Wednesday, October 14, 2015

National Cake Decorating Day (or...It's So Much Fondant-cha Wanna Try?!)

Cake. My favorite of the four food groups. 

When I first found out about cake decorating day, I knew I had to get in on the action.  It's could I not?  However, I already knew how to decorate a cake. 
  1. Go to grocery store
  2. Buy tub of frosting
  3. Decorate cake
OK, so it's not the most homemade way to decorate a cake.  Clearly this was my chance to learn how to properly decorate a cake, complete with homemade frosting and everything.  But it seemed that it needed to be a bit more challenging.  So what else can one decorate a cake with that I had not tried before...??


Ahhh...fondant cakes.  Those awesomely decorated cakes with their smooth look and crafty designs.  I have never worked with fondant...ever.  What better way to play with cake than to try to decorate with fondant?!!  So I went to the South Bay School of Cooking to learn how to make and decorate with fondant.

When I first walked in, Eva (our instructor) had set out powdered sugar and marshmallows.  This is how I knew it was going to be a good day. you may be aware of my baking phobia...I was happy to see that Eva had already baked cakes and cupcakes for us to use.  YAY!!  All we had to do was "cook" our buttercream frosting and our fondant.  Even BETTER day!!

This is my classmate, Jocelyn!
Eva started by showing us how to make fondant first.  Shortening, marshmallows, water and sugar.  No wonder those cakes always taste amazing!  Once the fondant was made and set aside, she showed us how to prepare buttercream icing.  More sugar, more marshmallows - definitely NOT a day to be on a diet. A little taste here, a little nibble there...I think I was on a sugar high before I even got to the cake!  And let me take a moment to tell you how AMAZING everything tasted. Despite the sugar content, it wasn't that overly sweetened, weird-textured frosting.  This was creamy and smooth - melt in your mouth frosting.  And the fondant had this great candy-like taste to it; chewy but not sticky.  Everything just came together so nicely - and with both recipes using marshmallows, the combination was just incredible.  Somehow I was able to restrain from diving face first into everything and leaving some behind for the actual cake decorating part (it was difficult though...I showed great restraint.)

Once again, the coffee is the dead giveaway as to which workstation is mine
Once the frosting and fondant were prepared, we started with cupcakes as a tester.  We sliced off the very top of the cake to make a nice flat layer.  Then we covered the cupcake in buttercream frosting (the fondant needs something to adhere to).  The cupcakes were moved to the fridge to give the buttercream a chance to chill just a touch while we cut and rolled out the fondant.  Once ready, the cupcakes were brought back out, and the fondant was applied.

Isn't that the cutest little thing???

The sides of the cupcake were a little tricky to cover in buttercream, but they were great when it came time to apply the fondant.  Fondant is a little intimidating at first - you have to make sure you roll out a piece big enough to cover the entire cake - top and sides - because once the fondant is on, you don't really have a lot of room to stretch it any more if it's too short - and once it's touched the buttercream, it's lot tougher to remove and try to re-roll.  But once it's on and you kind of lightly tug and maneuver all of the air bubbles and creases out, it really is the coolest thing.  It's so smooth to the touch...almost satin-like. 

This would actually be a great way to get your kids involved, or have a cake decorating party!  Make a bunch of cupcakes, some buttercream and fondant, and have everyone decorate their own little cakes.  Throw in a little bit of wine...lots of sugar and laughs (no wine for the kids...not quite sure how you're going to peel them off the ceiling though)...everyone brings a pair of stretchy pants to change into at the end of the night.  How fun would that be?!  Hmm...may have to plan a party.....

Sorry...I digress.

Once our tester cakes were out of the way it was time to move on to the big boys!. 

Same thing - slice the top for a flat surface...buttercream....chill.....roll out fondant...apply...decorate!

Don't you love how easy I make that sound?  Well, it really kind of is.  Once I got past the intimidation factor with the cupcakes, the larger cake was just as easy prep and decorate.  And the decorating is truly the fun part - it's like Play-Doh day all over again!!  How creative can you get?  Colors, shapes, borders, flowers, ribbons....there are no limits with fondant!  It was so much fun to just cut and play.  It's almost meditative in a way.  My creative energy was so focused on the cake - cutting out shapes, planning the design - I was completely absorbed in what I was doing.  I thought of nothing else, I had no stress in my brain, and I lost all track of time. fun it would be to set up a therapeutic cake decorating business right next to a yoga studio? Buttercream Zen.    Wonder who would have more clients....?  (insert evil laugh here)'s the sugar talking.

Jocelyn's cakes - I LOVE the purple and white together!

Eva's cupcake - something tells me she's had a bit of practice

So there you have it...cake decorating with fondant!  And not the yucky store bought stuff.  REAL fondant that tastes really, REALLY good!!!  So simple to make and use...but so elegant when done.  So now it's your turn.  Dust off the mixer, go clear out a grocery store of powdered sugar and have at it (the recipes are below). can wait until I pull together a cake decorating party.

Stretchy pants highly recommended!!

Yep, I made that flower....pretty cool, huh?

Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1- 7oz jar Marshmallow crème (not fluff!)
1- 16oz box of powdered sugar - sifted
1 tsp. almond extract or vanilla
Milk, Half & Half or Cream (1-2 tbsp.)

Using the whisk attachment on a mixer, cream the butter and marshmallow cream on medium until light and fluffy.  Add in the almond extract or vanilla. 

Add in the powdered sugar a little bit as a time on medium low speed.
If you are using the buttercream for cake frosting purposes, splash in a little milk, half &half or cream (whatever you have on hand) to thin it out just a touch.  If you're using the buttercream frosting for piping or decorating purposes, leave thick.
Using an offset spatula, frost your cake or put the frosting into a piping bag to decorate with.

Frosting is still slightly thick, but thin enough to spread

Marshmallow Fondant

1/2 cup shortening
1- 1lb bag miniature marshmallows
1 oz water
2- 16oz boxes powdered sugar - sifted (plus extra for rolling out)
1-2 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring

In a double-boiler, melt the shortening, marshmallows and water.  Let everything dissolve completely stirring occasionally.

In a mixer, using the dough hook, put in one box of sifted powdered sugar.  Add in the marshmallow mixture.  If you want to flavor your fondant, now is the time.  You can also add coloring if you want if you're just using one color for the entire block of fondant  - otherwise, you'll color pieces at a time when done.

Add in the second box of sifted powdered sugar and let come together until nice and thick.  You'll know it's ready when the whole thing starts to pull away from the sides - similar to bread dough.

See how it's starting to thicken up in the bowl?
Use a little bit of shortening on your hands (just a tiny blob - work along your hands like lotion) so the fondant doesn't stick to it - remove from the mixer and wrap in plastic wrap until ready to use.

It should feel like Play-Doh
When you're ready to color your fondant pieces, just break off whatever amount you want to use (and trust me, a little goes a long way), make a small disk, add the color, fold the circle against itself and twist the color in.  Make sure you keep any leftover fondant you're going to use later wrapped in the plastic wrap until you're ready to use it.  You don't want it to dry out!

For your cake, roll out the fondant on a piece of parchment paper dusted with powdered sugar (the powdered sugar will keep it from sticking to everything -feel free to be liberal with it, the fondant will be tacky).  Make sure you roll out a piece big enough to cover the entire cake plus extra to hang over.  You're going to lay the fondant on top of the cake, the extra will fall along the sides, then you'll smooth the sides with your hands, slightly stretching so there are no folds and smoothing the whole thing out with your hands.  It's better to have a piece that's too big than too little. 

When you're ready to move the fondant, wrap the fondant loosely around the rolling pin (like a shawl, you're placing the fondant around the rolling pin and it should wrap one, maybe one and a half times)...then eyeball it onto the cake at one end and unroll it across to the other...smooth the sides from the top down (use the shortening trick if your hands are sticky or a touch of powdered sugar).  When you smooth the top and side out, you're removing air pockets on the cake and smoothing any possible wrinkles.  Trim the excess from the bottom.

Voila!  Now you can decorate!!!

Using any leftover fondant, color, roll out and cut as you wish.  Roll out a long piece and wrap around the bottom to create a nice base border.  Then use cookie cutters for designs!  It's like playing with molding clay in kindergarten again.  Have fun with it!!!  To make your designs stick on the cake, melt a couple tablespoons of buttercream in a dish (microwave or stovetop), stir well and use as glue.  Wrap any unused fondant in plastic wrap - place in plastic bag (squeeze all the air out) and store at room temperature; it'll keep for several weeks. 

*Recipes courtesy of South Bay School of Cooking