Poppies cake

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This was a cake for the Wilton fondant and gum paste class series at my local crafts store. These fantasy flowers remind me of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of poppies, hence the cake name. This cake was also an experiment in making chocolate fondant. If you look closely at the fondant you can see all the cracks and can tell that the experiment did not go well. Actually you don’t have to look closely, it was that bad! It was so bad that I haven’t had the heart to try it again. One day I will but not yet! Maybe I will. Possibly I will. I don’t know if I will.

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To make the flowers, I used heart-shaped cutters; a large and a medium. I also needed some cupcake holders; the regular size and the small ones. These held the flower layers while they dried. I used the foil cupcake liners so I wouldn’t have to worry about the petals sticking to anything.

These flowers are made out of gum paste but I worked it just like fondant. I colored it and rolled it out just the same as I always do. I set a bit aside to make the centers of flowers later. I rolled it out very thin and cut out 4 large heart shapes. I put one heart on a thin foam mat and used the ball tool to ruffle and thin the edges, leaving just the bottom third untouched. (The bottom third meaning the pointy bit of the heart.) I repeated this three more times until all the hearts had ruffled tops. Then I attached the 4 petals together, using vanilla extract as my adhesive. I overlapped the petals for added depth. I also stuck small bits of paper towels in and around some of the layers so they would stick out and up once they dried. I did this same process two more times for a total of three large flowers. Then I used the medium heart cutter and did the same thing again six times. Three of these flowers will be small flowers on their own and the other three will be the center petals of the big flowers. I set these aside to dry but came back a few times to check that the paper towels weren’t sticking to anything. Then the flowers sat and dried for a few more days.

The leaves were easy to make. I colored some gum paste and rolled it out. I cut out some leaf shapes and used the veining tool to put the lines on them. I folded them in half lengthwise then opened them back up a little bit and set them on paper towels to dry for a few days.

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The day before the cake was due for class it was time to finish the flowers. I got the gum paste I had saved earlier and made the centers of all the flowers by rolling out a small ball of the colored gum paste and flattening it into a disk. I cut some stamens and stuck them into the disk while the disk was still soft. I put a small flower inside of each of the large flowers and held it in place with a bit of vanilla extract. All six flowers got a center disk which was held in place with a dot of extract. I also baked the cake layers this day so they’d have time to cool completely.

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The day of class, I torted and iced the cake layers, and covered them with the chocolate fondant. I tinted some fondant to almost match the color of the flowers. I wanted a paler shade so the ribbon decorations didn’t take away from the flowers. I rolled out the colored fondant and used the fondant punch tool from Wilton to make the fancy cut outs. I attached the pieces with vanilla extract. I didn’t put any ribbon bits in the center of the cake so I’d have a clear, flat area for the flowers. I attached the flowers with vanilla and tucked the leaves in and around them. And then off to class I went!

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Fondant drape cake

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This was the second cake in the Wilton fondant decorating classes. This was a very easy cake to make, even though fondant and I were in the beginning stages of our relationship and I was still a bit nervous. For this cake, the class had to make that tie looking thing with the cut-outs, make the drape, and cover the cake board in fondant. The pumpkins were something I made to cover the top of the drape. You can make whatever little doo-dad you like to go there.

I covered the cake board a few days ahead of time so it would have time to dry and harden. Since I’d be working on top of it later – placing the cake and arranging the drape – I wanted it to be as firm as possible. Covering a board isn’t hard work, it’s just sticky! I use piping gel to attach the fondant to the board. The gel will be all around the side edge of the board and will later get covered by fondant. No problem there. But if you get some of the gel on the bottom of the board you’ll have a mess. The gel never dries completely so the board will stick to anything you set it on. It’s not a permanent sticking thing, just enough to be annoying and make everything you sit it on sticky.

To cover a board, prepare your fondant by kneading it until it’s soft and pliable. If you’re coloring it, add the color gel while you’re kneading. Once your fondant is workable, roll it out to an even thickness, about 1/4 inch or so. You also want to roll it about 2 inches larger than your board. Put a small dot of piping gel in the center of the board then lift the fondant and drape it over the board. Smooth it out to the edges and then down the side. Gently lift the fondant away from the side,  add a light coating of piping gel around the side and then press the fondant back onto it. Trim the excess fondant away from the bottom of the board. Smooth the edge down and under a bit to cover everything. Set it aside to firm up. Now would be a good time to make the pumpkins or whatever you chose so they can dry and harden.

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Now it’s time to bake, frost, and cover your cake. You can read about my techniques here. Put your cake in the middle of the covered cake board. Even though you’ll be working with the fondant covered cake board, make your cake on a separate board. That way you don’t have to worry about keeping the covered board clean. Once your cake is covered, you can add a dot of piping gel to the covered board to hold the board with the cake and keep it from sliding around.

To make the drape and the tie thing, roll out your colored fondant to an even thickness, about 1/8th inch or so. Decide where you want the front corner of the drape and measure from that point on the cake down to the covered board. Add 1/2 inch to one edge and cut a fondant square to that size. Fold that extra 1/2 inch under the bottom of your drape. Loosely gather the top of the fondant and place it on the cake. Now just lift and fold and wrinkle and gather the fondant until the drape falls the way you like it. Use a dab of vanilla extract to tack the fondant to the cake in a few spots to keep it in place.

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Going back to the front corner of the drape, measure where the tie will go across the top and down the side. Cut out a triangle that reaches the edge of the cake and trim it back in for the bit that hangs over the side. Trim the edges and cut out some shapes on the bottom to add interest. Use the vanilla extract again to attach it to the cake. Lay your pumpkins over the top of the drape, attaching them with the extract. Take lots of pictures then grab a knife and fork and dig in.

Blue bow cake

This was the first cake I covered in fondant. It’s the first one from the Wilton fondant classes I took at my local craft store. The one that started my descent into cake decorating mania! It was the easiest cake I’ve done and also the quickest. Most cakes take a few days to complete. There are decorations that need time to dry and harden so they can retain their shape. (On this cake it was the bow loops and the curly things.) And then you need time to bake, frost, and cover the cake. I made the decorations and baked the cake on one day, then assembled and decorated it the next day.

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The first task was to color part of the fondant blue. People talk about gel colors staining things to the point where you think just opening the bottle is enough to permanently stain everything in a 30 mile radius. I haven’t found that to be true. Yes, my hands start out turning blue or red or whatever color but, as I work it, the fondant gets more colorful and my hands get less. I think it might have something to do with me using Crisco on my work surface rather than cornstarch. I kneaded the fondant and added the gel until I got the shade I wanted then rolled out it to an even thickness. (I highly recommend the rolling pins and guide rings from Wilton for this. You put a guide ring on either end of the rolling-pin and let them do the work of making everything even.) I used an angled off set spatula to cut different width strips of the blue fondant. I rolled each one around a straw to curl and set them aside to dry. Next up were the bow loops. I cut a wide strip of blue then folded it in half and scrunched the ends together to look like a bow. Once I got the loop shape I wanted, I stuffed some paper towel bits in the openings so the loops would dry that way. The rest of the ribbons and the flower centers would get rolled out later. It was still day one of the process so this was the day the actual cake got baked and set aside to cool.

Day two started with frosting the cake and covering it with the white fondant. (There’s an earlier post about how I do that here.) Then I rolled out the remaining blue fondant and cut out the rest of the ribbon pieces and the blue centers of the flowers. Most people use water to attach fondant pieces to the base fondant but I like vanilla extract instead. It evaporates faster than water so there’s less chance of the pieces sliding away. I used a tiny paintbrush to dab the vanilla on each ribbon strip and then put the strip on the cake. The ribbons go on first, then the tails of the bows, and then the loops. The curly bits got fitted in amongst the bow pieces, again using vanilla to secure them.

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Going back to the white fondant, I used a flower cutter to get the shape. I used the vanilla extract to attach the flowers to the cake. I cut some of the flowers in half and put them on the bottom of the cake to make it look more like a gift wrapped in flowered paper. I used the flat edge of the angled spatula to push the cut flowers closer to the cake so they would look like they were continued under it. I glued the blue centers on with the vanilla and I was done!

Covering a cake with fondant

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This was the first fondant covered cake I made as part of the Wilton cake decorating classes. The one that started my obsession with fondant! I’ll tell you how I did it so you can be obsessed too! Please excuse the lack of pictures of the process. It’s not that I’m lazy, I wasn’t thinking far enough ahead so this blog wasn’t even a blip on my horizon. 

Let’s assume your cake is ready to be covered. It’s baked nicely and iced cleanly, just begging for a pretty fondant covering. Set your cake aside and prepare your work surface. Some people (most people) dust their work surface and tools with cornstarch to keep the fondant from sticking. I’m a Crisco person. For me, lightly greasing my counter top and rolling-pin works better. I think it makes the fondant softer and easier to work with. And it makes your hands soft! Grab a ball of fondant and start kneading it. If you’re going to color it, now is the time to do it. Knead it until the fondant is soft and pliable; then start rolling it out. You want it to be about 1/8th of an inch thick. Measure your cake – go up one side, across the top, and down the other side. Add 4 to 6 inches to this measurement and roll your fondant out to fit that total measurement. While you’re rolling, make sure your fondant isn’t sticking to your work surface. Slide it around; flip it over; anything to keep it moving. One of the worst things in the cake world is to do a fabulous job rolling out your fondant and then not being able to pick it up. When you’ve gotten it big enough, slide your hands (and possibly your arms) under the fondant and place it over the cake.  

Now start rubbing. You want to lightly rub the fondant to adhere it to the cake. Your goal is to make the fondant stick to the cake and to work all the fondant folds and wrinkles away from the cake and out to the edges. Hence, the extra inches of fondant you rolled out earlier. Start on the top and rub the fondant onto the cake, making everything lay flat and smooth. Don’t rush anything, just keep rubbing and smoothing. Then start down the sides. Rub one side to smooth it then work on another area. When you hit a big wrinkle, gently lift the fondant up and away from the cake to open the wrinkle up. Then get back to rubbing and smoothing. You’ll end up with a nicely covered cake with a lot of excess fondant bunched up around it. Trim away the most of the excess, leaving about half an inch or so to work with. I use a small (1/4 inch) brush and a tub of clear piping gel. Very gently lift that excess edge away from the cake and brush all the way around the bottom bit with the gel. Work the fondant back on to the cake and trim the remaining excess nicely. I like to use a tapered spatula to trim it away but you can use a knife or pizza cutter or whatever your heart desires. Once I’ve got the fondant trimmed, I like to use the flat side of the spatula to push the bottom edge of the fondant under the cake. It doesn’t really go under it; it makes edge look cleaner. And I’m all about the details so those teeny tiny (almost minuscule) ragged edges give me palpitations! That last sentence might not make my case but covering a cake really isn’t that hard to do. I hope you try it and end up agreeing with me.