piping the manatee's head and body, which bear a strong resemblance to a shapeless blob of icing. Stick a parchment paper square to the flower nail with a dab from the glue stick. Holding the #12 tip at a 45 degree angle to the surface, pipe a ball using gentle pressure, then increase pressure to create a body larger than the head, and then slowly decrease and eventually stop pressure as you move the tip about 3/4" across the nail.
Lastly, when the icing has firmed up, give this little fellow (or lady) a face by dipping the tips of toothpicks into black paste food coloring. I used a round toothpick to paint the eyes (I smashed the tip against the countertop first so it wouldn't be quite so pointy), and I used the small end of a flat toothpick to paint in the nostrils. Allow the manatee to dry, and then kiss it on its little head; you know you want to.