Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Custom cakes: icing or fondant? (A how-to guide to fondant for beginners by a beginner)

kid's birthday cake, Cars The Movie, Tow Mater, cake, birthday party
I love doing custom cakes for my kids' birthdays - a favourite character, movie or sports themed cake handmade by Mom has become one of our family's special birthday traditions. Over the years I've made a couple of dinosaurs, a pirate ship, a treasure chest, a racetrack, Lightning McQueen, Mater, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Mickey Mouse, and a couple of soccer balls.
pull-apart cake, cupcakes, kids birthday, kids birthday cake
birthday cake, kids birthday cakeTraditionally, one is meant to use fondant for these sorts of finicky cake decorating projects - it's much more precise, it can be cut and molded and the colours don't melt or bleed into one another. It's the perfect medium to turn a dessert into a piece of art - but I've never tried it. My cakes may not have been perfect - but I'm pretty proud of how they've turned out, even with plain old drippy, imperfect icing.

kids birthday cake, kids' birthdays, custom cakes

This year, though, with plans for a Thomas cake and a rare soccer-free weekend to prepare for my youngest son's birthday party, I thought I'd try my hand at fondant. Thomas is a pretty basic shape (I'm not terribly artistic) and uses primary colours so I thought it would be a perfect beginner project.

It didn't turn out perfectly, but that's more due to my lack of artistic skills, I think, rather than the trickiness of working with the fondant; and, given my artistic limitations, I'm relatively happy with my Thomas cake.

 Here's my how-to guide to fondant for beginners by a beginner:

1. Materials: flexible cutting board, sharp blade, icing sugar, water, paintbrush (and fondant, obviously).

2. Image to copy. If you're not the artistic sort, find an exact image to copy so you don't have to change the angle. Fortunately, we have no shortage of Thomas-related items in this house.

3. Colouring. I bought the plain white fondant and used plain old food colouring to tint it. It was messy, but it worked.

4. Sprinkle your surface with icing sugar - I used a flexible plastic cutting board to work on in case the fondant stuck. Break off a piece of fondant to the size you need, knead for a minute or two, then roll out on your cutting board to 1/8 inch thick. Make sure any fondant you're not using yet is covered - wrap it tightly in plastic or seal it in tupperware as it dries out very quickly.

5. Use a sharp blade to cut out your shapes, dust fingers with icing sugar to pick up, and place gently on your cooled, iced cake. Brush the back of each fondant shape with water to "glue" it to the previous piece of fondant.

6. To ice on top of fondant (for finicky little details like eyeballs or thin lines) wait a few hours for the fondant to set, then pipe icing on.

Have you tried working with fondant? Please share your tips & pics in the comments below!

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