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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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.