A lot of people who make cakes think there is some mystery to working with fondant. I say with a little knowledge to help you out you can just dive right in and start making awesome cakes! Below are some of the cakes I have made.
Note* I am not a professional cake maker. I was once paid $100 for a cake that I paid over $80 in electronics to make, but it was for a friend and I got to keep the pan. (it was the ufo cake below) Other than that it has just been for friends and family. Mostly my children.
I did once make a website to showcase my cakes thinking about trying to go pro. I decided against it but the website is still there. Since quite a few of my cakes move or do something, its worth it to go there to see the videos. www.davesonfire.com/cakes
I also have lots of other instructables, if you like this, check them out here
Step 1: The Cake
I took a course on shaping cakes once. The instructors were absolutely aghast that I made my cakes with betty crocker cake mix. The way I figure it is you could spend your extra time making a cake from scratch, or use a pre made mix that some company spent millions of dollars developing and spend your time making it look nicer. I have never had anyone complain about the taste of the cake. Im not going to tell you how to bake and fill cakes.
As far as the icing goes, I used to just use the store bought stuff. But I found a Bulk Barn that has a big tub of buttercream icing. Buttercream icing is just easier to work with.
So you have a block of cake or cakes in the shapes you want them. Freeze them for several hours. This makes them much easier to work with and way less fragile. (it also helps when shaping them)
Step 2: Crumb Coat
I got these two spreaders from a cake store. They really are worth it compared to the spoon I used to use.
You can use a silicone basting brush to brush off the loose crumbs, then start spreading the icing. This does not have to be perfect, it will be a little rough and have some crumbs floating around in it. Do not worry, this is why they call it a crumb coat.
When you are done, put it back in the freezer
Step 3: Top Coat
Once the crumb coat is frozen solid, you can put another coat of icing on. Any crumbs that were stuck in the crumb coat are locked up like the bad guys in the mirror in the original superman, ( i totally just dated myself didn't I) so you will get a nice clean icing coat.
Once done put it back in the freezer.
Step 4: Massaging the Icing
This step sounds weird but really makes the fondant look better (ie: smoother). I have seen people put on a latex glove for this, but I dont. Just be sure to wash your hands (But you did that before you started anyways right?).
Pull the cake out of the freezer and right away start to rub the icing with your fingers. I pretend I'm furiously dialing a tiny rotary phone. The heat from your fingers will soften and smooth the icing. rub down the entire cake until you get a reasonable finish. It does not have to be perfect but make sure there are no major low spots or bumps.
Put it back in the freezer. (last time, promise)
Step 5: Coloring the Fondant
Finally, we get to the fondant
I buy my fondant from the bulk barn, you can get it from many different places. If they sell the fondant, they will also sell the coloring. This stuff is amazing and super concentrated. If I use latex gloves, this is where I put them on. Do your coloring on wax paper because this can stain your table. If you are mixing really dark colors, like black or red, you will find it much easier to just buy the precolored fondant.
I pull out the coloring with a toothpick, wipe it on the icing. DO NOT USE TOO MUCH! This stuff is crazy how much it colors icing. Look at the pictures below, that is over 3 pounds of icing with that little tiny bit of coloring on it. That is how much was used to make the next picture of the icing fully colored pink. You can always add more color, you can't take it out. You need to color more icing than you need because if you run out half way, you will never be able to match the color in another batch.
You need to knead the icing to mix the color, your arms are going to be sore by the time you are done but don't give up early because you will get tiny swirls and lines of color (unless that's the look you are going for you damn hippy).
Step 6: Rolling Out the Fondant.
To keep the fondant from sticking to the table I sprinkle corn starch across it. The corn starch is so fine it does not affect the texture and it will not alter the taste of the icing. Rub it into your rolling pin as well. You need a pretty big rolling pin to do this. You don't want to have lines in the middle of the fondant from the edge of a pie rolling pin. One of the nice things about cake making is the tools are mostly quite inexpensive. I think my pin cost under $10. Knead the icing a bit to soften it unless you just finished coloring, then it will already be soft. To figure out how big to make the icing, measure your cake across the top, then add the height times 2 and add a bit more to be safe. You want to err on the large side here. The fondant should be rolled out to between 1/4 and 1/8 of an inch thick. If you go too thin, the fondant will rip easily when working it onto the cake. Too thick and people will look like a beaver on a birch tree trying to get through the icing to the cake. If you are doing odd shapes, I find it easier to work with thicker icing.
Once you get it the size and thickness you want, roll it up 3/4 or so on the pin like in one of the pictures included. Set the edge just below the bottom of the cake and roll the pin across the top of the cake and down the other side. This is easier to do if you can raise the cake up a bit.
Trim and gently massage the fondant. The goal is to reshape it to the cake with no creases. This takes time and practice so until you master it, aim to have the creases in the back of the cake. I use an exacto knife to cut the icing just because it is the sharpest so it pulls less than other knives.
Don't worry if the cornstach gets on the visible side of the fondant, it brushes of easily with a dry napkin.
Once the fondant is on the cake. It doesn't go back in the freezer. If it does the fondant will sweat or collect condensation and go goopy. The fridge is fine now.
Step 7: Hiding the Crap
If your fondant didn't come out perfect, don't worry too much. You will notice a lot of cakes, even professional ones, have a border of icing around the bottom. This is where the mistakes are most likely to occur. Roll out a bit of fondant as long as the circumference of your cake (use a piece of string if you are unsure) I use this Macgyver'ed system with two knives, a rubber band and some found stuff as a spacer to cut parallel lines. Straight is not all that important as the fondant bends easy but if the thickness of the strip changes, it will stand out. To make the fondant stick I keep a small bowl with water and a tiny paintbrush handy. You apply a thin (I'm talking Kate Moss thin here folks) bit of moisture to the fondant and it acts like glue. Too much water turns the fondant into a goopy mess! You can massage the seam and make it less noticable but put it in the back of the cake anyways.
Step 8: Getting Fancy
I wanted to put some extra on this cake. Rub a little corn starch onto some wax paper and the fondant will slide around on it. I just used the exacto knife to freehand branches and leaves. All the scraps get balled up and re rolled. Put a little water on the back to act as glue and gently press them onto the cake. You can slide it around a bit before the water dries. I then used a fondant shaping tool (you could use a knife or a toothpick) to draw veins on the leaves.
Step 9: Really Advanced
I have no idea if this is the way it is supposed to be done. It is just the way I figured I would try to do it and it worked well for me.
I wanted to put a picture of tinkerbell on the top of the cake. I found a picture I liked on the net, scaled it and printed it out twice. One of the prints I cut apart to seperate the colors. Sometimes it helps to print one copy mirrored. I mixed colors to closely match the colors on the print.
I picked the biggest part (the skin) to start with, Flip the template upside down on top of the correct colored fondant. On a small piece of wax paper, trace the edge of the template with a knife and pull away all the waste. The rest of the template are going to be cut out right side up and then you can flip them into position. The fondant should just have enough stick so you can hold the wax paper upside down an it will not fall off. But when you peel the wax paper away at a sharp angle it comes off. As long as you don't squish or deform the fondant, it should come out almost exactly as the picture.
If the fondant is not sticking well, you don't want to try to flip your finished image without help. Lay another piece of dusted (with corn starch) wax paper on top and hold both pieces with the fondant image sandwiched between. Then you can flip the image over, place everything where you want it on the cake and slide the dusted piece of waxed paper out from underneath. You can peel up the edges a bit and use water and the paint brush to fix the fondant in place.
I then used my food markers (these things are awesome!) to put in the black lines, red lips and blue eyes. For areas that needed black lines in the middle of a colour, like leg lines and hands, I poked holes in the printout with a pin on a piece of cardboard (if you do it on the fondant it will squish it down before it pierces) once you get the holes in you can put it on the fondant and gently stick the pin through the holes to make tiny marks. Then it is just a matter of connecting the dots with the marker. Note my technique in one of the pictures using a box and two hands to brace the marker as steady as possible.
The eyes and mouth turned out a little small compared to the picture so I made new really flat ones and glued them onto the top.
Step 10: Stacking
This is the first multi tiered cake I have attempted. I bought the little pillars and the elevated bases from bulk barn. (I swear I don't work for them) I was worried the weight would squish the bottom cake so I cut wooden shishkabob sticks to length that would go from each base, up through the cake, inside the hollow pillars and touch the top of the next base to support it.
Step 11: The Finished Cake
My goal for my 6 year old daughters birthday cake is to have one of the parents at the party state that the cake is nicer than the one at their wedding. I am really happy with how it turned out.
I would estimate the time spent on this cake as:
Shopping for supplies- 1 hr
Baking 3 cakes- 2 hrs
Crumb and top coat- 1.5 hrs
fondant covering- 1.5 hr
leaf decorations- 2 hrs
tinkerbell image- 3 hrs
stacking- 1 hr
Thats a total of aprox 12 hrs over 3 days (This did not count freezer time) Make sure you plan far enough ahead.
If you are still nervous about trying this out. Pick a friend or family member who is going to have a birthday party soon and offer to "handle" the cake. Try to make it and if it completely fails you can just run to dairy queen and buy one and no one will be the wiser. You really have to dive right in to this to try it.
If you like this I have lots of other instructables here.
Thanks for getting this far! Good luck with your cakes.