Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fondant Project

A few weeks ago it occurred to me, although I don't like to eat fondant, a good cake designer should know how to work with both buttercream and fondant. Not to mention that you can do some pretty cool things with fondant that you just can't do with buttercream.

So last night I took a fondant project class. My biggest fear about fondant is cracking and folds. So I was pretty nervous about icing the cake. But I learned a few techniques and I think it turned out pretty well.

Now I will take you on a tour of my cake and impart onto you some of the wisdom that I learned.

(It wasn't until after I layered the cake that I thought to take pictures, sorry)

Step 1: Prep the fondant.

The thing about fondant is that it dries out quickly, so you've got to work quickly. Always make sure your fondant is sealed in a plastic bag and only take out what you need. About 2 fist fulls or less is a good amount

Working the fondant exercises the elasticity of the fondant and makes it much easier to work with. Add a little shortening to your hands to help keep the fondant moist. Once you can pull it 4-6" appart without breaking, you're ready to move on. (Think silly putty)

Step 0: Frosting the Cake

Yes, I just went backwards. Perhaps you should read the whole blog before you get started.

Step 0, is frosting the cake. Make sure that your cake is nice and level and is frosted evenly around the top and sides. Don't worry if crumbs are showing because the fondant will cover it all. You want to use enough frosting that the cake tastes good (mask the fondant taste) but not too much that it makes it too soft to hold the fondant. (or too much that it oozes out the bottom, but more on that later)

Step 2: Roll out the fondant.

To make the awesome swirly look that I did below, you want to roll out a few different colors of fondant into even length snakes. Stack them above one another on the table and then roll them up like a snail (or like one of those horrible tasting large rainbow lollypops). Now, kneed the dough in your hands ever so gently. It will over mix very quickly and you won't get those swirly marks.

Using a rolling pin (silicon), roll the fondant out onto the table. Important note: make sure to lightly dust the table with corn starch before starting. This will prevent the fondant from sticking to the table and allow it to stretch more easily. Roll in one direction only (top to bottom) then lift and turn the fondant 90 degrees and roll out again. By continually turning the fondant you ensure a relatively round shape and you'll keep the fondant from sticking. Make sure you roll your fondant out big enough so you have a bit to overlap on each side of your cake. You don't want to come up short.

Another helpful hint: You're hand fully spread out, is about 8" from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky. This comes in handy when a ruler is not available.

Step 3: Fondant onto Cake

Lightly dust the top of the fondant with corn starch, then, starting from the top, roll the fondant back onto the rolling pin towards you. The dusting of corn starch will prevent it from sticking to itself, and the rolling pin will allow you to pick it up.

Quickly move toward the cake, then, start from the back of the cake. Look down and ensure there is enough overhang, then slowly roll the fondant away from you and onto the cake. Ta Da!

Okay, that was the easy part

Now, using the palm of your hand, smooth out the top of the cake. Then, starting at twelve o'clock and working toward three, use one hand to pull the fondant outward, while the other hand presses IN using a circular motion to smooth the top 1/4 of fondant onto the cake. Notice how I emphasize the pressing in and NOT downward. If you press down, you will move the icing out from under the fondant, and it will all ooze out the bottom. Trust me.

Next move to the other side of the cake and work from nine o'clock to six o'clock. Again only doing the top 1/4 of the cake. Carefully pressing the fondant in, toward the cake with the palm of your hand.

Continue around the top of the cake, then work down the cake, doing a little on each side, until you reach the bottom. Don't forget to pull the fondant OUT and not down, and to press IN and not down.

Once you're all done, use a cutter to run along the bottom of the cake and remove the excess fondant. If you used too much icing or pressed down, you've most likely squeezed it out and it will be a puddle around the bottom of the cake. No worries, just wipe that up. (Notice, in my cake, I had this problem and from the side you can see a slight concave nature to the cake. Fortunately, that's what they make decorations for... to cover these mistakes)

If you've gotten to this point, congratulations, you've completed the hardest part. The next part is to decorate.

There were many things going on with this cake, and the first was to put on the sea floor bottom as well as the leaves. The sea band was done using a blue and green fondant mixed together and rolled out to about 3 wide hands length. An impression mat was then laid over the fondant and rolled on to make the pattern you see. Now, you can use just about anything to make these impressions, so use your imagination. By adding texture to the fondant you add just a little more detail to the cake, and it really makes it pop. The leaves were done using green fondant and a leaf shaped cookie cutter. They were then cut in half length wise and flourished with a few details using an impression tool.

To adhere any fondant to other fondant, simply use a wet paintbrush to wipe a small amount of water to the back of the fondant. This will act as a glue and it will "bond" within a few seconds.

Next we made the fish, flowers, and octopus.

To make the fish, use a candy mold. Don't forget to dust your fondant with a light cornstarch before putting it in the mold, otherwise it will be hard to remove. Another trick to removing the fondant from the mold is to hold the mold perpendicular to the table. Next, take a small piece of fondant and make it very tacky by working with it a lot. Then start at the top of the fish and stick the tacky fondant to the fish fondant and pull back. This will help work the fish of of its mold. We also used a dry paintbrush to "paint" on some blue luster dust to the fish, to really give them depth and bring out their scales. But be careful, that stuff gets everywhere!

To make the flowers, we simply used a small flower cutter and then brought the petals together to make it look like they were being swept by the water. The octopus was made using blue, pink, and black fondant. Make his head about the size of a small golf ball, and don't forget octopus have 8 legs. Also don't forget to use a small amount of water to adhere your pieces to your cake.

Finally, add some white bubbles to your fish and dust the cake with some white shimmer powder. The bubbles were made by rolling out white fondant about 1/4" thick and placing a sheet of plastic wrap over the fondant. Use a #12 (I think) tip and press down into the plastic wrap to create a circle cutout in the fondant. The plastic wrap pulls the fondant down a bit, giving it that bubble look. Otherwise, you'll just get more of a circle look. Tricky tricky.

And Ta Da... The final product.

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